Responsible for a firewall therefore is how secure

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responsible for a firewall, therefore, is how secure that firewall really is. Numerous alternatives exist for determining the level of security control that a firewall provides. These alternatives include: 1. Making a decision based on information provided by vendors. Although easy to do, this method is limited by the nearly universal tendency of vendors to make only positive information about their products available to customers and potential customers. 1 Even the most poorly configured filtering router may be called a firewall, however, so statistics such as these are anything but conclusive.
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2. Relying on generic evaluations of vendor-supplied firewall products performed by an independent entity or organization. This approach is superficially appealing, but is in all likelihood limited by the same practical difficulties that have diminished the value of anti-virus product comparisons in the past. 2 In addition, the applicability of the results of this approach diminishes to the degree that an organization modifies the out-of-the-box configuration of the firewall. 3. Analyzing a firewall’s design and configuration. This approach is attractive, and we will further discuss it later in this paper, but suffice it to say at this point that careful analysis of a firewall does not provide empirical data concerning a firewall’s effectiveness and is not likely to identify every security weakness that exists. 4. The final alternative and focus of this paper is firewall penetration testing (simply called “firewall testing” hereafter). During a firewall test, security personnel, usually from outside the target organization, attempt to break into the target firewall system from an external location on the network, which most frequently is the Internet. The testing techniques are based on attacks real network intruders use. If conducted properly, firewall testing usually provides the most direct and convincing evidence about the effectiveness of a firewall. Knowing that a firewall can withstand the same attacks that network attackers actually use produces a high level of confidence in the firewall. Failure to withstand such attacks reveals specific security exposures to remedy in the firewall. Discovering these exposures and fixing them before intruders find them is another advantageous outcome of firewall testing. Empirically determining the level of protection provided by firewalls is, therefore, extremely important A major problem with the current practice of firewall testing, however, is that a great deal of this activity is conducted with too much emphasis upon attack techniques, but insufficient emphasis upon sound testing methodology. Too often a firewall test is viewed as a kind of “hackathon.” Organizations may authorize someone to conduct the testing, but this person may “disappear behind a black curtain,” then return to report the findings. So ends the firewall test. Although the test itself may have appeared satisfactory to the organization, the test may have been conducted in a less-than-competent manner.
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