5 ways to minimize the security scourge of policy accumulation

by Darinia Khongwir    Jun 27, 2013


Despite the fact that the typical enterprise user typically employs multiple devices, exchanging information from many locations and using application data across hybrid cloud infrastructures, the network security management of most organizations still struggle to accomplish secure unified access without leaving a morass of duplicated and often contradictory policies in their wake. According to Fortinet, a network security provider, the escalating number and complexity of security rules and policies accumulated by organizations over time is leaving many unable to respond effectively to the changing threat landscape.

Rules are constantly added to security devices, but seldom removed, and this complexity is spiralling out of control. Administrators find it increasingly challenging to understand the security they are implementing and are under impossible time pressures to troubleshoot new problems. The risk is that security holes open up amid the chaos. The answer to complexity is not more complexity.
-Vishak Raman, Senior Regional Director SAARC, Fortinet

Fortinet identifies top five tips for minimising policy accumulation.

Drive Application Awareness: The process of simplifying security policies is challenged by the introduction of application-aware security; a key tenet of next-generation firewall technology. Critical, however, is the ability to attach this to individual user-IDs in one place, and enforce it throughout the network and across network security functions.

Enable Single-Sign On: In reality, the added granularity that arises from running distinct security policies according to each different authentication environment can be burdensome to security management. Applying Single Sign On (SSO) is another instance where (when implementing the correct approach) simplified security policy need not be at the cost of losing valuable context about the user’s location or device.

Unify Wired and Wireless Network Visibility & Control: Runaway policy accumulation invariably occurs where wired and wireless network access is entirely separate for management purposes. Where both coexist, wireless is typically the more dynamic environment with similar levels of traffic as wired infrastructure; compounding the rationale for integrating both (including user-centric policies) for easier oversight and simplified monitoring and compliance.

Rationalise Network Security: Managing a large estate of specialized security devices from many different manufacturers is a sure fire way of multiplying the number of live security policies. Deploying a suite of complementary systems from the same vendor reduces operating costs by enabling easier and more responsive management with less policies, higher performance and better overall security. It also enables network access policies to be integrated with all other security policies.

Focus Smart Policies by Users and Devices: iOS, MacOS, Windows, RIM, Android, Ubuntu, Unix, Linux all require policy differentiation at some level, which can have a huge drain on management time. Combined with a SSO approach to policy enforcement at a unified ingress point onto the wired/wireless network, all policies can be determined according user ID, device type and location.