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Firewalls – The forgotten threat

Firewalls are those oft-forgotten about security measures that are vitally important but are neglected when it comes to updating them. You wouldn’t run 5 year old antivirus software, so why run a 5 year old firewall?

It’s probably an unfair analogy to compare a set in stone firewall appliance that may have been a big investment at some point in the past, to the subscription based, fast-moving world of antivirus software, which has the benefits of being constantly updated to deal with the latest threats and viruses.

In addition to this, the firewall may well still be getting antivirus updates itself, but the implicit technology within it is not keeping up with the threats that are now more prevalent.

However, there are some mitigating points in this and vendors do periodically offer updated firmware (the in-built software) for their products, which usually resolves problems with the firewall. They also may offer subscriptions to antivirus and unified threat management software, however not every vendor does this, especially if you have a firewall that may be several years old.

Modern day threats

Things have changed a lot in the last  five years, and it’s unusual for an organisation to complete an appraisal of their firewall and establish what’s on the market and what they need to do to bring their firewall up to date.

There are several areas which are neglected when it comes to firewall security, and with the increase in reliance on cloud software, mobile devices and wi-fi connectivity, it’s more important than ever to get your firewall up to date and secure.

Even though many firewalls have antivirus protection, it may not be in step with the prevalence of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environments, which poses a threat to the security of the network if the firewall is outdated. Companies also rely much more on online cloud services for real-time and continuous data, which still needs to be verified as safe and threat free.

Wi-fi problems

And as more people are reliant on a speedy wi-fi connection, capacity has become a critical factor in firewall security as more people are using multiple computing devices, with laptops, tablets, smartphones and more all relying on the wireless network.

In particular, guest wi-fi can cause potential security issues as it has become more common-place to offer wi-fi access to clients and visitors who either need protecting from malware or to be kept away from your assets.

And speaking of malware: it’s something that has changed over the years. Firewalls typically stopped malware attacking your network, however, these days malware is often invited in by your users, usually accidentally via activities such as social networking. The threat of a zero-day attack is much more likely to happen through this method.

The solution

So what’s to be done? If you know that your firewall is a little outdate, it’s probably worth asking yourself the following important questions:

  • How old is the firewall equipment used by the organisation?
  • Is it still in warranty?
  • Is it pro-actively managed or updated? When was the last time it was updated if not?
  • What would be the cost to your organisation of an outage if the firewall was offline for 24 hours?
  • Is the firewall automatically updating any protection software?

If you are not sure on the answers to these questions, then we can help. Get in touch with us and we can talk you through what you need to do to ensure your firewall is secure.

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Communications Intelligence, IT Consultancy and Support, Brighton, Sussex