What Is Unified Threat Management and Why Is It Important for Cybersecurity?

Image showing a night street scene with cyberpunk colors, a car with blazing red taillight is off in the distance.
Cyberspace is changing, are you ready to defend yourself against an attack?

Cyberattacks are on the rise, and falling victim to one can result in detrimental consequences, including financial and reputational losses. You need the right defenses in place to better protect yourself, your company, and, more importantly, your clients! Don’t worry, several solutions are at your disposal, and one of them is unified threat management (UTM).

Unified threat management is a one-stop solution you can easily implement in your company. It combines the powers of a next-generation firewall (NGFW) and your existing security tools to increase your overall security capabilities.

In this article, you’ll learn what unified threat management is, how it works, and what the best UTM tools are in the market today. As always, let’s start with a simple definition, shall we?

What Is Unified Threat Management?

Unified threat management (UTM) is an information security system that provides protection against cybersecurity threats such as viruses, worms, spyware, etc. 

UTM solutions integrate distributed systems—such as security, performance, compliance, and management systems—into a single system. As a result, it’ll be much easier for your security analysts to manage.

UTM solutions are primarily designed to protect large enterprise networks, but they also benefit small and medium-sized businesses. They have a range of useful features that can benefit any company in the long run.

Speaking of features, let’s look at the features you must have in your unified threat management system.

3 Must-Have Features for Unified Threat Management Systems

In this section, I’ll briefly discuss the most important features you should have in any UTM system. Every UTM system should have these features, but some might not. If that’s the case, keep searching! 

Here are the 3 must-have features in any unified threat management system.

1. Network Firewall

A firewall is the foundation of security, and it’ll help keep your network safe. You definitely want to have a firewall in your unified threat management system. If a prospective UTM system doesn’t offer a firewall, don’t hesitate to keep looking until you find one that does.

2. Intrusion Detection System (IDS)

An IDS application monitors your network and systems for policy violations and suspicious activity. If it detects any issues, it’ll send a report to your security team or an event management system if you have one in place.

3. Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)

An IPS is a proactive service that detects intrusions and takes the appropriate measures to prevent them from occurring. It does this by examining traffic with signatures, looking for anomalies, and checking against your company policies. Paired with an IDS, and IPS will make your networks and systems close to impenetrable. 

Those are the 3 must-have features you should consider before choosing a unified threat management system solution. Before moving on, I’d like to provide you with a list of several other features you should look out for. 

Other Important Features to Consider

The features listed above are the main ones you want to have, but these other features are still important. Not every UTM system will have them, and you might not even need them depending on your needs. In any case, here’s the list:

  • Gateway anti-virus
  • Application layer (Layer 7) firewall and control
  • Deep packet inspection
  • Web proxy and content filtering
  • Email filtering for spam and phishing attacks
  • Data loss prevention (DLP)
  • Security information and event management (SIEM)
  • Virtual private network (VPN)
  • Network access control
  • Network tarpit
  • Additional security services against Denial of Services (DoS)

I hope this list helps you pick your UTM system. For now, I’ll discuss how a unified threat management system works!

How Do Unified Threat Management Systems Work?

A UTM system aims to identify any weaknesses in your company’s network. This way, your security team can work diligently to plug the holes and remediate the vulnerabilities. It does this in 2 ways:

1. Flow-Based Inspection

In a flow-based inspection, the UTM system takes samples from the data entering your network and examines them. It looks for viruses, intrusions, and other malicious hacking attempts. If it finds anything that shouldn’t be there, it actives alerts and/or automated actions to keep the network safe.

2. Proxy-Based Inspection

Proxy-based inspection is a network security method where the UTM system checks the contents of incoming data packets via a firewall, VPN, etc. The UTM system inspects these contents for any malicious intent. After that, it uses the security device as a proxy to construct the data entering the device. Thus, it identifies if the data is harmful and won’t let it pass into the network.

Knowing how a UTM system works is a good first step, but it isn’t enough. You’ll want to also apply threat management best practices to defend your network fully. I’ll briefly go over those now.

A woman sits at a computer in a command center, watching out for security threats.
Cyberthreats are omnipresent. Always be ready!

Threat Management Best Practices

Besides having the latest hardware or software, you’ll need to align your company with threat management best practices. A company that’s united in its defenses can quickly respond to any threat. Here are some best practices you can implement to help you out:

Have Unified Insight and Network Visibility

Your IT teams and staff must have full awareness of any possible threat, such as malware, phishing, etc. Everyone needs to work together to prevent these threats. You’ll also want your security teams to have access to everything in your system in one place. This makes things easier to manage overall. Having data on a single screen is one of the great benefits that a unified threat management system can offer. 

