AIMultiple ResearchAIMultiple Research

Key Components of Firewall Compliance: Guidance in 2024

Written by
Cem Dilmegani
Cem Dilmegani
Cem Dilmegani

Cem is the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per Similarweb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work focuses on how enterprises can leverage new technologies in AI, automation, cybersecurity(including network security, application security), data collection including web data collection and process intelligence.

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Researched by
Ezgi Alp
Ezgi Alp
Ezgi Alp
Ezgi is an industry analyst at AIMultiple. She specializes in firewalls and firewall management.

She has held various positions in academia and the finance industry. Ezgi holds a PhD in finance and a bachelor's degree in management. She has a background in publishing scientific articles and presenting at conferences.

Publications:
• Tanyeri A. B., and Alp E. (2022).
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Key Components of Firewall Compliance: Guidance in 2024Key Components of Firewall Compliance: Guidance in 2024

The anticipated cost of cyber attacks globally was projected to reach nearly $10 trillion in 2024.1 The average worldwide cost of a data breach is ~$5 million.2 To avoid these costs, ensuring robust network security is paramount for organizations.

Conducting comprehensive firewall audits is one of the cornerstone strategies for fortifying network security. Firewall audit software are tools specifically designed to assess and evaluate the configurations, policies, rules, and overall security posture of firewalls.

This article examines the concept of firewall compliance, explores key industry standards, and discusses their relevance, use cases, and implications for different industries.

What is firewall compliance?

It refers to the adherence of firewall configurations, rules, policies, and security practices to industry standards, regulatory requirements, and best practices. It involves ensuring that firewalls are effectively deployed, configured, monitored, and maintained to protect networks from unauthorized access, malicious activities, and network security threats.

Key components of firewall compliance

Firewall rules and standards are two main components of firewall compliance. Together, firewall rules and standards contribute to firewall compliance by ensuring that firewalls are configured, managed, and audited in a secure, compliant, and effective manner to protect networks, data, and resources from unauthorized access, threats, and vulnerabilities.

Firewall security standards (Industry specific)

Firewall standards refer to guidelines, requirements, and specifications to secure firewall configuration and management. Adhering to these standards helps organizations protect their internal networks from threats and improve security posture. 

Table 1. Compliance of security standards of top 10 firewall audit softwares

VendorISOGDPRNISTSOXNERC CIP
Tufin
Zscaler
Qualys
FortiNet
Cisco
Cloudflare
Palo Alto Network
AlgoSec
FireMon
Imperva

Inclusion criteria:

  • The table is compiled using publicly available and verifiable data.
  • Vendors with more than 75 total reviews across review platforms such as G2, TrustRadius and Gartner, were considered.
  • All listed vendors have at least 100 employees.
  • All listed vendors provide firewall audit and compliance products, alongside other network security solutions.
  • All listed vendors provide automated firewall audits for the compliance of two standards: HIPAA and PCI DSS.
  • Ranking is determined by the total number of reviews, with the sponsored vendor positioned at the top of the list.

Key firewall security standards include:

General

1. National institute of standards and technology (NIST)

Widely recognized in the cybersecurity industry, NIST provides frameworks, guidelines, and best practices for information security and risk management. Compliance with NIST standards helps organizations enhance their security posture, mitigate risks, and align with recognized industry benchmarks.

2. International organization for standardization (ISO)

ISO provides a framework for implementing robust security controls, including firewall configurations, network security measures, and data protection strategies. They are globally recognized and utilized across industries to ensure compliance, standardization, and best practices.

3. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

GDPR offers a comprehensive framework for implementing stringent data protection measures, encompassing security controls, network security protocols, and data privacy strategies. These standards are internationally recognized and widely adopted across various sectors to promote compliance, establish standard practices, and enhance data protection efforts.

Financial services

4. Payment card industry – data security standards (PCI-DSS)

Compliance with PCI-DSS is paramount for businesses handling payment card data. PCI-DSS outlines requirements for securing cardholder data, including firewall configurations, access control, encryption, and monitoring. Firewall compliance plays a vital role in protecting cardholder data by enforcing strict firewall rules, conducting firewall audits, and maintaining secure network segmentation.

5. Payment services directive 2 (PSD2)

PSD2 is a European Union directive that regulates payment services and electronic payment transactions. It mandates strong customer authentication and security measures for online payments and is primarily applicable in the European financial sector.

6. Financial industry regulatory authority (FINRA)

FINRA is a regulatory organization in the United States that oversees securities firms and brokers. It sets standards and regulations related to securities trading, investor protection, and market integrity.

7. Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX)

SOX compliance focuses on financial reporting integrity and requires controls over financial data. Firewall compliance under SOX involves securing access to financial systems, protecting sensitive financial information, and implementing robust firewall security controls to prevent unauthorized access or data breaches.

Defense industry services

8. Defense office of regulatory affairs (DORA)

DORA regulations apply to defense contractors and government agencies, emphasizing secure network configurations, access controls, and firewall management. Compliance with DORA standards ensures robust firewall security, protects sensitive data, and maintains compliance with government security policies.

9. Defense information systems agency security technical implementation guides (DISA STIG)

DISA STIGs provide configuration guidelines and security controls for network devices, including firewalls, to meet military cybersecurity requirements. Adhering to DISA STIGs strengthens firewall compliance, enhances network security posture, and aligns with military-grade security standards.

Other industries

10. North American electric reliability corporation critical infrastructure protection (NERC CIP)

NERC CIP standards focus on securing critical infrastructure in the energy sector. Firewall compliance in NERC CIP involves protecting control systems, implementing secure remote access through virtual private networks (VPNs), and conducting firewall audits to mitigate risks and ensure operational resilience.

