Application security comes to firewalls

Monday, 20 October 2003, 11:39 AM EST

Firewall maker NetScreen is giving its products the ability to inspect application data, in order to protect networks better. However, other vendors such as NetContinuum say the idea is not so new.

“We look at the application data, which is where the attacks are coming from,” said Robert Ma, director of product marketing at NetScreen, of the announcement that its firewalls will include deep inspection technology that the company acquired with OneSecure last year.

However, other vendors say that Netscreen – and Check Point which also announced plans deep inspection in its firewalls, are merely following the lead of more leading edge companies: ““It’s great to see the big guys finally acknowledge that traditional firewalls simply don’t cut it when it comes to securing web applications,” said Wes Wasson, chief strategy officer at NetContinuum which sells a web application firewall that spots threats within web traffic. “Seventy percent of all real-world attacks today fly right past traditional firewalls by targeting application layer vulnerabilities. While deep inspection is clearly the right approach, securing today’s complex web applications will take far more than sticking a few features onto the side of their existing products.”

The move to deep inspection will change the security industry entirely in the next few years, said Ma. “The firewall needs a technology refresh,” he said, announcing the arrival of the ScreenOS 5.0 operating system for NetScreen firewalls. Deep inspection can make firewalls more powerful and reverse the fragmentation of the security industry into different kinds of products, such as intrusion detection services, which merely find attacks which can be used to adjust the firewall, he said.

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