Malware has evolved so much in recent years and the trend is to keep evolving with ever increasing pace. Traditional Firewalls that use old technologies such as stateful firewalling are not capable of detecting / preventing most of the modern threats. The restricted use of traditional firewalls to lower the attack surface is not sufficient and not effective anymore. Vulnerabilities get discovered every day, many of them critical, server administrators often lack the required knowledge to protect/patch their devices. Endpoints (desktops/laptops/smartphones) are constantly at risk due to the fact bad “actors” are constantly coming up with clever ways to bypass traditional defenses and deliver malware, quite often exploiting the weakest link (the users), companies cannot cope with training users in the field of IT security quick enough.
Before, now and future
It is obvious that additional security on the network layer is mandatory. But the controls that are to be used must meet certain criteria, they must be what the industry call Next-Generation Firewall, meaning the device should be able to identify users, applications, do advanced threat protection using different methods (signatures, reputation, sandboxing) and provide detailed reports/logs for pro-active and reactive (forensics) purposes. All current high-end vendors on the market provide this Next-Gen FW capability. Cisco has done something very clever, it decided many years ago (after the purchase of Sourcefire) that it would integrate the Sourcefire functionality into its Firewall technology and is dominating the market with its next generation ASA products. The result was a very flexible solution, albeit a bit cumbersome to configure. The client has the option to enable just the ASA functionality and hence have only a stateful Firewall, or also add the advanced Sourcefire Next-Gen FW capabilities. Cisco even sells all current devices (the 5500 X series) with a built in Firepower (Cisco rebranded Sourcefire into Firepower) capability. A significant number of customers are actively replacing the older ASAs with new X series ones. Many without enabling the Firepower capability. As mentioned briefly above, the reasons for this decision vary but the main one was the added complexity and the separate management that the Firepower needed. This translates into added cost, as usually these skills are not available internally and had to be sourced from outside consulting companies. Also, the Firepower product cannot just be configured and forgotten about but needs small adjustments and manual intervention from time to time, again adding to the operational costs.
With more customers adopting and embracing the Firepower solution, the solution has matured, especially after the introduction of Firepower 6.1. Installation, integration and support have become more user friendly. Which meant operational costs have reduced significantly. Transition between pure ASA and ASA + Firepower was streamlined and could be done within days and without any downtime for the customer. A small investment in purchasing the licenses for Firepower, as customers already had the hardware, and the additional consulting services could in fact be the difference between a secure network and a compromised one. We all know that this is a very bad and expensive experience. This investment made would immediately start to pay off and ensure a completely different way of securing your network that cannot be compared to the archaic traditional firewalls. In the future Cisco and many other vendors will completely get remove stateful only Firewall devices. Cisco is going to replace all ASA with the new appliances capable of running a united operating system – the Firepower Threat Defense. The switch to this is inevitable, so there are no benefits whatsoever for waiting. The work for the transition/migration must be done and the sooner the better. Simply put, there is more protection and security provided to all resources behind the Firewall.
We urge to our customers not to wait until it is too late. Don’t be reactive to a compromised network, take the initiative today and avoid the inevitable.
If you already have the ASA X series deployed there are just a few simple steps to attain all the benefits from the most advanced Intrusion Prevention system at the moment.
Why wait? Contact 4CornerNetworks today to discuss.