In today’s complex cybersecurity landscape, companies of all sizes have been forced to integrate a wider range of IT solutions to keep their data and critical assets safe from malicious actors. According to research from the International Data Corporation, global spending on cybersecurity-related hardware, software, and services is expected to reach $103.1 billion in 2019, representing a 9.4% increase from the previous year. Traditionally, businesses have had to contract multiple security vendors to achieve a defensive cybersecurity posture. Still, this approach often left them vulnerable to sophisticated security threats that target specific applications and endpoints. This may account for why unified threat management technologies have quickly become the solution of choice for organizations across industry lines. But what, exactly, is unified threat management, and how can it help companies improve their information security standards?
What is Unified Threat Management?
Unified threat management (UTM) is a cybersecurity framework that provides multiple security features and services through a single device or platform rather than a series of disconnected applications. This approach removes many of the inefficiencies IT administrators contend with and provides network security experts with greater visibility over their organizations’ internal systems and their users’ activities. UTM solutions typically offer enhanced intrusion detection, application control, and next-generation firewalls to simplify IT asset management and streamline endpoint security functions. Some of the basic features of UTM appliances include:
- Anti-virus software
- Web filtering
- Load balancing
- Data loss prevention
- Virtual private networks
UTM devices often form the backbone of multi-layered security architectures, which are essential for preventing cyberattacks and eliminating vulnerabilities that could lead to large-scale data breaches. They are also instrumental for mitigating malware, combating phishing scams, and insulating cloud-based applications from external and internal exploitation. Because a single point of failure can lead to widespread outages and severe data loss, companies need to adopt comprehensive IT management solutions that conform to their specific needs. For example, manufacturing firms that have embraced internet of things technologies depend on reliable endpoint security functions to keep their sensors, production lines, and other automated systems running efficiently. But what specific features should organizations look for in a UTM appliance?
Key Elements of Unified Threat Management Solutions
First, it’s worth noting that many cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions are incompatible with other IT applications and cannot effectively mitigate blended attacks. Companies that rely on siloed security frameworks often struggle to identify network breaches and respond effectively. Managing security incidents across several different platforms can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. At their core, UTM solutions are all about simplifying cybersecurity processes and removing the need for multiple third-party vendors. By consolidating an organization’s security functions under one seamless management platform, IT administrators can ensure they have complete visibility over their networks and greater control over how users access sensitive data.
When it comes to UTM appliances, manufacturing companies need to pay extra attention to the specific features and capabilities offered by their cybersecurity provider. In particular, manufacturers should prioritize advanced endpoint and device-level protections, as every piece of IoT equipment represents a possible attack vector for would-be cyber criminals. According to NETSCOUT, IoT devices can be hacked in as little as five minutes after they’ve been connected to the internet, so it’s important to have the right security services in place before rolling out a new fleet of environmental sensors. To that end, here are five key UTM solutions business leaders should look out for:
1. Anti-virus software
Securing a large network from viruses, malware, and malicious email attachments can be challenging, especially when companies use separate appliances and vendors for each security task. New viruses and malware variants are developed on what feels like a daily basis, which is why anti-virus software and robust firewall protocols are essential to an organization’s overall cybersecurity posture. UTM solutions empower companies to keep pace with emerging cyber threats by centralizing all security management processes under one easy-to-use console, allowing them to manage and update endpoints whenever new digital hazards are identified.
2. Intrusion detection and prevention features
The only way to build a successful defensive posture is to leverage vulnerability assessment and incident reporting in tandem. This allows for the quick identification of at-risk systems and potential security breaches. According to a 2019 study by the Ponemon Institute and IBM, companies in the U.S. take an average of 245 days to detect a data breach, which gives cyber criminals plenty of lead time to infect critical systems and gain elevated access privileges. Adopting a unified threat management approach can help businesses eliminate inefficiencies and develop effective mitigation strategies for a range of common threats, from malware to man-in-the-middle attacks and more.
3. Web/content filtering capabilities
Content filtering is a key component of enterprise firewall protections, as it ensures users are unable to access objectionable or potentially harmful web pages while connected to an organization’s network. Many companies manage their employees’ internet usage through standalone software or as part of their firewall platform, which can cause some delay when permissions need to be updated. Integrating a UTM appliance can provide IT administrators with more application control and visibility, reducing the risk posed by negligent user behavior.
4. Virtual private networking options
Now that remote work is commonplace, companies need to pay closer attention to how off-site workers access their private networks. Virtual private networks often provide advanced data encryption for all inbound and outbound traffic, preventing unauthorized users from intercepting sensitive information. While every UTM solution comes with different features, most are equipped with stable and secure VPNs configured to exact parameters of an organization’s information security framework.
5. Deep-packet inspection
Although it’s not usually part of the standard feature set of UTM appliances, organizations should consider integrating deep-packet inspection into their cybersecurity environments. According to research from Kaspersky Labs, this capability is crucial for combating DDoS attacks, which have seen an 84% increase in the first quarter of 2019 alone. The deep-packet inspection gives IT administrators the ability to closely examine and manage network traffic at the application layer and generally yields more information than conventional packet-filtering applications.