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Standards In Desktop Firewall Policies
The idea of a common desktop firewall policy in any size organization is a very good thing. It makes responses to external or internal situations such as virus outbreaks or network-oriented propagation of viruses more predictable. In addition to providing a level of protection against port scanning, attacks or software vulnerabilities, it can provide the organizations local security team a baseline or starting point in dealing with such events. The purpose of this article is to discuss the need for a desktop firewall policy within an organization, determine how it should be formed, and provide an example of one along with the security benefits it provides an organization.
The trick to a good desktop firewall policy is to provide a balance between security and the networking requirements of the applications needed by the organization. It's possible the organization may not yet have a complete knowledge of these requirements. This should make the first attempt to define a standard/global policy interesting, depending on the level of protection one is trying to provide and the situation or environment the desktops may be in. One thought on an initial policy is to provide a port-based firewall with all inbound ports blocked on the desktop. On the other hand, an old school of thought might involve one blocking only the ports that need to be blocked, by estimating software network requirements and then combining this with an effort to also block the most obvious of possible vulnerabilities or services. Evaluating FTP, Windows IIS or NetBIOS requirements might provide a first pass at a standard global policy. Our old school of thought again would leave the balance tipped toward the (as yet unknown) network requirements of the software, and less toward protection. In other words, offer functionality over security. While providing consistency, cases where the desktop (or laptop) is located off site may not fully satisfy security requirements of the organization.