Use the Right Investigation Tools

You’ll need to use the right tools to scour the network and analyze data. Additionally, you want your UTM system to have some level of automation that can clear the low-level threats and let your specialists take on the larger challenges. A unified threat management system has these features and more!

Maintain an Effective Response Rate

Swift responses and automated actions are the best approaches to any security matter. However, a strong, documented action plan with a company-wide focus is a great way to rally the teams in all departments. Maintain an effective response rate at every opportunity. This is key to reducing the damage in the event of an attack. 

So far, I’ve covered what a unified threat management system is, its features, how it works, and some best practices for threat management. I think it’s time to discuss the best UTM software solutions available.

Top 3 Unified Threat Management Software Solutions

A dedicated UTM software solution can make a tremendous difference for any company looking to boost the power of security systems. Have no fear; I’ve got you covered with 3 of the best solutions on the market today. Let’s dive in!

1. KerioControl 

KerioControl logo.
You’re in control with KerioControl! (Source: KerioControl website)

KerioControl is a next-generation UTM software package for small and medium-sized businesses looking to enhance their security needs. It contains a next-generation firewall (NGFW) and a unified threat management system. This makes it ideal for companies looking for a total security solution.

Features

  • Firewall
  • Intrusion protection system (IPS) 
  • Web content and application filtering
  • VPN

2. Change Tracker Gen7

Keep your files integral—use the auto scan and validation tool. (Source: newTechnologies.com).

NNT’s Change Tracker Gen7 will give you peace of mind with its file integrity monitoring and file whitelisting features. These features ensure that all changes to your files are analyzed and validated. Overall, the software solution offers reassurance that changes in your system are consistent and safe.

Features: 

  • Breach prevention
  • Breach detection
  • Real-time contextual file integrity monitoring
  • Vulnerability management and continuous monitoring 

3. Alert Logic

Alert Logic Logo.
With Alert Logic, you can save some green and stay on top of your security. (Source: AlertLogic).

Alert Logic gives you some great tools for a powerful UMT system. Its managed detection and response service provides visibility into your environments, and it’ll help you and your team take the correct actions to remediate any issue. Alert Logic also operates as SaaS, so it offers plenty of client support.

Features:

  • Agility
  • Improved security
  • Savings 

Those are 3 of the best UTM software solutions available out there today. Let’s recap what you’ve learned in this article.

Final Words

Using a unified threat management system is a great way to protect your company with a one-stop cybersecurity protection solution. UTM solutions have many features, such as an IDS and IPS, that can easily strengthen your security system.

In this article, I provided you with some threat management best practices; make sure you apply those, and refer back to this article if you need a quick refresher.

Having a software solution such as KerioControl can also make a huge difference when it comes to automation, so keep that in mind.

Nowadays, more than ever, it’s important that you take the necessary measures to protect your company from cyberattacks. You’d be protecting your company and your clients as well!

Do you have more questions on unified threat management? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below!

FAQ

What is a UTM?

A unified threat management (UTM) system combines the functions of multiple security features and/or services into a single device on your network. This system protects your network with several features such as a firewall, anti-virus, anti-malware, content filtering, email and web-content filtering, and more.

What is a next-generation firewall?

A next-generation firewall (NGFW) is part of the third generation of firewalls that combine traditional firewalls with other network device filtering features, such as an intrusion prevention system and deep packet inspection. An NGFW is a foundational component of a UTM system.

What is a disadvantage of using a UTM system?

You have many advantages of using UTM for cybersecurity. However, you also have some disadvantages. One big disadvantage of using a UTM system is that it introduces a single point of failure within your IT system. If your UMT system goes down and you don’t have a backup, your IT system is vulnerable to attack. You could be attacked in the downtime and never know it. That said, you can mitigate the risk with cybersecurity best practices.

What is a UTM proxy?

When you use a next-generation firewall and UTM on a network device, you can intercept data packets in the device. You can block access to the rest of your network, unpack the data, and “preview it” before releasing it into your network. By doing this, you can actively monitor your IT systems. 

What is an intrusion detection system?

An intrusion detection system (IDS) application monitors your network and systems for policy violations and negative activity. Any detections are then reported to your security team or passed on to an event management system that might take automated action.

Resources

TechGenix: Article on Credential Harvesting and Identity Theft 

Learn how cybercriminals gather identity data and what you can do to protect yourself

TechGenix: Article on Types of Malware

Learn about the different types of malware.

TechGenix: Article on Cloud Firewalls and Traditional Firewalls

Educate yourself on the differences between cloud and traditional firewalls and which ones are the best for you.

TechGenix: Article on Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs)

Learn more about the top five NGFWs for your organization. 

TechGenix: Article on Traditional Firewalls

Find out why we still need traditional firewalls today.

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