How the channel can leverage the latest firewall technology for enhanced protection

Sean Campbell, Director Canadian Channels, Fortinet

Cybersecurity has become an essential part of any business strategy. As cyberattacks proliferate and become more challenging to detect, the threat of an attack is top of mind for business leaders. That risk will only grow, as it is predicted that remote work and hybrid cloud work models will continue to expand the attack surface. At the same time, cyberattacks become more sophisticated, frequent, and damaging.

A recent Fortinet Threat Landscape Report anticipates that the emergence of Cybercrime-as-a-Service (CaaS) will see the volume of cyberattacks continue to grow. The World Economic Forum survey reports that over 90% of global leaders anticipate a cybercrime-related catastrophe. At the same time, a cybersecurity skills shortage continues to plague the sector, as more than a third of cybersecurity roles still need to be fulfilled.

Channel partners can help customers avoid this growing threat by understanding which solutions will ensure networks are secure from end-to-end. What is clear is that solutions will need to support convergence; network security tools, especially firewalls, can no longer work in isolation.

Evolution of firewalls

Firewalls have evolved substantially since their humble beginnings. Today’s next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) protect the entire network by blocking malicious attachments and links, filtering Layer 7 applications, detecting intrusions and vulnerabilities, and providing patches on the fly. 

Taking security a step beyond NGFWs, the hybrid mesh firewall (HMF) is an emerging architecture. It offers a unified security platform designed to protect across the network, covering data centers, public and private clouds, branches, campuses, and even remote workers. 

Traditionally, on-premises firewalls or siloed NGFWs protected different parts of the

network environment. This approach often led to gaps in network security due to conflicting security policies, complexity and reduced visibility. With an HMF, NGFWs deployed across the network integrate easily across chassis, appliances, cloud-native firewalls, virtual machines, and 

Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS). 

This more integrated approach is highlighted by a unified console that coordinates security and automates NGFW capabilities across the network – even in multi-cloud and hybrid data center environments. The result is a one-stop shop for data collection and analysis, and unified policy roll-out and enforcement. The unified console approach also helps lower demands on customers’ IT teams – freeing them up for business-critical work. 

Given the value of convergence, it’s not surprising that Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant for Network Firewalls anticipates that “by 2026, more than 60 per cent of organizations will have more than one type of firewall deployment, which will prompt the adoption of hybrid mesh firewalls.” 

Considerations for Channel Partners

Partners looking to offer HMF solutions should take the time needed to understand their customers’ environment, help internal stakeholders get buy-in from decision-makers and work with the customer to choose the best solutions for their needs. They should also look to third-party evaluators to determine the best solution for their clients’ needs, as third-party testing offers an objective way to evaluate the many new offerings. 

Another area of consideration should be the customer’s current firewall solutions. Next-generation firewalls typically offer control, deep packet and application inspection, bandwidth management, website filtering, and malware and botnet detection. They should also include zero-trust enforcement, secure SD-WAN, and enable using artificial intelligence and machine learning to effectively detect and protect against existing and emerging threats. 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are critical to HMF solutions. They enable HMFs to recognize and classify users, devices, applications, web URLs, malware, and more and ensure the automated enforcement of policy across the network. As remote and hybrid work continues to impact the network, the faster AI and ML can intervene in network intrusions, the better. These investments can also reduce workloads for an organization’s security team, freeing them to focus on other business-critical initiatives.             

Channel partners can demonstrate value to their customers by looking at flexible, usage-based pricing models, like Fortinet’s FortiFlex program, which allow customers to turn security services on and off according to their needs. More flexible pricing models give customers more control and flexibility to meet their network’s changing needs. 

Modern organizations require an integrated cybersecurity approach that includes a full range of security solutions, including firewalls, endpoint protection, secure access, and cloud security. Any new deployment should integrate seamlessly, reduce complexity and improve security postures across the entire network. While still an emerging function, a hybrid mesh firewall solution has the potential to evolve alongside the threat landscape and provide the integrated solutions needed to mitigate business risk. 

Sean Campbell is Director of Canadian Channels at Fortinet