Rise of the next-generation firewall

KUALA LUMPUR: Social networks and other Web 2.0 technologies are ways for hackers to penetrate enterprise systems because Facebook pages, instant messaging and the such are closely intertwined with business networks.

Many corporations have recognised and are moving quickly into social networks to help them push their products and services, as well as to conduct market research and headhunt new employees.

And with so many new avenues opening up, hackers are turning social media and web applications into launch pads for spreading malware (malicious software) or for stealing confidential data from organisations.

Traditional firewalls are not able to effectively detect such threats, said network security company Palo Alto Networks.

“The reality is that policies which IT departments now employ to block (intrusions that come through) Web 2.0 technologies aren’t working,” said Yuming Mao, co-founder and chief software architect at Palo Alto Networks.

“Simply blocking Facebook from your network isn’t the solution because employees will still find ways to work around the system.

“Organisations need to determine the appropriate balance between blocking and blindly allowing such applications,” he said.

Palo Alto Networks is one the first security companies to introduce a next-generation firewall (NGFW) solution.

“Our NGFW enables organisations to monitor users, applications and other content over their networks,” Mao said. “With applications, it looks at each one that passes through the network, monitors their behaviour, checks known vulnerabilities and assesses the potential for misuse.”

Palo Alto Networks said its security solution is also able to identify and control user-access to Facebook over a network. IT managers can allow employees access to a read-only version of Facebook — allowing them to view updates but not to post messages or comments, which reduces network security risks.

“With our next-generation firewall, any IT department will be able to better control employee usage of social networks while protecting the organisation’s confidential data,” Mao said.

Among its new products are GlobalProtect and PA-5000-series firewall solutions that implement NGFW features.

GlobalProtect is a system-wide solution that protects users even when they are mobile, by installing a small application on each user’s PC that applies an enterprise firewall policy on the devices.

The PA-5000 series enables enterprises to extend protection to all types of traffic, applications and threats. It can sustain a traffic flow of up to 20Gbps (Gigabits per second) in data networks.

Both products are available now. For more product information, go to www.paloaltonetworks.com.

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