9 Steps for Performing a Firewall Audit: Easy Firewall Checklist

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Imagine waking up to find that your company’s network has been hacked. Sensitive data has been stolen, customer information compromised, and your entire business is now in jeopardy. The worst part? It could have been prevented with a simple firewall audit.

Firewalls are your first line of defense; a well-maintained firewall can prevent unauthorized access to your system. It’s an important component in your network security and acts as a gatekeeper, monitoring and filtering network traffic to prevent unauthorized access. 

However, a firewall is only effective if configured correctly. Your firewall can become vulnerable to cyberattacks without regular checks and updates. This is where a firewall audit comes in. 

In this article, we will guide you through the steps for performing a firewall audit, providing you with an easy-to-follow checklist to help ensure your firewall is secure and operating at its best.

What is a firewall audit?

A firewall audit is a comprehensive assessment of your firewall configuration to ensure it operates correctly and protects your network from cyber threats.

From defining your audit’s scope and objectives to monitoring and documenting the results, here are nine steps to perform a firewall audit at your organization.

Step 1: Define the scope and objectives of the audit

The first step of a firewall audit involves identifying the firewalls and associated network devices to be audited and determining the audit duration. 

To ensure that all critical areas are reviewed and assessed, the audit scope should consider the regulatory compliance requirements or industry standards the organization must adhere to. 

By defining the audit scope, you can clearly understand what areas will be audited and the objectives to be achieved.

Step 2: Gather relevant information

Gather all relevant security policies, firewall logs, and reports from previous audits. Review and aggregate relevant firewall vendor information and update them in a reliable system, as multiple audits will likely be conducted yearly. 

Gathering all this information will help you develop an effective audit plan to strengthen network security by identifying vulnerabilities and risks that need to be addressed.

Step 3: Review the firewall configuration

Review the firewall settings and configurations to ensure they adhere to the organization’s security policies. You should also review critical areas such as access control policies, security rules, and log files.

Furthermore, it is essential to verify that recent changes made to the firewall are authorized and documented. All these reviews and verifications will help to identify potential security breaches and provide solutions to enhance network security.

Step 4: Review firewall logs

Firewall logs contain information such as the source and destination of network traffic and the firewall’s response to that traffic. 

Reviewing these logs allows you to identify potential security risks, such as open ports or unsecured network services, that may make the network vulnerable to attacks. It also helps identify any unauthorized access attempts or successful firewall breaches. 

If you find any suspicious activities, you should investigate them further to determine their root cause and provide recommendations on improving the network’s security posture.

Step 5: Clean and optimize firewall rules

Optimizing the firewall rules can positively impact productivity and performance while easing the auditing process. 

Remove any useless, expired, and inactive rules and objects and assess the remaining rules’ effectiveness and order. Unused links and excessively permissive rules can be identified and adjusted based on policy and real usage scenarios. 

Step 6: Test the firewall for vulnerabilities

Subjecting a firewall to vulnerability testing will enable organizations to understand their network’s security risks better. Through vulnerability testing, you can identify potential weaknesses that attackers may seek to exploit and take steps to mitigate these weaknesses.

Vulnerability testing may take several forms, including simulated attacks that attempt to penetrate the firewall’s defenses. The results of such tests can then be used to provide recommendations for improving the security posture of the firewall. 

By conducting regular vulnerability testing, you can remain vigilant against emerging security threats and stay ahead of potential attackers. 

Step 7: Document the results 

Now that you’ve run your tests, it’s time to create a comprehensive report that includes a summary of the audit results and a detailed analysis of any identified vulnerabilities or security risks. 

This report should include a detailed description of any discovered vulnerabilities and specific recommendations for improving the firewall’s security posture. These recommendations may include implementing new security policies, reconfiguring the firewall settings, or updating security software to address identified vulnerabilities. 

Step 8: Implement recommendations

After completing a thorough firewall audit and receiving recommendations for improvement, the next step is to implement the recommended changes. Make all the necessary adjustments to the firewall rules, configuration settings, or other security measures identified during the audit.

It’s important to test these changes to ensure they do not introduce any new vulnerabilities or risks to the system. These tests should include vulnerability scanning or penetration testing to ensure the changes do not compromise the firewall’s security posture. 

Step 9: Monitor the firewall—and repeat

Once the changes have been successfully implemented and tested, ongoing monitoring and maintenance are necessary to ensure the firewall remains secure and effective in protecting the network from potential threats.

Regularly monitor the firewall for any new security risks that may arise. Conduct periodic firewall audits to ensure the firewall remains secure and compliant with the organization’s security policies and standards.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the benefits of a firewall audit?

 A firewall audit can provide several benefits, including: 

  • Improved security through identification and addressing of security systems vulnerabilities.
  • Compliance with relevant regulatory requirements, such as GDPR and HIPAA.
  • Cost savings by preventing data breaches and downtime that can be expensive to address.
  • Better network performance by identifying and resolving configuration issues impacting network speed and efficiency.
  • Risk management by helping organizations understand their exposure and develop strategies to reduce vulnerability.

How often should firewall rules be reviewed?

Firewall rules should be regularly reviewed to confirm their continued effectiveness and relevance. While a yearly review is suggested, organizations with more complex networks or stricter compliance requirements may need to conduct more frequent reviews, such as quarterly or even monthly. For more guidance on firewall rules, here are some best practices to get you started.

What are some common issues that can be found during a firewall audit?

Some common issues identified during a firewall audit include redundant rules, misconfigured firewall rules, overly permissive rules, and other issues. These issues can make your firewall less effective and increase the risk of security breaches.

Bottom line: Conducting firewall audits at your organization

Network security is more critical than ever, and performing a firewall audit is crucial in ensuring your business is protected from cyber threats. Following the steps outlined in this article, you can perform a comprehensive firewall audit and take proactive steps to safeguard your network against potential attacks. 

Remember, a well-maintained firewall is your first line of defense, and a small investment of time and resources in performing a firewall audit can go a long way in protecting your business and keeping your data safe. 

For more help performing a firewall audit, we evaluated the best firewall audit tools available on the market today.

Franklin Okeke
Franklin Okeke
Franklin Okeke is a contributing writer to Enterprise Networking Planet, as well as an author and freelance content writer with over 5 years of experience covering cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and emerging technologies. In addition to pursuing a Master's degree in Cybersecurity & Human Factors from Bournemouth University, Franklin is an entrepreneur with a passion for startups, innovation, and product development. His writing also appears regularly in TechRepublic, ServerWatch, and other leading technology publications.

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