Network security policies establish guidelines for protecting an organization’s essential technology and information assets, but managing those policies is no longer a human-scale task. As organizations add more and more security controls to address new threats, the manual effort required to design and enforce growing numbers of policies has become overwhelming for resource-strapped IT teams.
Network security policy management (NSPM) solutions provide relief by automating many tedious, manual policy management tasks. By automating change management, risk analysis, provisioning and other processes, NSPM solutions allow IT teams to manage firewall rules and other security controls more efficiently and consistently.
NSPM customers experience up to 90 percent improvements in policy efficiency while also eliminating the common misconfigurations that lead to security breaches and regulatory compliance violations. That’s why analysts with Market Research Future project expect the NSPM market to grow at a CAGR of 8.2 percent through 2030, reaching a market value of $34.2 billion.
Expanded Attack Surface
Colossal changes in network requirements over the past few years have made manual policy management impractical for all but the largest IT teams. As organizations extend their networks to connect more users, devices and locations, they also create larger attack surfaces that require additional protections. However, adding firewalls, network access controls, intrusion detection systems and more requires significant policy management work.
Security policies are notoriously sensitive to infrastructure changes. Adding or updating new controls also requires modifying policies to prevent cascading errors that could create unexpected vulnerabilities.
NSPM tools are especially valuable for firewall policy management. Firewalls often contain thousands of rules accumulated over time to accommodate new applications, new threats, changes in access control lists and other factors. Many of these rules can be outdated, conflicting or redundant, which can create vulnerabilities and negatively impact network performance and availability.
Automated change management features in NSPM tools help root out those old rules. For example, when Cisco’s Defense Orchestrator tool is launched it will immediately identify and flag rules issues across all firewalls, even those that have been in production for years. Updates and changes can be made across all devices to bring them to a consistent and more secure state.
Beyond firewall issues, NSPM tools can significantly reduce a number of potential problems during the policy change process. In a survey of IT professionals conducted by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), 81 percent reported that more than 90 percent of their change windows were problem-free. Meanwhile, those who relied on manual processes experienced an average of 50 percent more incidents such as outages or device misconfigurations.
The EMA study also found that NSPM solutions reduced the time it took to process a security policy change to just one day, down from 12 days if done manually. Nearly half of those who did not use NSPM solutions reported spending up to 10 hours per firewall, per quarter manually inspecting their security policies. Due to optimized change management, less than 10 percent of those using NSPM solutions required that much time for inspecting policies.
Additionally, 64 percent of respondents said that using NSPM prevented application outages caused by device misconfigurations, while 37 percent said it helped reduce outage investigation time. Fifty-seven percent reported that NSPM reduced the frequency of security incidents, and 41 percent said NSPM reduced the time it took to investigate security incidents.
Changing network requirements are forcing organizations to rethink their approach to security policy management. While remote, mobile and cloud models have been instrumental in supporting today’s distributed workforces, they’ve also opened the door to new threats. Increased automation with NSPM solutions can help shut the door. Contact us to learn more.
August 24, 2022