Posts

Is Your Firewall Ready for the IoT Era? The 3 Tough Questions to Ask

My wife was out of the country recently, so I took the opportunity to nudge our house a little further into the 21st century by installing a Nest thermostat. It won’t solve my family’s disagreements about the temperature, but it’s a cool gadget that makes me feel like I’m modernizing a house that was built well into the last century.

The thermostat is just one of many smart devices on the market that connects to the internet and your local network — whether that’s at home, the office or your business. In this case, it’s connecting via Wi-Fi to my home firewall, so I know it’s secure.

But is that the case for all the Internet of Things (IoT) devices out there? The number of connected “things” that need to be secured continues to grow — cars, TVs, watches, wearables, refrigerators, security cameras. And these are just a few examples.

By the end of 2018, statistics research company Statista expects the installed base of IoT devices to exceed 23 billion, increasing to almost 31 billion in 2020. That’s a whole lot things that can connect to your organization’s network, and it doesn’t include all the PCs, laptops and phones we use daily. Some connect to a firewall or router through an Ethernet cable, while others connect over wireless. Whether they’re tethered or not, more connected devices means more risk.

To help secure the flow of traffic across networks, organizations have increasingly been turning to the use of Transport Layer Security and Secure Sockets Layer (TLS/SSL) encryption.

In fact, SonicWall recently noted in its 2018 Cyber Threat Report that almost 70 percent of connections are now encrypted. Like sales of IoT devices, the number of HTTP sessions continues to climb. While this is generally a good thing, cyber criminals are also using encryption to hide their attacks.

How to secure IoT devices connecting to my network

So, what steps can you take to make sure all your devices can connect securely to your organization’s network? Here are three questions you should address:

  1. Can my firewall decrypt and scan encrypted traffic for threats?
    As I mentioned earlier, the use of encryption is growing both for good and malicious purposes. More and more, we’re seeing cyber criminals hiding their malware and ransomware attacks in encrypted sessions, so you need to make sure your firewall can apply deep packet inspection (DPI) to HTTPS connections, such as DPI-SSL
  2. Can my firewall support deep packet inspection across all my connected devices?
    Someone told me the other day that very soon each person will have an average of 13 connected devices. That’s a lot of potential devices connecting to your network. Now think of all the encrypted web sessions each device might have. You need to make sure your firewall can support all of them while securing each from advanced cyber attacks. Having only a high number of stateful packet inspection connections doesn’t cut it any more. Today, it’s about supporting more deep packet inspection connections.
  3. Can my firewall enable secure high-speed wireless?
    OK, this one sounds simple. Everyone says they provide high-speed wireless. But are you sure? The latest wireless standard is 802.11ac Wave 2, which promises multi-gigabit Wi-Fi to support bandwidth-intensive apps. Access points with a physical connection to the firewall should have a port capable of supporting these faster speeds. So should the firewall. Using a 1-GbE port creates a bottleneck on the firewall, while 5-GbE and 10-GbE ports are overkill. Having a 2.5-GbE port makes for a good fit.

SonicWall NSa next-generation firewalls

If you’re not sure you can answer “Yes” to these three questions about your current firewall thenSonicWall NSa series.

We’ve recently introduced several new models for mid-sized networks and distributed enterprises with remote and branch sites. The new NSa 3650, NSa 4650 and NSa 5650 join the NSa 2650, which SonicWall released last September. All four models deliver the automated real-time breach detection and prevention today’s organizations need.

SonicWall NSa next-generation firewalls now include NSa 3650, 4650 and 5650 offerings.

Here are a few of the key features the NSa series offers:

  • Cloud-based, on-box threat protection – Staying ahead of sophisticated attacks requires a more modern approach that heavily leverages security intelligence in the cloud. NSa series next-generation firewalls integrate two advanced security technologies — our patent-pending Real-Time Deep Memory InspectionTM and patented Reassembly-Free Deep Packet Inspection‚ which deliver cloud-based, on-box threat protection.
  • High connection count – The NSa series enables a very high number of deep packet inspection (DPI) and deep packet inspection of TLS/SSL-encrypted (DPI-SSL) connections.
  • High port density – The NSa series provides high port density, ranging from 20 physical ports on the NSa 2650 up to 28 on the NSa This high port density enables more devices to connect directly to the firewall without the need for a switch.
  • 5-GbE ports – NSa series firewalls include multiple 2.5-GbE interfaces, an industry first for firewalls. The 2.5-GbE interfaces enable faster wired throughput speeds while also supporting the requirements for 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless access points including the SonicWall SonicWave series of 802.11ac Wave 2 indoor and outdoor access points.
  • 10-GbE ports – NSa series firewalls (except NSa 2650) also include multiple 10-GbE interfaces to support faster data rates for the delivery of bandwidth-intensive applications over longer distances.
  • Onboard storage – Each NSa series firewall includes a pre-populated storage module ranging from 16 GB on the NSa 2650 up to 64 GB on the NSa The storage enables support for various features including logging, reporting, last signature update, backup and restore and more.

