Managed Firewall Services
Are they right for you?
- By Rich Aycock
- Apr 01, 2019
As cybercrime continues to plague companies of all
sizes, across all industries both public and private, we
wanted to take this opportunity to explore options
that can help protect your data and your business. We
are often asked whether “Security as a Service” is the
right option for many organizations. In this case, we are tackling the
topic of managed firewalls versus a self-administered solution. Before
we get there, however, let’s take a brief look at the history of network
firewalls and how to determine which type may be best for you.
History of Network Firewalls
Simply put, a network firewall is a system or group of systems used to
control access between two networks—a trusted network and an untrusted
network—using pre-configured rules or filters. Firewalls can
be comprised of a single router, multiple routers, a single host system
or multiple hosts running firewall software, hardware appliances
specifically designed to provide firewall services, or any combination
of the above. They vary greatly in design, functionality, architecture,
and cost. They are also sometimes known as a Border Protection Device
(BPD) where the firewall separates networks by creating perimeter
networks in a DMZ “Demilitarized Zone.”
Network firewalls have been around almost as long as the internet
itself, first emerging in the late 1980s in response to a number of internet
Over the years they have gone through numerous iterations,
starting with packet-level filter firewalls developed in 1988 by Digital
Equipment Corporation, later evolving to circuit-level firewalls.
The current generation, often referred to as Next-Generation Firewalls
(NGFW) combines the attributes of the previous versions but
expanded to include other network device filtering functionalities,
such as application-level firewalls incorporating deep packet inspection
(DPI), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), stateful inspection,
identity awareness and the ability to use external intelligence sources
to identify and help stop potential breaches. In some instances, they
may also have anti-virus capabilities.
Who Should Use Firewalls?
The short answer is every company and organization in business today
should be using some type of firewall, including small and even
home-based businesses. The hackers of days gone by may have been
savvy teenagers showing off their digital prowess or the lone wolf trying
to break into networks by attacking passwords. Today, many of these breaches are the result of concentrated
efforts of organized criminals that deploy
automated attacks. Worms and viruses initiate
the vast majority of attacks, using worms
and advanced malware to probe for weaknesses
and infiltrate ill-secured networks.
These types of attacks generally find their
targets randomly. As a result, even organizations
that may feel they have little or no
confidential information may end up as victims
of cybercrime without taking adequate
So, everyone needs a firewall but what kind?
In order to decide what type of firewall
will work best for your organization, here are
a few questions to identify the right solution.
- What security measures will the firewall
need to perform?
- What additional services would you like
to be part of the offering?
- What networking functions will it need to
- How will it interact with existing services
- What does the firewall need to control or
The list might include access into the
network, access out of the network, access
between internal networks, departments, or
buildings, access for specific groups, users or
addresses and access to specific resources or
What regulations is my business subject
to that would require a firewall or specify
how it is configured and/or managed? (For
example, are you subject to HIPAA or PCI?)
What would it need to protect? Some of
those answers would be specific machines or
network, specific services, information—private
or public and users.
- What impact will a firewall have on your
organization, network and users?
- Is hardware available that meets the requirements
to support a firewall solution?
- Will existing services be able to function
through a firewall?
- What will the financial impact be on the
organization? (Financial impact should
include initial implementation costs, ongoing
maintenance and upgrades, hardware
and software costs, and technical
Firewalls or Managed
While we have established that firewalls are
an important component for every business
in operation today, we understand that there
are a variety of firewalls to choose from.
Now it is time to determine if a self-administered
approach works best for the company
or if a third-party managed firewall service is
a better choice.
Key questions to consider in the decisionmaking
process may include:
- Who will administer the solution?
- Are experienced technical personnel available
for the job or will someone need to be
hired from outside your organization?
With the cyber threat landscape everevolving,
your cyber security policies and
procedures along with your cyber defenses,
including firewalls and anti-virus software
need to be evolving as well. This means that
a “set-it and forget-it” methodology just will
not work. Organizations that lack the expertise
to properly maintain their cybersecurity
programs may struggle to keep their data
To further complicate matters, a 2017 Cybersecurity
Jobs Report 2018 to 2021 by Cyber
Security Ventures predicts that there may
be as many as 3.5 million cyber security job
openings by the year 2021 and not enough
people to fill them. The lack of resources will
make it hard for many organizations, particularly
small to medium sized ones, attract
and retain cybersecurity experts. Add that to
the cost of those individuals and the potential
for high turn-over rates for individuals in
demand, maintaining a safe and secure environment
can become even more daunting.
A third-party managed firewall service
administered by certified Managed Security
Service Providers (MSSP) may be the solution
for many, if not most, organizations.
Key benefits to this approach may include:
- Device provisioning and deployment
- Performance, availability and policy management,
upgrades and patch management
- Real-time security and health monitoring
and expert response to threats and
- 24/7 real-time security event and device
- Support from certified network security
- Potential for improved total cost of ownership
and reduced costs
- Simplified management
- Better internal threat protection
- Reduced internal IT security training
One final consideration when determining
which approach will work better for your
organization is the number of firewalls that
may need to be managed and maintained.
Historically organizations generally only
had one firewall, between them and the
world. Now, not only are the devices themselves
more complicated, but there are more
of them in an organization. Segmentation
and even micro-segmentation means that organizations
are employing more firewalls to
put controls and safeguards between areas
inside their network, as well as help protect
them from the outside. This adds to the complexity
of your cybersecurity defenses.
Using a managed firewall service can
deliver a team of IT security experts to
proactively detect new threats and help to
reduce threat issues without the expense of
hiring, training and managing an internal
staff. With cybersecurity threats on the rise,
constantly evolving and presenting a risk to
organizations of all size across every industry,
keeping your data
secure is paramount no
matter what path you
choose to pursue.
This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Security Today.