An Introduction To Firewall Management And Migration
A firewall is a hardware or software based network security system that controls incoming and outgoing traffic over a network by using certain established rules.
In layman’s terms, this network security device acts like the guard at a school gate. He only allows in people he recognizes or those that have official clearance cards and denies entry to all others; this does the same thing with data.
The technology emerged in the 1980s as a means of combating cyber attacks. The need arose due to the rapid growth of the internet over a short period of time, resulting in more access to Networks from outside sources.
Access Control Lists (ACLs) could no longer deal with the massive amounts of information coming into these networks, and so a more efficient system was required.
Firewalls work on the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) reference model, which provides a conceptual framework for how applications communicate over a network. The OSI reference model assumes there are 7 layers in the communication between applications:
- The application layer
- The presentation layer
- The session layer
- The transport layer
- The network layer
- The data-link layer, and
- The physical layer.
The software works on a set of rules given to it by the user, which is where firewall management comes into play.
Those in charge of the system at large enterprises play a crucial role in the overall security of the company. This security device is designed to stop all the bad stuff from coming into the network, but if rules were made too strict, some of the good data would be denied access too.
This management therefore is a tricky, but immensely important subject. Information leaks at the highest levels of corporation can be disastrous if that information falls into the wrong hands.
The best example of this is Edward Snowden, who copied information from the American National Security Agency (NSA) about their surveillance programs, and released it into the general public without permission. The leaked documents sparked a nationwide outrage about government secrecy and mass surveillance.
Firewall migration is the process of shifting from one vendor, physical/virtual/both, to another. While that may sound simple enough, the process starts to get a lot more complicated when you consider that all 7 OSI layers need to be fully functional after the migration, or problems will occur.
It gets even trickier when you consider the fact that the business can’t be shut down while this process is going on. If a major issue occurs during the migration, the entire enterprise network will be susceptible to attack from outside sources. This could result in significant financial loses.
At this point you may be wondering why any company would shift at all, given such high risks? The answer to that question lies in the constant advance of technology. For the better of the last decade, TCP/IP (Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) has been the most commonly used Firewall suite.
Now there are rising security concerns against TCP/IP. If a company feels uneasy with its current level of network security, they’re advised to update their vendor to a more modern one to ensure a continued level of protection against cyber attacks similar to Snowden’s.