Next-generation firewalls provide insight into the applications themselves, providing a critical capability for networking professionals
The latest next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) utilize deep packet inspection to scan the entire packet payload to provide advanced intrusion prevention, anti-malware, content filtering and anti-spam. Many applications are delivered over the web, sharing common ports and HTTP or HTTPS protocols. This effectively leaves traditional firewalls blind to these applications and unable to prioritize productive and secure versus unproductive and potentially insecure traffic. Next-generation firewalls provide insight into the applications themselves, providing a critical capability for networking professionals.
Let us examine some of the things firewalls should be doing for your network security:
- Control the applications allowed on the network- Application visualization lets you see which browsers are being used to enable policy making accordingly.
As a company you want to make sure all of your employees are using the latest version of Internet Explorer. Your mission is to ensure all employees launching IE9 or IE10 are automatically redirected to the IE11 download site and restrict them from all other web access.
Your possible solutions may include:
• Physically check every system each day for the web browser version
• Write a custom script to automatically check browser versions
- Manage the bandwidth for critical applications- Application priority can be date-based (think end of quarter priority for sales applications
Many mission-critical applications, such as Live Meeting, Salesforce.com and SharePoint, are cloud-based, or run across geographically dispersed networks. Ensuring that these applications have priority over unproductive web surfing improves business productivity.
Create a policy to give bandwidth priority to the Live Meeting application:
- The Deep Packet Inspection engine looks for the application signature or application name
- Assign the Live Meeting application a higher bandwidth priority
- Block peer-to-peer applications
Unproductive peer-to-peer (P2P) applications such as BitTorrent are often used to download unlicensed versions of copyrighted media and can quickly consume bandwidth or transmit malware. However, the creation of new P2P applications, or simple changes (e.g., version numbers) to the existing P2P applications happen all the time so it is difficult to manually block any single P2P application.
Create a policy to block the use of P2P applications:
- The Deep Packet Inspection engine uses pre-defined P2P application signatures from the application signature list
- Choose the P2P applications from the pre-defined signature list
- Apply the policy to all users
- Block P2P applications through bandwidth and time-based restrictions
- Block unproductive components of applications
Social networking applications such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have become new channels of communications for individuals and for companies. While it might be counterproductive to block all social networking applications, you may want to control how they can be used in the workplace. For example, you may want to let marketing personnel update the company’s Facebook page, but not allow them to play Facebook games like Texas HoldEm Poker or Candy Crush Saga. With application intelligence and control, you can create a policy to allow access to Facebook, but block games.
Create a policy to allow Facebook, but block Facebook games:
- Select “All” users
- Select “Facebook games applications” as a category
- Create a single rule to “Block” all users from accessing games within Facebook
- Visualize your application traffic - Visualization provides administrators with instant feedback on network traffic flows
What’s happening on my network? Who’s wasting my bandwidth? Why is my network so slow? Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions? You could use a combination of separate tools to try to get answers, but this process is time consuming and will only provide you with information after-the-fact.
View all traffic in real time by logging into the Application Flow Monitor:
- View real-time graphs of all application traffic
- View real-time graphs of ingress and egress bandwidth
- View real-time graphs of websites visited and all user activity
- Create your own filtering that gives you the most relevant information
- Manage bandwidth for a group of users
What do you do if your CEO complains that the business news videos that he wants to watch every morning are choppy and won’t play correctly? After investigation, you determine that it’s due to a company-wide bandwidth management policy that you implemented for all streaming video? You could ease off on the bandwidth restrictions for everyone, but now there is a better answer: group-based bandwidth management.
Create a policy to exclude the executive team from streaming video bandwidth management:
- Choose the executive group imported from your LDAP server
- The Deep Packet Inspection engine uses pre-defined streaming video application signatures from the application signature list
- Apply bandwidth restriction to traffic with that header
- Block ransomware attacks and breaches- Block malware attacks and intrusions before they enter your network!
Network security must be at the forefront of any IT administrator’s focus. The ability to block attacks such as ransomware and breaches that are delivered through malware and intrusion attempts relieves the organization from great risk and spares potentially wasted resources.
- Identify connections by country
Is a connection to an IP in a foreign country from your local neighborhood office or a branch site just a benign connection from somebody browsing on the web, or is it botnet activity? You can use GeoIP country traffic identification to identify and control network traffic going to or coming from specific countries to either protect against attacks from known or suspected origins of threat activity, or to investigate suspicious traffic originating from the network.
View connections by country or create country-specific filters:
- Check which applications are connecting to IPs in other countries
- See which users and which computers are connecting to IPs other countries
- Create filters to restrict traffic to countries specified by you, with exclusion lists
- Prevent data leaks over email
In some companies, outbound email does not pass through their email security system, or that system does not check the content of email attachments. In either case “company confidential” attachments can easily leave the organization. Since outbound network traffic goes through your firewall, you can detect and block this “data-in-motion.” Create a policy to block email attachments that contain the “company confidential” watermark
The Deep Packet Inspection engine looks for:
- Email content = “Company confidential” and
- Email content = “Company proprietary” and
- Email content = “Private proprietary”, etc.
- Prevent data leaks over web mail
Now let’s assume your existing anti-spam protection can detect and block a normal outbound email that contains “company confidential” information. But what if an employee uses a web mail service, such as Yahoo or Gmail, to send out “Company Confidential” information?
Create a policy to block “company confidential” attachments in web traffic:
- The Deep Packet Inspection engine looks for “company confidential” on files transferred via http or https
- Block message and notify the sender that the message is “company confidential
- Bandwidth manage streaming audio and video
Access to streaming video from sites such as YouTube.com is sometimes useful but is often abused. Blocking these sites might work, but a preferable approach is to limit the total bandwidth given to streaming video, regardless of where it comes from. This also applies to streaming audio sites such as online music radio stations and music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. This traffic doesn’t necessarily need to come from well-known sites but can also be hosted by blogs. Thus, the goal is to identify this traffic by what it is, rather by its origin.
Create a policy to limit streaming audio and streaming video by predefined signature list:
- Select Streaming Video and Streaming Audio as application categories
- Set the amount of bandwidth that you want to allocate to these application categories (e.g., 10%)
- Create a rule that enforces Streaming Video and Streaming Audio to consume a maximum of 10% of bandwidth for everyone (perhaps excluding particular department groups, such as those in the training group)
- Optionally, schedule the rule to be effective during standard business hours, but not during lunch hours or after 6 p.m.
- Confirm the effectiveness of your new policy with real-time visualization by logging into the Application Flow Monitor
The author is Vice President, Regional Sales APAC at SonicWall