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How businesses can avoid firewall vulnerabilities

July 2024 by Erik Nordquist, Global Managed Security Product Director, GTT Communications

The pressure on Chief Information Security Officers has never been greater, with 43% of CISOs reporting work-related stress as a top concern. This is due in part, to the ever-increasing threat of cybercriminals looking to gain entry to IT systems or take advantage of vulnerabilities found within them. Compounding this threat, the industry is struggling with severe talent shortages and advancements in AI technologies that are making human targeting attacks more sophisticated, costing businesses on average nearly $4.5 million per breach.

As work-related stress is having a massive impact on cybersecurity leaders. Recent research shows that by 2025 nearly half will have changed jobs, and 25% will leave cybersecurity roles altogether[SNK3]. The hours spent by security teams on threat detection and managing defenses – especially firewalls – to keep systems secure demands significant time and resources from an enterprise. It’s time to take the pressure and stress away from security teams and ease the burden on understaffed teams.
Security teams are capable of contributing to business growth but are unable to focus on this priority due to constantly having to focus on fending off attacks. Managed services providers (MSPs) can help alleviate these pressures by collaborating with IT and Cybersecurity teams to help cross items off of the long list of IT security concerns that keep them awake at night, as well as better defend their firm from outside threats.

Why firewalls fail?
The vulnerabilities found in firewalls can create significant challenges for organizations, putting their data and network security at risk. Without protection, this can become a potential entry point for cybercriminals to infiltrate an organisation’s network and cause damage.
Cloud services allow companies to be more agile. The drawback is these same services open multiple opportunities for cyber threats. Even modestly sized companies can have hundreds to thousands of end points, all of which must be protected by a firewall and monitored by a dedicated team.
The volume of firewalls deployed across networks, the sophistication of modern threats, plus the daily challenges that IT and security teams face can make it nearly impossible for a busy team to successfully manage their company’s firewalls including patching vulnerable hardware. Applying patches and updates can be a full-time job by itself and often teams don’t have the ability to test new versions before applying which can often lead to costly downtime. Firewall management requires quick action. Even with zero-day security practices, staying one step ahead of cybercriminals is a gigantic task. Effective firewall monitoring requires real-time detection. Firewall management is also labour, time, and resource-intensive, and a complex network environment makes it more complicated. Once a team member applies one patch, several other security gaps requiring attention may be revealed.
Misconfigured or unpatched firewalls pose a significant security risk and could incur major financial and reputational damage. We saw this in the Practicefirst Medical Management Solutions breach that leaked the personal information of more than 1.2 million patients. In unfortunate scenarios such as this installing the most up-to-date firewall solution and running regular tests to detect vulnerabilities provides the best defence, and especially the best prevention mechanisms for breaches of all kinds, which protects both data and pounds for businesses.

What do Managed Firewall Services offer?
When cybersecurity leaders entrust firewall management to a managed services provider (MSP), they can free their talented team members to focus on big-picture IT optimisations instead of tedious patching, testing and maintenance. MSPs are well-versed in numerous firewall vendors, meaning leaders can be confident that their company’s defence is in knowledgeable hands. Whether an enterprise is seeking a new on-premises, datacentre, or cloud-based deployment, the engineering teams from MSPs have proven to be equally sharp and immediately take full control of the firewall maintenance and configurations.
As part of managing a firewall, an MSP ensures the proper version of software is running, which helps provides the best defence against ever-evolving threats. An MSP can deliver the resources to perform regular audits to proactively identify and resolve misconfigurations to maintain a robust and secure network infrastructure. Additionally, services are available such as Managed Detection and Response to monitor firewall data and respond to any threat as soon as one appears.
MSPs are strong IT consultants providing many decades of experience to their customers. They provide various firewall deployment models to fit an organisation’s network and cloud configurations alongside its business objectives. A good MSP can also deliver added features and functionalities to the organisation that it didn’t realize it needed to best protect its environment.

Leaning on Partners to Free Up Resources
Partnering with an MSP provides security teams with the support required to dedicate time to business growth opportunities and in effect become an extension of their team. MSPs frequently aid in the streamlining of cybersecurity operations and therefore reduce the difficulties of managing teams. In reality, an MSP with a powerful client portal offering may often simplify the perspective of firewall analytics and administration, as well as other network services, by providing visibility and control through a single pane of glass.

A thinly spread cybersecurity team under pressure often fail to protect valuable company resources and customer data from devastating cyberattacks due to them being pulled in too many directions, leading to reputational damage, downtime, employee burnout, and high expenses as a result. Internal teams might experience less stress and have more time to work on tasks that drive the business forward thanks to a managed firewall solution. With it, company leaders can concentrate on achieving their primary objectives while knowing that their network and data are safeguarded by an all-encompassing security solution against the always changing threat landscape.

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