Even if you answered “Yes” to some or all of the questions, it’s still a good idea to see if you’re getting the most from your firewall. Learn more about the SonicWall NSa series, and how you can get high-speed wired and wireless security across all your connections, encrypted and unencrypted.

Is Your Firewall Ready for the IoT Era? The 3 Tough Questions to Ask

My wife was out of the country recently, so I took the opportunity to nudge our house a little further into the 21st century by installing a Nest thermostat. It won’t solve my family’s disagreements about the temperature, but it’s a cool gadget that makes me feel like I’m modernizing a house that was built well into the last century.

The thermostat is just one of many smart devices on the market that connects to the internet and your local network — whether that’s at home, the office or your business. In this case, it’s connecting via Wi-Fi to my home firewall, so I know it’s secure.

But is that the case for all the Internet of Things (IoT) devices out there? The number of connected “things” that need to be secured continues to grow — cars, TVs, watches, wearables, refrigerators, security cameras. And these are just a few examples.

By the end of 2018, statistics research company Statista expects the installed base of IoT devices to exceed 23 billion, increasing to almost 31 billion in 2020. That’s a whole lot things that can connect to your organization’s network, and it doesn’t include all the PCs, laptops and phones we use daily. Some connect to a firewall or router through an Ethernet cable, while others connect over wireless. Whether they’re tethered or not, more connected devices means more risk.

To help secure the flow of traffic across networks, organizations have increasingly been turning to the use of Transport Layer Security and Secure Sockets Layer (TLS/SSL) encryption.

In fact, SonicWall recently noted in its 2018 Cyber Threat Report that almost 70 percent of connections are now encrypted. Like sales of IoT devices, the number of HTTP sessions continues to climb. While this is generally a good thing, cyber criminals are also using encryption to hide their attacks.

How to secure IoT devices connecting to my network

So, what steps can you take to make sure all your devices can connect securely to your organization’s network? Here are three questions you should address:

  1. Can my firewall decrypt and scan encrypted traffic for threats?
    As I mentioned earlier, the use of encryption is growing both for good and malicious purposes. More and more, we’re seeing cyber criminals hiding their malware and ransomware attacks in encrypted sessions, so you need to make sure your firewall can apply deep packet inspection (DPI) to HTTPS connections, such as DPI-SSL.
  2. Can my firewall support deep packet inspection across all my connected devices?
    Someone told me the other day that very soon each person will have an average of 13 connected devices. That’s a lot of potential devices connecting to your network. Now think of all the encrypted web sessions each device might have. You need to make sure your firewall can support all of them while securing each from advanced cyber attacks. Having only a high number of stateful packet inspection connections doesn’t cut it any more. Today, it’s about supporting more deep packet inspection connections.
  3. Can my firewall enable secure high-speed wireless?
    OK, this one sounds simple. Everyone says they provide high-speed wireless. But are you sure? The latest wireless standard is 802.11ac Wave 2, which promises multi-gigabit Wi-Fi to support bandwidth-intensive apps. Access points with a physical connection to the firewall should have a port capable of supporting these faster speeds. So should the firewall. Using a 1-GbE port creates a bottleneck on the firewall, while 5-GbE and 10-GbE ports are overkill. Having a 2.5-GbE port makes for a good fit.

SonicWall NSa next-generation firewalls

If you’re not sure you can answer “Yes” to these three questions about your current firewall it may be time to revisit your security strategy. One solution you should look at is the SonicWall NSa series.

We’ve recently introduced several new models for mid-sized networks and distributed enterprises with remote and branch sites. The new NSa 3650, NSa 4650 and NSa 5650 join the NSa 2650, which SonicWall released last September. All four models deliver the automated real-time breach detection and prevention today’s organizations need.

NSa Series

SonicWall NSa next-generation firewalls now include NSa 3650, 4650 and 5650 offerings.

