Firewalls have become victims of their own success. These ubiquitous network security devices are the first line of defense for the business network, examining an endless stream of network traffic against a set of established rules. Over time, the exponential growth in web applications, e-commerce, communication tools, and networked business applications has led to a similar exponential growth in firewall complexity. In a typical organization today, a single firewall may be configured with thousands of rules to define network access policies, allowed services, routing rules, and more. Maintaining good firewall configurations is a difficult challenge for even the most experienced network administrator. Even one firewall misconfiguration can result in a grave security, network availability, or regulatory compliance issue. With thousands of firewall rules and potentially tens or hundreds of firewalls in a large organization, it is difficult for any IT team to examine firewalls effectively and manage firewalls to ensure that the organization network is protected and in compliance.
Regular firewall auditing has become an essential part of firewall management. Establishing and effective firewall audit program requires defining policies, collecting firewall data, and evaluating the firewall data for policy violations and other issues. Due to scale alone, conducting regular manual firewall audits in an enterprise can be time- or cost-prohibitive, requiring weeks of IT resource time each year, per firewall. In addition to time and cost concerns, firewall audit processes must take into account other challenges. Frequent configuration changes must be checked to ensure that they do not introduce potential risk exposures. Changing compliance and audit requirements from regulations and best practice frameworks such as PCI DSS, FISMA, NIST, SOX, COBIT, NERC and others make it difficult for firewall administrators to keep up with the latest guidelines.
Against these kinds of challenges, it is no longer feasible for most organizations to conduct firewall audits manually. Automated firewall auditing solutions are essential, allowing IT administrators to quickly conduct compliance audits as often as necessary to ensure compliance, evaluate requested firewall changes before they are implemented, and identify ways of optimizing a firewall deployment to ensure availability and best performance.
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