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McAfee unveils upgraded next-generation firewall

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the firewall and McAfee has acknowledged this milestone by upgrading its next-generation firewall (NGFW), adding new levels of integration and connectivity.

Exactly what "next-generation firewall" means is something that McAfee, part of Intel Security, wants to address with this update, as the majority of people simply don't understand.

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A study commissioned by McAfee and carried out by Vanson Bourne showed that 60 per cent of IT decision makers in the UK and a staggering 98 per cent in the US wrongly believed that their organisation had a NGFW in place.

For this reason, McAfee is placing an emphasis on education. We spoke to Ashish Patel, regional director of network security at McAfee for the UK and Ireland, who said, "This study shows the extent of confusion in the market and the need for greater education on NGFW.

"We need to somehow define what a next-gen firewall is. We need to create a common standard."

This message was echoed by Rik Turner, senior analyst at IT and telecommunications consultancy firm Ovum, "There's a lot of marketing talk that clouds the issue so it would be useful to standardise last-gen and next-gen firewalls."

McAfee's new firewall is also heavily focused on integration and connectivity. Currently, many companies make use of "multiple, siloed security solutions" that don't communicate with each other, meaning threats can often go unnoticed.

The same Vanson Bourne study found that 35 per cent of respondents, consisting of IT decision makers at large companies, felt that a lack of integration between solutions decreases the level of security and 60 per cent confirmed that their firewall doesn't integrate all security products into one system.

McAfee's "connected firewall" aims to fix this issue by offering customers "layered protection" to potential attacks by integrating with several other McAfee solutions, including ePolicy Orchestrator, Enterprise Security Manager and Advanced Threat Defence.

This enables the "rapid sharing of extensive real-time threat information" throughout an automated security ecosystem, providing "operational efficiency benefits" and simplifying administrative workflows as less manual intervention is required.

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As Patel explained, this is all part of the firm's long-term philosophy, "A few months ago, we outlined our approach to strengthening network security through powerful, integrated technologies and this release represents another significant milestone in the fruition of that strategy."

So, what about the future? Well, McAfee envisions the next step of integration to be between companies. Specifically, some kind of "threat intelligence exchange," where companies can share information about the kind of attacks they are seeing. A nice idea, but will enough businesses be willing to get on board? I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.