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The Usefulness of Firewalls has almost run its course

Usefulness of Firewalls
Usefulness of Firewalls
Credit: ClkerFreeVectorImages / Pixabay

Firewalls have been an integral part of security systems for more than two decades. Although their widespread use only began from 1994, the need for firewalls and the idea of the product had long been understood and proposed respectively. Firewalls provide a simplistic yet effective defence mechanism to a security system by making the underlying network selectively permeable.

Only traffic that is deemed safe and trustworthy is allowed to pass through to the corporate network by a firewall. In this manner, firewalls have been used as the first line of defence in security systems all over the world. However, the many different attack vectors that plague the internet today have cast doubts over the feasibility of firewalls in modern security systems. We take a look at the scenario.

Problems Cited by People

Firewalls are considered archaic technology by many professionals in today’s world who urge the world to do away with them sooner rather than later. A few reasons as to why firewalls need to be let go have been given.

  1. Sophisticated threats

Modern malicious programs and attack techniques oftentimes prove too sophisticated for a firewall to block them out at the first check itself. This means that malware makes their way into a company network quite easily. Since a lot of money goes into setting up a firewall that is up to the standards of the security system of the company, one expects a fair return on their investment, but because that is not usually the case today, people have argued that firewalls are not so useful after all.

  1. Cloud Services

Cloud services make it difficult to determine what is inside and what is outside the enterprise network. This leads to a problem when one is looking to maintain firewalls between networks, making access control much more difficult as well. E-commerce and mobile services lead to similar problems.

How Firewall has evolved

Firewalls have faced a lot of criticism in the past few years for their limited return to the company. However, the modern firewalls are quite different than the traditional ones which simply centred on port-based filtering and control of the network traffic. For instance, modern firewalls include other features like anti-virus, intrusion detection and prevention systems, URL filtering, etc. Modern security techniques like unified threat management involve firewalls as an integral part of the different layers of defence.

The present scenario

Although firewalls have been in use for over two decades and continue to be an important part of security systems, many security professionals criticize them heavily. According to Gartner, the Firewall market soared to a value of $9 billion by the beginning of 2015, with firewalls being used both on the system boundary and inside. However, the value of firewalls, despite their peak market values ever, has never been questioned more.

Those who oppose it claim that lack of proper management and insufficient throughput speeds have been persistent issues with firewalls despite the advancements in the technology. Modern technology like SDNs give more ammunition to those criticizing firewalls, for they point out that firewalls have yet to adapt to these in a meaningful and efficient manner.


Firewalls have been the perimeter security checks for over 20 years, but people find them a lost cause now. Despite companies like Gartner arguing that Firewalls are far from dead with close to $10 billion being invested in them, security professionals claim that the trade-offs of using firewalls are too many and too severe to consider them for present and future security systems.

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