The ‘internal firewalls approach’ to network security is being reevaluated
After nearly twenty years in the security industry, I am always thrilled when I see a change in its collective mindset—the bulk of security teams now recognize that a secure network requires more physical devices and rerouting everything. The shift from deploying dozens of internal firewalls to unified, software-based microsegmentation solutions is bringing a significant return on investment (ROI) while improving the overall security posture, and that’s good for everyone. The rise of advanced cybersecurity platforms—leveraging machine learning and real-time behavioral analytics—is reshaping how organizations protect their environments, both in the data center and in the cloud.
The Limitations of Internal Firewalls
Firewalls have been the segmentation tool of choice for decades. They have been the gatekeepers, controlling inbound and outbound traffic based on predefined rules. However, even with the upgraded capabilities of next-gen firewalls (NGFWs), their inability to effectively control East-West traffic fails to justify the sizable cost of deploying dozens inside the data center.
The nature of today’s cyber attacks means internal firewalls face five big limitations:
- Static Nature: Firewalls rely on predefined rules that can’t adapt swiftly enough to evolving threats, including the weaponization of legitimate tools.
- Complex Management: Managing and updating traditional firewall rules is time-consuming and resource-intensive.
- Limited Visibility: Traditional firewalls lack any business context around application-level traffic and workload behaviors.
- Perimeter-focused Security: No matter how an attack breaks through the perimeter, the lateral movement techniques used to move further often face little challenge evading detection by an intrusion detection system (IDS) or next-gen firewall.
- Cost: Deploying and maintaining multiple firewalls can mean substantial financial outlay for organizations, not only in terms of the initial capital investment in hardware and software but also in the ongoing operational costs. These costs include regular updates, complex configuration management, manpower for maintenance and monitoring, and potential downtime during upgrades, all of which can put a strain on an organization’s financial and human resources.
Embracing a New Era of Network Security
Advanced cybersecurity platforms offer a welcome shift in network security. By leveraging microsegmentation and behavioral analytics, these solutions provide granular control over both authorized and unauthorized lateral movement.
Cost Savings and ROI: Making the Business Case
The transition to an advanced cybersecurity platform is a strategic security decision and a financially sound one.
It translates into cost savings and an increased ROI via four major factors:
Reduction in Operational Costs
Traditional firewalls require significant operational efforts – from configuration to maintenance. A software-defined microsegmentation approach automates many of these processes, reducing the time and manpower required. This automation translates into direct cost savings for the organization.
Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
The TCO of maintaining multiple firewalls can be a substantial one. This includes hardware costs, software licenses, and the manpower needed for centralized policy management. Organizations can significantly reduce their TCO by transitioning from traditional firewalls to a more integrated platform that includes the context to understand enterprise applications being segmented.
Network downtime, often a consequence of cyberattacks, can be expensive—financially, in PR fallout, and in the allocation of resources. The right security platform minimizes the risk and impact of such attacks, reducing potential revenue and reputational losses due to downtime.
Enhancing Compliance while Reducing Effort
Demonstrating compliance with regulatory standards often requires a great deal of manual effort, even when everything is in order. Advanced cybersecurity platforms automated the collection of evidence and ease the demonstration of proof for auditors and cyber insurers.
Microsegmentation: A Game-Changer
Microsegmentation divides the network into smaller, more manageable segments or zones, without changing the infrastructure you have in place. This granular approach offers several tangible benefits, over and above internal firewalls, for organizations and security teams:
- Enhanced Security: By isolating enterprise applications, microsegmentation limits the blast radius of an initial compromise.
- Adaptability: It dynamically adjusts to auto-scaling environments, ephemeral workloads, and seasonality across hybrid organizations.
- Reduced Attack Surface: Limiting user access to only necessary resources minimizes the overall network exposure to insider threats.
Behavioral Analytics: The Intelligence Edge
Behavioral analytics involves monitoring and analyzing user and system behaviors to detect anomalies that could indicate a compromised server or identity. This proactive approach offers:
- Early Attack Detection: Unusual behavior patterns are flagged for clear action, leveraging the power of machine learning, enabling quicker response to potential threats. This is a solid, practical solution against the likes of zero-day exploits and software supply chain attacks, thanks to a baseline of approved behaviors for users and applications.
- Contextual Understanding: It provides a deeper and clearer understanding of network activities, bringing value to application owners and operations teams that no firewalls can offer.
- Automated Response: The system can automatically respond to detected anomalies, enhancing the speed and efficiency of attack mitigation.
A Case for C-Suite Funding
For CISOs and security leaders looking to make a case for investment, the argument for adopting a microsegmentation solution over internal firewalls is a compelling one:
- Budget Friendly: Software-based microsegmentation delivers a strong ROI by reducing investment, operational, and maintenance costs.
- Enhanced Security Posture: It provides superior protection against modern cyber threats through granular control of lateral movement, real-time behavioral analytics, and adaptive policy administration.
- Operational Efficiency: It significantly reduces the time and resources needed for separating legacy servers, OT devices, and crown jewel applications, freeing essential budgets for other initiatives.
- Scalability and Flexibility: Microsegmentation solutions are designed to be flexible, scaling and adjusting to a business’s evolving demands, whether it’s transitioning to cloud-based operations or accommodating growing security needs.
- Compliance and Risk Management: They help organizations meet complex regulatory requirements, maintain business continuity, and manage risks more effectively.
A Strategic Imperative
The shift from internal firewalls to software-defined microsegmentation is more than a technological upgrade—it’s a strategic imperative. It offers a rounded approach to network security that is dynamic, efficient, and cost-effective. For organizations looking to strengthen their cybersecurity while achieving significant cost savings and a solid ROI, implementing this shift will be essential.
It’s a rare opportunity to have a dramatic impact on your organization’s network security without the need to upgrade any infrastructure. The decision by many organizations to move away from internal firewalls to more advanced and integrated security solutions is an obvious and tactical one. It’s a decision that will define organizations’ resilience and competitiveness in the coming year and set organizations above their competitors.
If you’d like to learn more about the TrueFort Platform and how we offer a better and more cost-effective alternative to traditional firewalls, please drop us a line. If you would like to find out more about the ROI of microsegmentation, please download our guide on The ROI of Microsegmentation.