Here are a few of the key features the NSa series offers:

  • Cloud-based, on-box threat protection – Staying ahead of sophisticated attacks requires a more modern approach that heavily leverages security intelligence in the cloud. NSa series next-generation firewalls integrate two advanced security technologies — our patent-pending Real-Time Deep Memory InspectionTM and patented Reassembly-Free Deep Packet Inspection‚ which deliver cloud-based, on-box threat protection.
  • High connection count – The NSa series enables a very high number of deep packet inspection (DPI) and deep packet inspection of TLS/SSL-encrypted (DPI-SSL) connections.
  • High port density – The NSa series provides high port density, ranging from 20 physical ports on the NSa 2650 up to 28 on the NSa This high port density enables more devices to connect directly to the firewall without the need for a switch.
  • 5-GbE ports – NSa series firewalls include multiple 2.5-GbE interfaces, an industry first for firewalls. The 2.5-GbE interfaces enable faster wired throughput speeds while also supporting the requirements for 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless access points including the SonicWall SonicWave series of 802.11ac Wave 2 indoor and outdoor access points.
  • 10-GbE ports – NSa series firewalls (except NSa 2650) also include multiple 10-GbE interfaces to support faster data rates for the delivery of bandwidth-intensive applications over longer distances.
  • Onboard storage – Each NSa series firewall includes a pre-populated storage module ranging from 16 GB on the NSa 2650 up to 64 GB on the NSa The storage enables support for various features including logging, reporting, last signature update, backup and restore and more.

Even if you answered “Yes” to some or all of the questions, it’s still a good idea to see if you’re getting the most from your firewall. Learn more about the SonicWall NSa series, and how you can get high-speed wired and wireless security across all your connections, encrypted and unencrypted.

Simple Tips for Network Sanity: Patch Tuesday, Exploit Wednesday and Uninstall Thursday

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about our partnership with Microsoft and patch management. In a previous life I was a network/sysadmin. A brief description of that role was “If it has a blinking light on it, I am responsible for it,” which meant on most days I felt like I was living in the middle of a sci-fi movie, surrounded by demanding technology.

When you live in a hair-on-fire environment like that, keeping up with Microsoft patches can be painful. You can set them to automatically download and install and you should be good, that is unless the patch breaks something or even worse – it breaks everything.

When you have business-critical applications that are legacy or just plain old, patching can break them. If that app in question is the bread and butter of the business, patching can bring down the entire company. On the other hand, not patching for known vulnerabilities can be just as bad, if not worse.

There is an old saying: Patch Tuesday, Exploit Wednesday, and Uninstall Thursday.  Microsoft normally releases patches on the second Tuesday of the month, so Exploit Wednesday is when the cyber criminals have analyzed the details from Tuesday and deliver code to exploit the systems that haven’t been updated. Uninstall Thursday is the day you finally figure out that it was the Tuesday patch that broke your mission-critical system and you need to uninstall it to get things back to normal.

To say it is a Catch-22 would be an understatement. How do you stop the insanity? We, SonicWall, have partnered with Microsoft in a program call MAPP. Microsoft gives us  advance knowledge of what will be patched prior to Tuesday so that we have signatures in place to protect our customers who just can’t patch on Tuesday.

Should you patch on Tuesday? Yes, you should absolutely patch on Tuesday or any other day Microsoft releases a patch. But if there are times you just can’t, we can help protect you until you can. Assisting with patches is one of the many little things we have been doing quietly in the background for years that most people are unaware of. Now you know we have you covered when you are stuck in this Catch-22. The biggest take away is that you should patch. I can’t stress that enough: patch, patch, patch! But if you can’t, know that we are already behind the scenes, helping to keep your network safe.

Visit SonicWall GRID Threat Network for MAPP bulletins.

For the Security Advisories for MAPP, you can click here.

Are Campus Defenses Keeping Up with Attacks from the Cyber Netherworld?

I took a computer science minor when I was in college. Back then, the school computers were in a heavily secured section of one building, and we accessed them from teletype terminals and punch card readers (no, we did not use charcoal on slates by the fireplace in the log cabin!). There was no reason to worry about the security of our computer work, other than needing to stay on the good side of the staff of the computer center so that they wouldn’t reshuffle our punch cards or “misplace” our printouts.

Fast forward more than a few years, when I was doing graduate work at a public university. I took 30 credits online, using recordings of on-campus classes, regular chat sessions with my instructors and fellow students, and accessing research information, including public and professionals-only data sources, through the school’s online library system and its global connections. I didn’t pay too much attention to the security of my online activities; internet connectivity made them possible, but there weren’t nearly the number of bad actors out on the net that there are today.

Today my son is in college, and it’s natural for him to select a mix of online and in-person classes, even though his school is a short drive away. He relies on his school’s IT infrastructure for classwork, exams, registration, and research, and can access these functions as well as find out anything about what is available on the internet–from his laptop or smartphone. And every one of those transactions takes place in a space that is just seething with cyber muggers, burglars, and every variety of malicious actor you can imagine.

