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Five Reasons to Leave Firewalls Behind and Adopt Zero Trust

February 09, 2022 - 3 min read

Until recently, everything from data and applications to machines pretty much resided on-premises. Establishing a perimeter with firewalls and trusting everything inside that “zone of trust” met the needs of most businesses. 

But the world has changed. Employees are working from everywhere, and applications are no longer residing only in the data center. The perimeter has vanished, and there is no zone of trust anymore. This means organizations need a new approach to networking and security–an approach based on zero trust

Unfortunately, firewalls and VPNs weren’t designed for zero trust and put your organization at risk. Let’s dive deeper into the risks that perimeter firewalls can pose to your business. 

Increased attack surface

The migration of applications into SaaS and public clouds and the volume of remote employees have dramatically expanded the risk exposure for an organization. Think of it this way: every connection represents a potential attack surface. As an increasing volume of users VPN into legacy architectures, the attack surface inevitably grows. Perimeter-based firewalls and their virtual counterparts only serve to further exacerbate the problem, as they expose IP addresses on the internet to make it easy for users to find them. This makes it easy for attackers as well. 

Decreased application performance

Your users expect fast and unimpeded access to the applications they need to do their jobs, regardless of where they connect. But extending the flat network to branch offices and remote users and routing traffic back to centralized firewalls for security creates bottlenecks that leave users frustrated and unproductive. Even worse, they find ways to bypass VPNs and access applications directly, putting your organization at even greater risk.

High operational costs and complexity

It isn’t feasible to implement zero trust using perimeter firewalls, MPLS, and VPNs. It would be utterly unworkable and cost-prohibitive to deploy and manage perimeter firewalls in every branch location and home office while securing mobile users. The challenge lies in delivering the same level of security for all users and devices, regardless of location, without driving up costs of equipment, staffing, and resources.

Organizations often find themselves cutting corners and compromising by deploying smaller firewalls or virtual machines. The unintended result is a mashup of security point products and policies that adds complexity while still failing to provide adequate security.

Lateral threat movement

One of the biggest risks organizations face from an IT perspective is the lateral movement of threats. Traditional firewalls and VPNs connect users to the corporate network for access to applications. Once on the network, users are considered trusted and given broad access to applications and data across the enterprise. In the event that a user or workload is compromised, malware can quickly spread across the organization and bring down the business in an instant. 

Data loss

With more than 80 percent of attacks now happening over encrypted channels, inspecting encrypted traffic is more critical than ever. However, firewalls and their pass-through architectures are not designed to inspect encrypted traffic inline, making them incapable of identifying and controlling data in motion and data at rest. As a result, many businesses allow at least some encrypted traffic to go uninspected, thus increasing the risk of cyberthreats and data loss. 

Mitigating the risks with a true zero trust architecture

Successfully implementing zero trust can be an arduous task, particularly if you are attempting to do so using firewalls, virtual machines, and VPNs. Overcoming the risks posed by these devices and securely enabling the modern workforce requires migrating to a single, cloud-based security platform designed for zero trust

Download our complimentary white paper, “Top Five Risks of Perimeter Firewalls and the One Way to Overcome Them All,” to further understand the risks of perimeter firewalls and how you can eliminate them with a modern zero trust architecture.

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