Importance of Resiliency in Network Security

In life we hear stories about people who are able to recover from difficult situations. They’re often referred to as being “resilient.” Resiliency can also be applied to network security, albeit in a slightly different context. In both cases it’s a good thing to be.

As noted in our mid-year 2018 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, network threats, such as malware and ransomware attacks, are on the rise compared to 2017. Cybercriminals are persistent in their efforts to find new methods to launch their attacks.

But it’s not just the quantity of attacks that are on the rise. New threats are increasing as well. Some of these are variants spawned from earlier malware or ransomware code, such as WannaCry and Locky. Others are malware cocktails that combined pieces of code from several different variants.

Absorb, Reorganize and Refocus

One of the best and often under-valued ways to protect against these threats is to have a network security solution that is extremely resilient. This doesn’t mean that your firewall is good at picking itself back up off the ground after it’s been defeated by an attack.

According to NSS Labs, a third-party source known for its independent, fact-based cybersecurity guidance, “The resiliency of a system can be defined as its ability to absorb an attack and reorganize around a threat. A resilient device will be able to detect and prevent against different variations of the exploit.”

A key component of this definition is the device’s ability to identify attacks that use evasion techniques to avoid being detected and stopped. Another is protection over time. Some attacks are launched and then quickly disappear. Others, however, are reintroduced over the years, whether in their original form or as a variant.

A resilient firewall will continue to block a threat that was launched previously in addition to current and future variants. Failure to be resilient increases the chance your network is open to an attack. The odds may be small, but it’s still possible. Remember, not every hacker is writing the latest code. Some are new to the game and stick to older, established attacks.

Blocking Never-before-seen Variants

NSS Labs released the 2018 Next-Generation Firewall Group Test results with 10 network security vendors participating in the testing. SonicWall submitted the NSa 2650 next-generation firewall (NGFW), which performed very well in both security effectiveness and value (TCO per protected Mbps), earning the “Recommended” rating for a fifth time.

One particular area in the security effectiveness testing where the NSa 2650 shined was its resiliency to a range of never-before-seen exploit variants. The NSa 2650 achieved a block rate of over 90 percent, outperforming every other firewall except one. In many cases, the difference was significant, with over half of the firewalls scoring only in the 65-75 percent range.

Exploit Block Rate by Year – Recommended Policies
2018 NSS Labs Next-Generation Firewall Comparative Report: Security

So, is having a firewall with high resiliency really that important? Research from both SonicWall and NSS Labs indicates that there are quite a few aging attacks still out there in circulation. They may not be as sophisticated as today’s threats, but they remain active. You need to be protected against them.

What’s more, some threat actors launch multi-pronged attacks comprised of the core malware plus a series of variants. The idea is that your firewall may stop one, but not all.

To counter attacks, some security vendors create signatures that are specific to a particular exploit. These signatures typically don’t account for variants, however. And, over time, the signatures may be removed, leaving the firewall open to attack. Ideally, security vendors will create signatures that focus on the vulnerability and block the threat plus its variants — now and in the future.

If you’re not sure whether your firewall is resilient, or how it rates in security effectiveness and value, SonicWall can help. Visit SonicWall.com to download and read NSS Labs test reports, including the Security Value MapTM.

SonicWall Staff
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