In today’s modern era of highly sophisticated, carefully coordinated cyberattacks and the seemingly never-ending evolution of malware oriented threats, the need for organizations to respond and adapt has never been more prevalent. Enter the next phase of visibility and control, the Next Generation Firewall.

IT leaders have to constantly seek solutions to the challenges that revolve around unidentified flying applications, what the use cases are for these applications, specifically who in their organization is enabling these applications and what risk they may pose. The lack of visibility and control surfaces as the crux of the first major problem.

Streaming personal content, accessing personal email, and leveraging non-business approved file sharing applications are just the beginning. The legacy firewall that we’ve all come to know, and rely on, was not traditionally designed to look beyond IP addresses, ports and protocols. They have very limited capability to provide security for application classification and control.

As hackers and other forms of organized criminals adapt their techniques and become more creative and secretive about how to hide malware within applications and packets, it now becomes absolutely critical for IT administrators and security teams to identify and spot tendencies in order to formulate an understanding of various risks that span across the entire IT enterprise.

Essentially, by embracing an on-boarding process for Next Generation Firewalls, an organization may now begin to shift from a static ‘on-off’ switch for ports, protocols and known URL’s, to more of a ‘dimmer’ switch strategy for safely on-boarding applications. This will allow IT to move toward the direction of striking a harmonious balance of safe application enablement and user identification for only approved applications. This strategy is crucial in the evolutionary process as application control now becomes a priority for the formulation and establishment of user-specific policies.

This crawl, walk, run approach is appealing for many organizations that may initially be hesitant to take the plunge. Most Next Generation Firewall architectures support configuration options for passive monitoring, thus allowing instant visibility and control, but without the risk of disrupting the current firewall solution’s role and function until you’re ready to make a shift.

As you now may be thinking about flexing the muscles of this new technology shift, consider the benefits of having this newfound, deep understanding of network traffic, and what that could mean for your organization. What threats are prevalent inside the network? Which applications are common malware vectors? Is there malware hiding behind the scenes phoning home and communicating with known botnet environments?

Next Generation Firewalls enable strong threat detection to protect users as well as your network. These platforms are designed and engineered to help leverage the cloud, support virtual malware analysis, sophisticated sandboxing techniques and enable true IPS capabilities in a single architecture. Your security team could now be armed with early warning and notification systems to help assist with quick investigations and forensic triage.

Don’t pave the runway for bad guys. Minimize the surface area and over-exposure to threats and become more adaptive and responsive to the risks involved with these new attack techniques. A head coach wouldn’t start the day without a daily scouting report. Most sports fans wouldn’t watch the ‘big-game’ without volume. Leveraging Next Generation Firewalls will give you back the real-time visual context, play-by-play and color commentary analysis to make better informed decisions about the business risks in your environment.

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