Identifying Internal Segmentation Firewall (ISFW) Capabilities


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The Internal Segmentation Firewall: The Future | Source: Fortinet.com

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Vendor vulnerabilities, as well as putting into practice of freeware firewalls continuously manifest at a rapid pace. At each vulnerability, it seemingly appears to be the effect of something such as flaws in coding or feebleness in the configuration of another. Considering the huge number of firewalls vulnerabilities surfacing currently, it is only paramount to develop a more complete framework in understanding what firewalls are doing when receiving incoming traffic and what could go wrong when processing this traffic.


The Outside-In Approach


One of the principal elements of any organization’s security platforms is implementation and maintaining firewalls. In the last decade, however, organizations have been attempting to protect networks by putting up protections across the periphery of the network. This includes the internet edge, endpoint, perimeter, data center, and its perimeter network or DMZ. This ‘outside-in’ method of approach has been largely based on the idea that organizations can control defined various points of entry and protect valuable resources. Although organizations grow and adopt the latest in IT technology such as cloud and mobility, conventional network boundaries are becoming more and more complex to safeguard and manage. It is because at present there are so many ways into the enterprise network. Recently, the firewall seller distinctly marked the ports of the appliances ‘internal’(Trusted) and ‘external’(Untrusted), but, more developed threats use this to their advantage precisely because, once inside, the network system is very flat and open. The inside of the system is generally composed of non-security aware appliances/devices such as routers, switches, and bridges that once access is gain to the network by hackers, rogue employees, and contractors, then these cyber-criminals could get unhindered access to the whole enterprise network/system including all the valuable assets inside.

Source: Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report 

As demonstrated in many breaches, setting down inordinate trust in the peripheral protection alone places organizations in a precarious and often costly difficult situation. A lot of data breaches, including those of the highest-profile cases, are always the direct result of the cyber-criminals activity that was undetected for several months. Moreover, hackers can undermine the organization in just a couple of minutes. In what Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report, phishing, and business email compromises and errors cause the majority of the breaches (67% or more). These tactics are potent for attackers, so they are most likely to return to them time and again. For organizations, these tactics must be the focus of the bulk of security efforts.


Additionally, on the same Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report, money is the root of all levels, accounting for 86% of financially motivated breaches, 70% of breaches were caused by outsiders, 27 % of incidents are attributed to ransomware and 43% or more than from last year of breaches were attacks on web applications.


Incidentally, personal data is also getting swiped more often as it accounts for 58% of breaches, virtually twice the percentage in last year’s data. These thefts are being more often reported due to disclosure regulations. These include names, physical addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and any other types of data that one might uncover concealing in an email or stored in a misconfigured database.


It is believed that hackers had access for at least six months before detection. These breaches not only draw unpopular public awareness which typically results in loss of customer confidence but to the cost of recovery as well, at best, likely crippling organizations worldwide. According to the Ponemon Institute’s 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report, it indicates some consistencies with past research, including that of the global total cost of a data breach, averaged $3.86 million in the 2020 study. However, it falls to about 1.5% from the 2019 study, but in line with previous years.


The ISFW Solution

How to Implement Internal Segmentation | Source: Fortinet.com/Solutions


Fortunately, there exist solutions that go well beyond the perimeter protection that offers to provide the type of coverage that can ultimately help in protecting the organization better remediate and identify in the event of a breach. The solution - ISFW(Internal Segmentation Firewall) that sits at strategic locations of the internal network adding an extra layer of security. The ISFW may sit-in front of servers containing valuable intellectual properties, in a set of user devices, or in web applications sitting in the cloud protecting resources against any threats that may have crossed the perimeter. 


Since hackers have evolved from mere hobbyists to exceptionally skilled professionals, the technique these people utilize has evolved remarkably - oftentimes providing inexcusable access even when conventional protection devices remain active. The advanced persistent threat is one specific category of advanced threat that is raising concern in the security community. This threat is often a targeted attack that represents a set of surreptitiously and unceasingly computer hacking procedures oftentimes set up by humans with aims not only to gain access into a particular entity but also to spend days, weeks, or even months scouring through the network system to accumulate intel for succeeding attacks. Moreover, advanced threats are taking full advantage of the flat internal network very typical in today’s organizations that once this threat passes through the perimeter defenses, there is no stopping it from spreading and/or eventually extracting valuably targeted assets within.


In countering threat effectiveness, there are processes to follow, namely.


               Risk Mitigation - The purpose of which is to make responses to likely eventualities. An ISFW (Internal Segmentation Firewall) strategically and intelligently deployed, can block possible suspicious activities from continuously gathering valuable data, that if it falls to unscrupulous hands can effectively cripple an organization.


               Prevention - This relies heavily on possessing the latest security tools that can act on well-known threats and information statistics. This helps in stopping some of the many pronounced attacks, although this may come difficult considering that advanced attacks are often caused by human components. As an example, most advanced attacks often start with evil-intentioned, spiteful emails, or in many click-through ads singling-out a particular person in an organization. The NGFWs (Next-Generation Firewalls) can partially do the prevention component by enabling L2/L3 firewalls, application control, intrusion prevention, and more, but because NGFWs are only deployed at the borders it can only provide qualified visibility into the life-cycle attack, principally just detecting ingress and egress activity. As organizations fell prey to well-crafted advances, cyber-criminals could effectively exploit and deploy malware competent enough of populating the network system resulting in data stolen. Guidance helps. 


               Detection & Identification - The crucial part of the success here is to enhance visibility - an area where ISFW thrive. Detect hitherto uncertain, unknown threats. If hackers can penetrate through the perimeter, ISFW that is strategically located within the system will recognize such behaviors that fall outside the usual or otherwise appears as unauthorized. Most malicious activity is often compromised by internal movements as cyber-criminals strive to pinpoint valuable information within and ultimately extract data, and having a complete depiction of both internal and perimeter activity will boost all stages of an unmitigated ATP (Advanced Threat Protection) infrastructure. At times when internal traffic frequently appearing many times the bandwidth of perimeter traffic, ISFW can and will provide several opportunities to restrict the growth of a compromise segment by involving well-known methods and promptly pass higher-risk items for sandboxing for extensive investigation.




An ISFW scrutinizes internal traffic closely, with the sole objective of identifying any malicious activities inside the network as opposed to just sitting at the perimeter tracking traffic going in-and-out. Significantly, ISFW is very much different from other firewalls, in that its primary objective is to undertake a much extensive dive into day-to-day traffic than other popular next-generation firewalls. More importantly, ISFW could provide protection from the most recent sophisticated persistent threats, access compartmentalization of sensitive data, improve risk mitigation, boost protection as networks grow increasingly flatter, and open and increase visibility into internal traffic. 

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