Firewall Threats

Firewalls act as the first line of defense against attackers by dictating what traffic enters and leaves a network. Positioned between the organization's IT infrastructure and the internet, firewalls operate on a set of predefined rules set by the organization and act as a shield against malicious traffic.

A firewall is not a cure-all for all your cybersecurity woes and, like most network defensive components, has its limitations and restrictions.

Firewalls are mostly geared towards blocking threats that originate from outside the organization. Coupled with other security solutions, they offer near invincibility against hackers. But nearly is not enough. Let's look at some numbers: Source.

  • Cyberattacks globally increased by 125% in 2021 over the previous year, and this number is expected to grow once the final 2022 figures are determined. Source
  • Cyber damages in 2021 amounted to about $6 trillion annually and is expected to exceed $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.
  • Over 4,000 ransomware attacks occur daily now, which is a 300% increase since 2015, the last year before Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) became prominent.

These figures show that firewalls are not omnipotent in blocking cybersecurity threats. But before we dismiss firewalls, let's understand them in detail.

What is a firewall?

These perimeter protection devices come in all sizes and shapes; they can be hardware, software, or a combination. A firewall is placed between the network it guards and the unknown, and acts as a bridge between the organization's traffic and the internet. It operates on three simple commands based on the organization's policy to scrutinize incoming and outgoing traffic.

  • Allow: Receives incoming and outgoing traffic.
  • Deny: Blocks incoming and outgoing traffic. For example, firewalls enable companies to prevent access to social media sites. Firewalls can halt access to websites based on IP address or domain name.
  • Block: Prevents all users from accessing certain sites. For example, prohibiting access to websites with poor security, or sites that have reported a history of cyberattacks.

What threats do they protect against?

Firewalls keep harmful internet-based threats from accessing your network. However, they are not equipped to disarm threats or deal with viruses and malware. They can, however, keep the following from accessing your network:

  • Malwares
  • Bots
  • Hackers
  • Malicious websites

Threats plaguing firewalls

Firewalls require constant maintenance and fine-tuning to ensure they perform their optimum best. Sometimes, even after observing and testing them on a regular basis, gaps and blind spots might persist. Some of the common firewall threats that can be avoided are:

ManageEngine Firewall Analyzer-Firewall Threats

  1. Poor password policies: People often use easy-to-remember or memorable passwords, putting their data at risk. Complicated passwords provide better security, but are difficult to remember. So, people tend to set simple passwords, or worse, continue using their default passwords. Weak or poor passwords are those that can be easily guessed by unauthorized users, or easily bypassed using brute-force attacks.
  2. Outdated firewall software patch updates: Vendors release firmware and patch updates to address newly identified vulnerabilities and security loopholes. (This includes hard-to-find flaws, encryption keys, etc.) Failing to install critical updates can expose your organizations to firewall threats. Checking and updating your firewalls regularly can improve existing firewall performance, increase system stability by reducing crashes, and prevent compatibility issues between software and devices.
  3. Configuration mistakes: A conflicting firewall configuration can cause massive damage to your network security. This can range from causing a drop in firewall performance to halting its function. A common reason for configuration mistakes is when multiple admins work on the same firewall without adequate monitoring. Enforcing strict user access controls and capturing in-depth information on the who, what, and when of configuration changes can help avoid this complication.
  4. No documentation: A detailed log on the rule description, the configuration changes made, update status, application documentation, etc. can save a lot of manual labor, and especially when crucial personnel are out of office. A network admin filling in for a colleague, without having adequate documentation available, might decide to recreate rules and protocols. But the manual effort and time invested in this process is often excessive and counterproductive.
  5. Insider threats: Insiders pose a significant threat to your firewall especially when they have access to all your firewall devices and are not supervised. Insiders have a better understanding of the security mechanism of the organization, making insider attacks difficult to defend and harder to predict.

Firewall threat monitoring with Firewall Analyzer

No matter what best practices you follow, your system will never be without vulnerabilities. However, reducing vulnerabilities helps safeguard your data and limit network breaches. An effective firewall monitoring solution, such as ManageEngine Firewall Analyzer, plays a crucial role in optimizing and fine-tuning your firewall for increased performance and better security against external threats.

ManageEngine Firewall Analyzer-feature overview

Firewall Analyzer boasts a wealth of firewall monitoring features to give you a comprehensive firewall monitoring palette, including:

  1. Policy management: Helps evaluate the policies configured on your firewalls and provides suggestion to optimize them for increased efficiency.
  2. Change management: Gives you an overview on who, when, and what changes were made on your firewall configuration.
  3. Security management: Shares detailed information on the attacks, security breaches, and the protocols used to mount these attacks.
  4. Internet activity monitoring: Helps you keep track of internet usage by providing employee-specific in-depth internet usage report.
  5. Firewall log analysis: Analyzes the logs generated and provides insights into traffic behavior and security threats.
  6. Compliance management: Provides out-of-the-box reports and helps automate compliance audits.
  7. Real-time VPN and proxy server monitoring: Helps keep track of VPN activity and proxy server usage in real time.
  8. Network forensic audits: Analyzes the raw logs generated and provides insights into security activities, firewall threats and vulnerabilities, or any crime activities.
  9. Network traffic and bandwidth monitoring: Helps analyze network traffic and bandwidth consumption, and restricts individuals from consuming too much data.

Cyberattacks evolve and to combat this, organizations should consider employing tools like Firewall Analyzer that scale, complement, shore up firewall protection and offer advanced features such as firewall threat detection and firewall threat prevention. Try Firewall Analyzer free for 30 days, or sign up for a free personalized demo.

More on Firewall Threats

What are the threats faced by a firewall?


Why is it important to guard against firewall threats?


How do firewall threats work?

A single platter for comprehensive Network Security Device Management