Cybersecurity would be a lot easier if you had a magic crystal ball that could see what attackers were going to do in the future and the approaches they might take. Obviously, that’s not going to happen, but we do know some basics of cybersecurity aren’t going to go away either. To compete in today’s ever-changing digital marketplace, you need to be flexible. In terms of security that means you need tools that are designed to adapt to constantly changing requirements.

Organizations need a next generation firewall (NGFW) that can deal with the threats of complex business environments both today and tomorrow. To select the right NGFW, or the Network Firewall as Gartner call it, make sure it provides support in these four key areas.

1. Protection for Any User, Any Device, Any Application, Anywhere

The number of cybersecurity attacks is increasing and they’re becoming increasingly more sophisticated- the Malware as a Service, not matter how bad in our eyes, but becoming popular among bad actors. The resulting data theft and network disruptions can both damage your reputation and hurt revenue. At the same time, users need to be able to connect to any resource from any location using any device. Many organizations have data center and campus networks that need to operate in a hybrid IT architecture that supports branch offices, private and public multi-cloud networks, remote workers, and cloud-based SaaS services.

Unfortunately, most traditional security tools, like legacy firewalls, were never designed for this sort of challenge. They were designed for static network checkpoints where workflows and data were highly predictable and confined to traditional brick and mortar.

Today, a NGFW needs to be able to deliver comprehensive and high-fidelity visibility to protect any user, device, application or network edge in any location. It should be able to secure the entire hybrid IT architecture with coordinated and automated threat detection and protection- end-to-end.

The NGFW needs to be aware of the entire application life cycle, including interoperating with tools to accelerate application access and use and be able to provide advanced security solutions to prevent known, zero-day, and unknown attacks with integrated intrusion prevention system (IPS) and anti-malware. It needs to support constantly shared threat-intelligence feeds from complementary products like email security and sandboxes to detect and prevent the latest threats.

And it needs to interoperate with other solutions, such as endpoint detection and response (EDR), web application firewalls (WAFs), and other security systems. This combination of native threat protection and integration with other technologies ensures that the network is effectively protected against all current and emerging threats.

2. Consolidation and Simplification

Deploying a slew of point products can fracture visibility and limit control. Today’s security tools need to be designed to scale so your security can continue to meet your business needs. NGFWs that share a common operating system can offer hyperscale security, which helps to reduce cost and complexity.

An NGFW that consolidates essential services like IPS, anti-malware, and web and video filtering capabilities with networking functionality such as SD-WAN can reduces your total cost of ownership. But at the same time, the NGFWs should be able to provide full visibility into sophisticated attacks that hide in secure HTTPS channels to steal data and load ransomware. They should also seamlessly integrate essential networking and security functions into a unified solution, whether it’s delivered directly from an on-premises NGFW or through a cloud-delivered SASE.

3. Work from Anywhere

The pandemic led many organizations to transition to a work-from-home model almost overnight. They had to move critical resources to the cloud, ensure employees could access business applications, and secure communications between the home office and corporate network. Over time, many organizations have started looking into taking a work-from-anywhere (WFA) approach instead of moving everyone back into the corporate office. With a WFA arrangement, some employees may be working from home, others on-site, and some may spend time at each location.

Accommodating this hybrid workforce requires a comprehensive security framework that supports work location flexibility with NGFWs that natively integrate a ZTNA access proxy without requiring additional licenses. The ZTNA access proxy makes it possible for remote users to access applications and resources from anywhere, at any time, with continuous authentication.

4. Automation for Consistency and Visibility

No matter where a NGFW is deployed, it needs to be fast. And it will need to be even faster tomorrow.  The NGFW needs to be able to effectively protect the network from high-speed attacks with advanced and coordinated security yet not be bogged down with time-consuming manual provisioning efforts. Manual operations slow things down, and configuration errors can be compromised by ransomware and other attacks and in fact are the reasons for cyber breaches.

Network and security leaders need to overcome the inefficiencies and breaches resulting from manual operations. Orchestrating a consistent security policy across workloads that span hybrid and multi-cloudarchitectures only adds to the operational responsibilities of overburdened IT staff, so automation is critical.

For applications and workflows that move from one environment to another, an NGFW needs to understand, implement, and enforce the same policy everywhere. This consistent orchestration and enforcement approach, built with single-pane-of-glass management, allows security to follow applications, workflows, and other transactions end to end.

Choose Wisely

Most traditional firewalls are already running at capacity, so they don’t have the flexibility or scalability to match growing business needs. But selecting the right NGFW can reduce cost and complexity by eliminating point products and consolidating industry-leading security capabilities. It can provide security for any edge at any scale with full visibility, and threat protection, weaving security deep into a hybrid IT architecture.

Find out how the Fortinet Security Fabric platform delivers broad, integrated, and automated protection across an organization’s entire digital attack surface to deliver consistent security across all networks, endpoints, and clouds.