Firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS) solutions promise to improve foundational firewall technology to address the security needs of a modern IT network.
FWaaS incorporates many of the features of modern firewall technologies, while resolving existing issues related to operational capacity, cybersecurity scale, and IT network coverage.
See below to learn all about what firewall-as-a-service offerings are in the marketplace:
Firewall to FWaaS
Any computer, server, router, or application faces the burden of processing traffic received from the network, filtering out harmful traffic, and continuing to communicate with other devices. Firewall solutions relieve these devices of some of that burden and protect a resource from unauthorized users, traffic, and threats, such as malware.
While firewalls can be deployed directly on devices, with host-based firewalls or network address translation firewalls or in front of specific applications, with web application firewalls (WAFs), FWaaS primarily replaces traditional network security firewalls.
Placing a firewall as the first point of contact at the edge of a network enables an organization to protect against unsecured external networks, such as the internet.
Firewall-as-a-service is a natural outgrowth of several technologies: firewall; unified threat management (UTM); and next-generation firewall (NGFW).
Organizations deploy an ever-increasing number of software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and other cloud-based resources. Local network-based firewall solutions struggle to handle securing the surging volume of traffic into and out from the local network.
The bandwidth and analysis problems become even more pronounced as employees move to remote work. Existing firewall solutions become cumbersome network bottlenecks that primarily protect resources that exist outside of the local network.
Remote workers quickly learn to log in to cloud products directly to bypass slow networks. However, bypassing firewall cybersecurity exposes the organization, users, and cloud resources directly to cybersecurity threats and compliance violations.
Firewall-as-a-service provides a cloud-based solution that can defend remote users, cloud-based apps, and local environments with the latest cybersecurity protection. FWaaS scales as needed to provide desired UTM and NGFW capabilities without bandwidth or processing limitations.
Cybersecurity experts can also deploy different configurations of standard FWaaS security, including top security, general security, demilitarized zone (DMZ), and public, so IT operations simply selects the appropriate configuration and deploys a firewall to protect a resource as needed. The quick and standardized deployment consistently simplifies operations, security, and compliance.
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Additionally, instead of periodic updates that can cause operational disruptions, operations and cybersecurity teams offload these duties to FWaaS vendors that maintain a constant flow of improvement, malware updates, and new features. Organizations can free themselves from the back-end costs of equipment, power, physical integration, and physical security.
Although the operations and cybersecurity teams must relinquish some aspects of control to the cloud FWaaS provider, the increased capabilities that provide visibility throughout the entire IT environment will often be seen as a beneficial tradeoff to the organization. The benefits seem even better if the organization can realize cost savings or free up cash flow in the switch from CapEx for hardware to OpEx for the FWaaS subscription.
FWaaS vendor example
Many different vendors offer FWaaS solutions, but most offer FWaaS as an integrated feature for zero-trust network access (ZTNA) or secure access service edge (SASE) solutions. However, some vendors offer stand-alone FWaaS solutions, and we examine Cloudflare’s Magic Firewall as an example.
Cloudflare Magic Firewall provides the cloud-based foundation for Cloudflare One, a SASE solution. However, Cloudflare also offers Magic Firewall as a stand-alone service with various features, such as:
- Ability to allow or block traffic based on bit field match, packet length, protocol, and source or destination IP and port
- Configured rules that deploy globally in < 500 ms
- Embedded distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection for IP subnets
- Geo-blocking based on user location by country
- Managed threat intelligence IP lists
- Single dashboard to manage firewall and network configuration
Cloudflare’s FWaaS builds on its distributed global network that provides access and protection for websites worldwide. The established security and DDoS protection transfers seamlessly to improve firewall protection and reach for global entities and their users.
Operating from data centers in 200 cities worldwide enables Cloudflare Magic Firewall to provide low latency and scale to widely dispersed users and offices. However, while the capabilities are global and widespread, the control remains centralized, simple, and visible.
When selecting a FWaaS solution, organizations should seek various key features, such as:
- Alerts automatically sent to security teams and tools by SMS and email
- Advanced threat protection (ATP) and malware detection features
- Automated responses to common threats detected by the tool
- Identity access management (IAM), federated identity, and other customizable user group management for network segmentation and access management
- Intrusion detection system (IDS) and intrusion prevention system (IPS) to catch malicious network traffic and flag performance issues
- Network traffic inspection and monitoring capabilities, including inbound, outbound, and between network segments
- Consolidated reporting of users, devices, and incidents
- Security and compliance reports available for back-end and application testing and security
- Clear reporting and visibility for traffic statistics, events, anomalies, and network performance
- Cloud speed and scalability for deployment
- Ability to defend multiple and geographically dispersed networks
- Ability to defend cloud application and resource deployments, such as IaaS, PaaS, and data lakes
- Ability to provision or deprovision services as needed
- Proxy-based architecture
- Machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI)-guided capabilities
- Free trial or demo for no-cost assessments
- Programmable APIs or integration with third-party tools for policy management, risk assessments, and compliance audits
- Integration capabilities with other modern security services and strategies, such as:
- Cloud access service broker (CASB)
- Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN)
Stand-alone network firewalls consume enormous resources to deploy, configure, and maintain. Yet, even powerful UTM and NGFW technologies cannot smoothly handle the increase in traffic, devices, and network complexity introduced by cloud resources and remote users.
Adopting a FWaaS solution enables organizations to enjoy the high-level protection of fully scalable and managed firewall security. Large organizations obtain more benefits, as they can simplify their IT infrastructure even as they deploy a solution that encompasses more of their IT network with a unified solution.
Any company with remote workers and cloud-based resources should consider FWaaS as a potential solution when they explore new or upgraded firewalls for their IT network and cybersecurity needs.
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