Firewall case studies can provide an essential look into how businesses implement these security systems to keep their networks safe.
Emerging threats like malware and ransomware have made firewalls more important than ever, but implementing, maintaining, and upgrading one isn’t always straightforward.
These five case studies show how businesses and leading firewall solution providers use firewalls to improve network security:
1. Deakin University
Many businesses and organizations are reevaluating their security practices right now. They are discovering that if they want to keep their networks safe, they’ll need to almost completely reinvent their approach to network security.
Deakin University is a Victoria, Australia-based public university with more than 50,000 students. It recently decided to reinvent its security program, shifting from an ad hoc system to a program that can actively plan for and identify potential threats.
Deakin University worked with leading networking technology provider Cisco to build a mature security program for the school from the ground up. The partnership’s ultimate aim was to improve its outdated security posture.
To help the Deakin University IT team update its approach, Cisco utilized a few of the company’s technologies, including Cisco SecureX, a unified security platform; Cisco Secure Email; and Cisco Secure Firewall.
The security platform allowed the company to implement the firewall in a way that did not require manual integration with other tools Cisco provided, like the company’s anti-malware solution.
According to Fadi Aljafari, information security and risk manager at Deakin University, the school relied on a small safety team and “didn’t have a reliable security capability or any sort of architecture for our security offering.”
After Cisco’s consulting services and technology were implemented, Aljafari said the company allowed the university’s IT team “to elevate our maturity significantly and improve our security posture.”
The university also increased its security rating by several measures. It improved from “20% compliance with NIST to 68%, with a target of 85% by 2022.” It also raised the “ACSC model maturity level for most of the strategies on mitigating cybersecurity incidents.”
Industry: Higher education
Firewall software: Cisco Secure Firewall
Outcome: Drastically increased maturity and functionality of the resulting security program
2. Black Box
Remote work is on the rise, making managing on-site security and networking hardware more challenging. Managed service providers (MSPs) sometimes must travel to client sites. However, this can significantly increase operational costs and make MSP services less efficient.
A recent case study showed how an MSP reconfigured its approach to using firewalls and enabled remote firewall management. It was working with a client that “needed to allow for secure access to firewalls at multiple remote locations.”
The MSP’s original approach required technicians to occasionally visit client sites in person to reconfigure or service their IT systems. This made the MSP’s IT services much less efficient and increased downtime when something went wrong.
The MSP and its client worked together with Black Box, an IT service provider and networking hardware manufacturer, to determine what kind of technology was needed to ensure remote access.
The team eventually adopted a Black Box product called the Remote Console Manager, combined with a U.S. Robotics fax-modem for local administration. The console manager would allow the MSP’s technicians to administer client firewalls remotely. The local fax-and-modem system provided a layer of redundancy.
According to the case study, the MSP can now “keep a constant eye on the status of the network.” Ideally, this “will reduce network downtime and allow for a more reliable firewall service for the end user.”
The MSP’s IT team will no longer need to travel to job sites to correct issues at remote locations, likely reducing operational and travel expenses.
Case studies like these will likely become more common as remote security management becomes more important. This particular study demonstrates how implementing remote firewall management can provide efficiency improvements for MSPs and IT teams.
Industry: Information technology
Firewall software: Black Box Remote Console Manager
Outcome: Increased efficiency and performance for MSP clients
3. Palo Alto Networks
Cyberattacks are on the rise, and experts predict they are only likely to become more frequent in the future.
Many hackers use malware to infect and scope out a network before an attack, allowing them to identify potential vulnerabilities, high-value targets, and points of interest.
Palo Alto Networks is an American cybersecurity company. Its core offerings include cloud-delivered security solutions and a next-generation firewall designed to help businesses more effectively respond to attacks as they happen.
The company recently published a case study on the spread of BazarLoader, a Windows-based malware that hackers have used in combination with Cobalt Strike, malicious software used to “perform reconnaissance to map the network.”
In addition to mapping out how the attack functions and can lead to future hacks, the case study identifies how security technology may be used to head off BazarLoader and Cobalt Strike. Firewalls can detect the BazarLoader malware, allowing security teams to take action.
However, relying on the same firewall can create issues if it’s not properly updated and maintained.
Palo Alto’s particular firewall hardware is built for longevity, unlike many other available firewalls. Many industry-standard firewalls must be replaced every four to five years because the chipset used in the hardware will no longer support the most modern OS version.
End users can either upgrade or risk using an obsolete and potentially vulnerable version of their firewall.
Investing in firewalls that can be easily maintained and updated may become a better strategy as malware becomes a bigger threat to companies.
Firewall software: PAN Next-Generation Firewall
Outcome: Increased longevity and security in the implementation of firewalls
Cloud adoption is on the rise, but not every organization has the tools they need to secure a network. The public sector may be faced with a combination of outdated systems, tight budgets and limited resources that can make effective security much more difficult to achieve.
A recent case study on a large public sector energy organization showed how firewalls can play a key role in cloud security. The organization was undergoing a major migration and needed a cloud-ready security system, but its budget was tight. It needed to keep operating costs at a minimum.
The case study details how the organization worked with Modis, a smart technology and talent services business, to implement a “fully managed cloud firewall to either restrict or inspect and permit data egressing from a customer’s cloud network as a central point of control.”
According to the case study, the new firewall significantly improved the customer’s security profile. The organization, working with Modis, opted to replace its existing third-party firewall service system with a managed AWS Network Firewall. Two CloudFormation templates defined the network inspection VPC and the firewall itself.
The new firewall solution was around one-third the cost of the previous third-party’s firewalling solution that the organization was using, according to the case study, and should be easier to scale and manage.
Firewall software: Amazon Web Services Web Application Firewall
Outcome: Saved money and increased usability and management compared to a previous provider’s solution
Next-generation firewalls are a powerful tool for organizations wanting to avoid a data breach. However, upgrading an enterprise firewall can be challenging and potentially disrupt basic IT services.
Keysight, a test and measurement equipment provider, recently published a case study on how the company’s IT team, when upgrading the company firewall, used testing and automation software to streamline the process.
The company used Ixia’s BreakingPoint to test firewalls on the IT team’s security solution shortlist without putting the firewalls into production.
As described by KeySight, BreakingPoint is “is an application and security test solution that can perform proof of concept (PoC) testing by sending real-world application traffic and security strikes to each device to see how network performance and protection is impacted.”
In practice, the tool can allow businesses to estimate how a potential security solution will perform against actual threats.
Because the firewalls did not need to go into production, the company’s IT team was able to compare the effectiveness of multiple candidate firewalls without committing the resources typically necessary for security testing.
According to Chad Lorenc, a senior infrastructure security engineer at Keysight, “for the first time, we were able to not only see the limits of specific firewalls but also understand why and how to design around them to best protect Keysight’s network.”
Industry: Equipment measurement
Firewall software: BreakingPoint by Ixia
Outcome: Optimized the firewall testing process without disrupting processes that were already in place
See more: 6 Top Firewall as a Service Providers