Five Rules for Firewall Management Every MSP Should Follow

A network firewall is a crucial security component in protecting customers, so it’s important that your firewall management and monitoring strategy is robust and comprehensive. Network firewall configuration is no easy feat, however, because it requires administrators to strike a balance between delivering optimal security and maintaining performance speed for users.

Firewall management must be able to protect you and your customers from external security threats, as well as malware that could compromise confidential data. It is also key that your network is protected from future security threats in addition to existing threats. The following firewall management rules and best practices will help network administrators best secure both your networks and your customers’ networks.

1. RESTRICT TRAFFIC AND MONITOR ACCESS

Network administrators should block all network traffic by default and actively grant authorization to specific traffic for known services and devices. This gives you complete control over who can access your network and reduces the likelihood of a security breach occurring.

As the firewall is your first layer of defense against potential threats, it’s key that access to firewall configuration settings is restricted. To ensure that only authorized administrators have access to change firewall configurations, it’s important for your MSP to implement strict user permission controls. Another critical aspect of monitoring access involves establishing a log for recording all configuration changes. These logs can be very useful during audits and compliance checks, making it possible to detect and investigate any unauthorized configuration changes. Up-to-date logs also allow administrators to trace and restore previous configurations when necessary.

To keep networks secure, it’s important to adhere to the principle of “least privilege.” This involves limiting access to important data and settings as much as possible without hindering your team’s ability to do their job.

2. OPTIMIZE FIREWALL RULES

Your firewall rules should be well-defined and optimized to deliver a suitable level of protection. MSPs and other businesses can benefit from cleaning up their firewall rule base, as removing clutter can improve network security.

Without regular optimization, your firewall rule base might have redundant elements, bloated and unnecessary rules, or duplicates. This can make the guidelines complicated and, in some cases, ineffective. As such, it is important that you eliminate rules of this nature so that your guidelines are clear and easily understood. Cleaning your firewall rule base involves eliminating redundant or duplicate rules, removing rules that are no longer in use or are obsolete, removing shadowed rules that are inessential, eliminating conflicting rules, and rectifying any errors or inaccuracies in existing rules. All these actions will make your firewall more effective and your network security more robust.

3. UPDATE YOUR FIREWALL SOFTWARE

Firewall vendors tend to release software updates regularly. Firewall updates are designed to address any potential security threats that the vendor has discovered by implementing minor alterations to the software. To ensure that your network and your customers’ networks are secure, it is crucial that you keep your firewall software up-to-date as updates are rolled out. This will prevent any known vulnerabilities in the system from being exploited. To best stay on top of this, your MSP should schedule frequent checks to confirm that your firewall software is updated to the latest version.

4. AUTOMATE FIREWALL UPDATES

To elaborate on the previous point, it’s important to consider that many cybercriminals actively search for out-of-date software. Programs that are not updated to the latest version usually have known security gaps that can be easily exploited by cybercriminals. Unfortunately, while it’s extremely important for your MSP to schedule frequent checks for firewall updates, even the most vigilant administrators make mistakes and may overlook a recent update.

To mitigate the risk of human oversight, you should also consider automating firewall updates as an additional precaution and efficiency-booster. An automated system can be scheduled to check for any available updates and implement them when one is found. This eliminates the need for human intervention and helps ensure your firewall is secure.

5. USE A CENTRALIZED MANAGEMENT TOOL

A wide variety of companies use multi-vendor firewalls. The issue with this is the architecture of firewalls varies between manufacturers. Because of this, it’s best to manage all your firewalls centrally to ensure they’re all functioning as they should be. By using a multi-vendor firewall management tool, you get a unified view of your firewall rules and policies, allowing you to compare, monitor, and manage your firewall rules from one place. With a centralized firewall management tool, you can also perform security auditing and reporting activities, as well as troubleshoot configuration problems.

Firewall management with remote management tools

If you’re looking for a cost-effective and comprehensive firewall management solution, then you should opt for an all-in-one infrastructure monitoring tool that includes firewall management capabilities. Remote infrastructure monitoring and remote management tools can offer the best value for money by centralizing your IT security and management tools.

SolarWinds® N-central® is an extremely versatile remote monitoring and management tool that offers built-in security features. These features are easy to deploy and manage, helping you protect your customers from one dashboard. The security capabilities offered by SolarWinds N-central include signature, rule, and behavioral-based scanning, proactive notifications, firewall management, web content filtering, profiles and application control, auto deployment, and much more. The all-in-one solution also features an automation management tool which allows your technicians to get more done—without needing to learn a new scripting language.

This suite of tools offers enterprise-grade, market-leading security features, including endpoint detection and response (EDR). EDR solution helps MSPs prevent, detect, and respond to threats, affording you a layered security solution that works with your firewall for security from all angles. It also features automated rollback, policy-driven automation, near real-time file analysis, forensic analysis, and autonomous threat response.

Despite being a powerful and versatile tool, SolarWinds N-central is extremely user-friendly, allowing you to get technicians up to speed fast. The N-central dashboards are dynamic and easy to navigate. SolarWinds MSP also offers ample support for this tool, including 24/7 technician availability and a comprehensive online knowledgebase. A 30-day free trial of N-central is available here for MSPs interested in learning more.

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