Reflecting on 2012: Cyberwar, next generation firewalls and compliance
by Reuven Harrison - CTO of Tufin Technologies - Monday, 10 December 2012.
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For years many have warned that cyberspace is a dimension of vast potential, for both good and bad – and now we know it to be true. Nations and organisations will need to reconsider their security strategies, and increase their investment to both defend themselves and improve their cyber-ammunition. Countries all over the world are dedicating significant government resources to protect their critical infrastructure, and the IT security industry is closely engaged, developing technologies specifically designed for cyber warfare. As unfortunate as the reality of cyber war is, preparing for it will continue to be a wellspring of innovation.

The walls became stronger

With network firewalls unable to differentiate between various forms of modern Internet applications (mostly running over HTTP on port 80), their relevance has been called into question. However, the perimeter still needs to be protected. Thank goodness then that a new technology stepped up to the plate. NGFWs, or Next Generation Firewalls to give them their full title.

The strategic value of NGFWs was highlighted in Gartner's 2012 Firewall Magic Quadrant, with several firewall vendors including Check Point, and Cisco launching their own. NGFWs provide the ability to set access policies based on users and applications, thereby re-establishing the firewall as a fundamental security device. While application-aware firewalls have been around for some time, Palo Alto Networks’ investment in innovation and market education has resulted in widespread adoption of commercial grade NGFWs. By the end of 2012, most large enterprises will have adopted this technology to varying extents, or at least plan to.

There is no doubt that NGFWs have revitalised the firewall industry, and will continue to do so, however many organisations have yet to fully utilise the application awareness component of them, making it hard to foresee their true impact.

I believe that NGFWs could potentially displace the need for other types of solutions, or accelerate the convergence of network security and application management across other fronts. For that reason I think it’s a very exciting time to be in the firewall marketplace with many reasons to ‘watch this space’.

While the future remains unknown, one thing that is certain - network security does not occur in a vacuum. It is inextricably linked to other developments, both in terms of emerging technologies and enterprise computing as a whole, but also in response to the world we all share. Forewarned is forearmed – as they say. The next twelve months will be an exciting journey of discovery.

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