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SBMs Need Next-Generation Firewalls to Forestall Cyberattacks

August 03, 2016

It’s a regular occurrence: a large company such as Home Depot or Target (News - Alert) experiences a serious data breach and news reports follow the disastrous fall out that follows. It often leaves smaller companies with a false sense of security. (“We’re too small to become the target of hackers.”) Small to medium-sized businesses may skimp on their security, confident they won’t become a target. It’s a huge mistake: according to Verizon’s (News - Alert) Data Breach Investigation Report, 81 percent of all data breaches happen to small businesses. Hackers are aware that smaller companies seldom have the kind of robust protections in place as large enterprises, which makes them easy pickings in the eyes of cyber-criminals.

Companies that maintain a significant amount of personal customer information are ripe for attacks by criminals seeking credit card or bank account numbers, social security numbers, or even simply customer names and addresses that can be used to “phish” for further information. As larger companies and financial services organizations beef up their security in the wake of high-profile attacks, softer targets such as contact centers become the “low hanging fruit” for organized cyber-criminals or lone identity thieves.

According to a recent blog post by Neal Bradbury, senior director of business development for Intronis (News - Alert) MSP Solutions, the biggest risk with SMBs comes from a lack of awareness.

“Almost always, the biggest security problem SMBs face is a lack of education about just how serious the situation is,” he wrote. “Beyond that, however, inadequate and/or outdated security defenses are a major problem. Traditional firewalls are a good case in point. While blocking Internet traffic on network ports (such as port 21 for FTP traffic) was effective years ago, today it is akin to blocking the wind with a screen door.”

Bradbury outlines three major reasons why SMBs should be replacing their legacy firewalls with next-generation firewalls (NGFWs). The first is that encryption, which many companies rely on for security, is no longer enough for companies using traditional firewalls. NGFWs, on the other hand, are able to gather headers and other unencrypted parts of the data stream, which enables security teams to analyze encrypted traffic more effectively.

In addition, traditional firewalls help protect against known threats by ferreting out “signatures,” and companies must rely on vendors to push out new solutions for these existing threats. They will do nothing to prevent what’s called “zero day vulnerabilities,” or brand new threats, which are cropping up with increasing frequency.

“NGFWs are not restricted to signatures like their predecessors are,” wrote Bradbury. “These tools use cloud-based signature-less technologies to evaluate data flows, files and other bits of information. NGFWs analyze every file that tries to run on a PC and feeds that data into a threat intelligence network in the cloud, allowing them to quickly respond to the latest malware threats.”

Finally, NGFWs generally have more advanced alerting capabilities than traditional technology. Today, companies are often aware of malicious breaches too long after the fact to actually do anything about it. A study from Microsoft (News - Alert) found that the average time attackers reside within a network before being detected (“time to detection,” or TTD) is more than 140 days.

“By using advanced fingerprint and deep SSL encryption technologies, NGFWs can significantly reduce the TTD of a security attack or breach,” wrote Bradbury. “Additionally, granular policies for specific application features (such as restricting unauthorized/personal cloud apps and/or social media usage) can be applied to user groups — or specific users — for added safety measures.”

It’s no longer enough for SMBs to keep their heads down and hope that cyber-criminals will pass them by because they’re too small. It’s the perception of weakness that will actually attract attacks. Hackers are ever-evolving their methods and processes. So too do SMBs need to evolve their security protocols. 

Edited by Alicia Young
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