11. Health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA)

HIPAA sets standards for protecting health information and requires secure network environments. Firewall compliance under HIPAA involves securing electronic protected health information (ePHI), implementing firewall rules to control access, and conducting firewall audits to ensure data security and regulatory compliance.

12. Federal information security management act (FISMA)

FISMA mandates cybersecurity requirements for federal agencies and contractors, including firewall compliance, risk assessments, and security controls. Compliance with FISMA standards is essential for government entities to protect sensitive data, comply with regulatory mandates, and maintain a strong security posture.

Firewall rules

Firewall rules, also known as rule sets or rule bases, are specific configurations within a firewall that dictate how the firewall should handle incoming and outgoing network traffic. Firewall rules determine whether traffic should be allowed, blocked, or redirected based on the defined criteria, effectively controlling network communication and access.

Main firewall rules include:

1. Deny all

This rule instructs the firewall to block all incoming and outgoing traffic by default unless specifically allowed by other rules. It follows the principle of “block everything unless explicitly permitted,” providing a strong first line of defense against unauthorized access and potential threats.

2. Least privilege

It, based on the principle of least privilege, restricts network access to the minimum level necessary for users or systems to perform their legitimate tasks. In firewall configuration, this rule limits access to specific services, ports, or resources based on the principle of granting only the essential permissions required for operation.

3. Explicit allow

This rule permits specific traffic or connections based on predefined criteria. Unlike the deny all rule, the explicit allow/deny rule selectively allows desired traffic, such as access to specific services, applications, or IP addresses. This rule ensures that only authorized traffic is allowed while blocking all other traffic not explicitly stated.

4. Explicit deny

It emphasizes a strict security posture by explicitly denying all traffic that is not expressly permitted. This rule applies to both incoming and outgoing traffic, ensuring that only authorized communications are allowed while blocking all other attempts to access network resources.

5. Stateful inspection

It is a sophisticated firewall feature that examines the context and state of network connections to make intelligent decisions about traffic flow. Unlike simple packet filtering, stateful inspection evaluates the entire communication session, including the source, destination, port numbers, and packet sequence, to determine if the traffic is legitimate and conforms to expected behavior.

Best practices for firewall auditing and compliance

Best practices for firewall policies and rules include:

1. Regular firewall audits

Conduct periodic firewall audits using comprehensive open source or closed sourced audit tools to assess firewall configurations, firewall rule base, access controls, and security policies.

2. Security posture assessment

Perform risk assessments and vulnerability scans to evaluate the organization’s security posture, identify potential threats, and prioritize remediation efforts.

3. Compliance checks

Ensure adherence to firewall security standards, regulatory requirements, and internal security policies through rigorous compliance checks and audits.

4. Log monitoring and analysis

Monitor firewall logs and analyze network traffic patterns to detect security incidents, anomalies, and unauthorized activities.

5. Policy enforcement

Enforce strict access controls, security policies, and best practices to mitigate risks associated with inbound and outbound traffic, internal network access, and data breaches.

The crucial role of firewall audits in firewall compliance

Firewall audits play a pivotal role in assessing the effectiveness of firewall configurations, identifying vulnerabilities, and ensuring compliance with security standards and industry regulations. By conducting regular firewall audits, organizations can gain insights into their security posture, detect anomalies in network traffic, and mitigate risks associated with outdated rules, misconfigurations, or unauthorized access attempts.

For details, you can check this firewall audit article. If you are looking for a firewall audit solution, you may find the firewall audit software article useful.

FAQs

What is the difference between firewall rules and firewall standards?

Firewall rules refer to the specific configurations within a firewall that dictate how traffic should be managed, controlled, and allowed or blocked. However, firewall standards encompass guidelines, requirements, and best practices that define the overall framework for configuring, managing, auditing, and ensuring compliance with firewalls.

Are there any industry-specific firewall standards?

Yes, there are industry-specific firewall standards such as PCI-DSS for payment card data security, PSD2 for financial services, FINRA for financial institutions, SOX for financial reporting, NERC CIP for energy sector critical infrastructure, HIPAA for healthcare data, FISMA for federal agencies, and DORA and DISA STIG for defense systems.

Access Cem's 2 decades of B2B tech experience as a tech consultant, enterprise leader, startup entrepreneur & industry analyst. Leverage insights informing top Fortune 500 every month.
Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst
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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem is the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per Similarweb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work focuses on how enterprises can leverage new technologies in AI, automation, cybersecurity(including network security, application security), data collection including web data collection and process intelligence.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Cem's hands-on enterprise software experience contributes to the insights that he generates. He oversees AIMultiple benchmarks in dynamic application security testing (DAST), data loss prevention (DLP), email marketing and web data collection. Other AIMultiple industry analysts and tech team support Cem in designing, running and evaluating benchmarks.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised enterprises on their technology decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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AIMultiple.com Traffic Analytics, Ranking & Audience, Similarweb.
Why Microsoft, IBM, and Google Are Ramping up Efforts on AI Ethics, Business Insider.
Microsoft invests $1 billion in OpenAI to pursue artificial intelligence that’s smarter than we are, Washington Post.
Data management barriers to AI success, Deloitte.
Empowering AI Leadership: AI C-Suite Toolkit, World Economic Forum.
Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU, European Commission.
Public-sector digitization: The trillion-dollar challenge, McKinsey & Company.
Hypatos gets $11.8M for a deep learning approach to document processing, TechCrunch.
We got an exclusive look at the pitch deck AI startup Hypatos used to raise $11 million, Business Insider.

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