Information is the stock in trade of colleges and universities. Information enables students to pursue their degrees, faculty to teach and research, and staff to keep these institutions running. Much of the information has real value in the cyber netherworld, whether it’s personally identifiable information of students, proprietary research conducted with other schools and industry partners, or financial transactions.

Keeping this information secure is a challenge. In a recent Center for Digital Education survey of higher education IT professionals, 72 percent listed data breaches among their greatest current network security concerns. Their top security concerns for the year ahead? Spam, phishing, and malware. What’s standing in the way of better network security? More than four out of five pointed to budget constraints.

Keeping campus networks secure in the face of ever-increasing growth of data, devices used to access that data, and cyber threats requires more effective and more cost-effective security. To learn more about what’s keeping campus IT leaders up at night, and what they’re doing about it, view our on-demand webcast, Network Security in Education: The changing landscape of campus data security.

The Holiday Online Shopping Season is Coming Is Your Network Prepared?

Now that Halloween is over, it’s time for the holiday online shopping season to kick in, beginning on Black Friday, continuing through Cyber Monday, and finishing up on New Year’s day. For a lot of people it’s time to start spending money.

When we shop for the holidays many of us like to do it online. The National Retail Federation indicates that more than half of U.S. consumers plan to make at least some of their holiday purchases online this year. Why? Well, we can do it from anywhere at any time. It’s convenient. That includes shopping from work.

What does it mean to your organization? Well, there’s a good chance your employees will spend some of their work time shopping online over the next six weeks. Is that a potential problem? If you consider the security of your network, the productivity of your employees and the use of network bandwidth important to your organization, then the answer is yes, and here’s why.

Online shopping at work introduces security risks. For example, employees may inadvertently create opportunities for malicious attacks directed at your organization. An “attack or threat vector” is the means a hacker uses to gain access to one or more systems or servers on your network. Through the attack vector, the hacker can compromise systems on your network and deliver a malicious payload, the most common being a virus, worm, trojan or spyware. A common threat vector around the holidays is phishing. Phishing is an email fraud method in which the perpetrator sends out a legitimate-looking email instructing recipients to go to the fake website of a reputable business such as FedEx or UPS. The site will attempt to collect personal information such as the user’s name, passwords, social security number and credit card details. Another attack vector you may come across is “malvertising,” or “malicious advertising,” which is a threat that uses online advertising to spread malware. The malware can then capture information from an infected machine, or send probes around the network to find servers and other systems that can be compromised.

The security of your network isn’t the only issue your organization faces during the holiday buying season. Employees are exercising more freedom for personal activities such as online shopping during work hours. This is concerning. Why? Well, they’re shopping on company time so they’re not as productive and it’s likely they’re connecting to sites through the corporate network which could lead to a security risk as well as a misappropriation of valuable bandwidth.

Speaking of your bandwidth, there’s the question of how it’s being used. With likely over half of your employees shopping online at some point during the holidays, the bandwidth available to critical applications on your network is going to disappear. Therefore, it’s critical to prevent vital bandwidth from being consumed by non-productive web use such as online shopping, streaming music and watching HD videos which can all have a negative impact on network performance if left unchecked.

What can you do to secure your network, improve employee productivity and get the most out of your bandwidth during the holiday online shopping season? Here are a few tips:

  • Get a next-generation firewall. If you don’t have one already, next-generation firewalls secure inbound and outbound traffic from threats, provide you the tools to determine which websites your employees can and can’t access (hint – online shopping sites) and allow you to identify and control the apps used on your network and how much bandwidth you want to allocate to them. Not only that, with more websites moving to SSL encryption, it’s important that the next-generation firewall be able to decrypt and inspect encrypted traffic for threats.
  • Help your employees learn how to avoid malvertising and recognize phishing emails. Be alert for suspicious emails and links to unknown websites.
  • Educate employees to use different passwords for every account and establish policies for strong passwords.
  • Many attacks are based on known vulnerabilities in recognized browsers, as well as in plug-ins and common apps. Therefore it’s critical to apply updates and patches promptly and reliably.
  • It’s a good idea to use tools that allow IT managers to monitor the use of network applications. It’s called “Application Intelligence” and it can help you determine if anyone is violating company policies or simply visiting sites that have no business purpose such as online shopping.

SonicWall offers a complete range industry-leading next-generation firewalls including the NSA Series that integrate numerous advanced features for deep packet inspection such as Anti-Malware, Intrusion Prevention, Application Intelligence and Control, Content and URL Filtering and SSL Decryption and Inspection.