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Leading-Edge UTM: What C-level execs need to know

Earl Follis and Ed Tittel | May 14, 2014
Network and boundary security are more important than ever for organizations of all sizes. A variety of security specialist firms now offer leading-edge virtual and physical devices for Unified Threat Management (UTM) to raise the security bar ever higher and respond proactively to zero-day threats.

How to Deploy, Provision and Support UTM

As with any enterprise-capable software package, the ease of deploying, configuring and managing your UTM solution is a paramount consideration. For agent-based UTM solutions, look closely for the technique(s) used for distribution of the UTM agent. Avoid UTM solutions that require an explicit user action to initiate the agent installation process to fully protect computing platforms. Most users won't or can't follow such directions because they neither see nor appreciate the importance in having UTM protection on every device on the corporate network.

Many users feel so empowered by bring your own device (BYOD) policies that they mistakenly believe that the security of their tablet or smartphone is solely their concern, not the company's. Dissemination of clearly defined policies for user interaction with UTM software can partially alleviate this reluctance to abide by stated policies. For the rest of your users, you may need to blacklist unprotected devices to prevent those users from accessing company resources from their mobile device — unless, of course, they follow all guidelines for protecting company resources.

With most companies now supporting a mobile workforce, remote management and provisioning of UTM software becomes essential. For UTM solutions that require an agent to be installed on each server, desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet, look for a tool that can automate the installation of those agents on devices targeted for UTM management. Though many companies are leery about consuming local computing resources required to run a UTM agent on each device, agent-based UTM management allows in-depth monitoring of threats, as well as the ability to make configuration changes remotely to devices being managed. These are essential ingredients to ensuring successful security regimes.

As UTM tools monitor the network from a lofty, network-wide perch, application management and control becomes critical to UTM. At first glance, this might appear to fall outside the purview of UTM tools — but considering that companies rely on applications to provide mission-critical services to their users, application management takes on special significance.

Examples of mission-critical applications that must fall under the UTM protection umbrella include email, Web servers, Web apps, mobile apps and the UTM software itself. Considering the network-wide scope of a ubiquitous UTM solution, UTM tools must also be able to monitor themselves to fully protect corporate applications from intruders, viruses and other malware. Be sure to insist upon this capability in your UTM candidate solutions as you evaluate contenders to protect computing assets.

Just as most applications have moved or are moving to cloud-based services, several vendors offer UTM software as a subscription, rather than as physical or virtual appliances for outright purchase. Subscription pricing makes an attractive alternative, as it conserves capital budget while simultaneously offering free support and upgrades for the life of that subscription. Subscription-based security services may include physical devices, virtual devices, cloud-based threat management or a combination of all three. In any form or shape, though, a subscription boils down to a monthly fee.


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