5 Key Performance Indicators to measure


The SonicWall Security Threat Research team sifts through hundreds of thousands of unique malware samples daily. In their latest threat report, they’ve documented that businesses continue to be under attack in ways that are increasingly difficult to defend against. We often see threat actors using combinations of evasion techniques and modifying their attacks vectors to circumvent firewalls and intrusion detection systems. The multitude of published security breaches proves that many existing network security controls are not working effectively against today’s modern threats. For companies that have been fortunate thus far, it’s time to face some tough questions about your security risks.

  • Are the company’s network security controls doing an effective job?
  • Are we testing and measuring its effectiveness thoroughly? What are the key quantifiable performance metrics?
  • Where do we need to improve to gain a better security posture?

Understandably there are many other important risk-related inquiries concerning different security controls that also require our attention. However, we’ll narrow the focus of this discussion primarily on next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) given their principal role in facilitating secure business communications and data exchanges over the Internet. Thus, the stability, reliability and most importantly, security effectiveness of the NGFW device is imperative when it comes to protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of an information system and its information.

Picture of SonicWall's SuperMassive E10000 Series model

The concept of a “security effectiveness” score is generally recognized today as a decisive network security metric used by IT organizations across all industries. The computed rating helps decision makers establish a reference level in assessing the quality and efficacy of an NGFW based upon “5 performance indicators” identified by NSS Labs, a well-trusted independent information security research firm that supports its product analysis through exhaustive laboratory testing. NGFW devices are tested and rated for their effectiveness, performance, manageability and cost of ownership to provide answers to tough questions faced by IT professionals when selecting and implementing security products. So when NSS documents these scores and makes its recommendations in its published reports, it is solely based upon empirical test data. Testing is performed starting with a baseline configuration to more complex, real-world configurations that simulate varying use cases. The firewall ranking is heavily weighted on 5 key performance indicators that determine the effectiveness score verifying that the firewall is capable of the following:

  1. Intrusion Prevention – correctly blocking malicious traffic based on a comparison of packet/session contents against signatures/filters/protocol decoders without false positives.
  2. Evasion – accurately detecting and blocking known exploits when subjected to varying evasion techniques.
  3. Application Control – accurately executing outbound and inbound policies consisting of many rules, objects, and applications and identifying the correct application, and taking the appropriate control action.
  4. Firewall Policy Enforcement – correctly enforcing firewall rules that permit or deny access from one network resource to another based on identifying criteria such as source, destination, and service.
  5. Stability and Reliability – maintaining security effectiveness while passing malicious traffic under normal or heavy conditions.

The NSS security effectiveness report is the ultimate validation of NGFW quality and performance. The report contains a full range of tests results that have direct relevance towards the evaluation and selection of a capable NGFW to protect and secure your organization. Some of the interesting findings include exploit block rate, coverage by attack vector, impact type and popular applications and resistance to various combination of advanced evasive attacks. As an IT security leader responsible for information and network security in your organization, I’d like to share with you a copy of the NSS Labs report that is packed with important information to serve as a guide when measuring the security effectiveness of your current firewall.

SonicWall Staff