Sophos unveils XGS firewall appliances

Issue 2 2021 Cyber Security

Sophos unveiled new XGS Series firewall appliances with improved performance and advanced protection against cyberattacks. The new appliances feature optimised Transport Layer Security (TLS) inspection, including native support for TLS 1.3, that is up to five times faster than other models available on the market today.

“Sophos Firewall XGS Series appliances represent the most significant hardware upgrade that we have ever released and introduce unmatched detection, protection and speed,” said Dan Schiappa, chief product officer at Sophos. “Security teams can no longer afford to overlook encrypted traffic for fear of breaking something or hurting performance – there’s too much at risk. We’ve completely redesigned the Sophos Firewall hardware to handle the modern encrypted Internet. Security teams now have the ability to easily inspect encrypted traffic and shine light on what was once a black hole, and they can confidently do so without compromising on performance.”

Cybercriminals increasingly using TLS to avoid detection

Sophos today also published new research, entitled ‘Nearly Half of Malware Now Use TLS to Conceal Communications,’ identifying a surge in cybercriminals using TLS in their attacks. The increasingly popular tactic is used by adversaries to encrypt and encapsulate the content of malicious communications to avoid detection as they carry out attacks.

In fact, 45% of malware detected by Sophos from January through March 2021 used TLS to conceal malicious communications. That’s a rise from the 23% Sophos reported in early 2020. Sophos has also seen an increase in the use of TLS to carry out ransomware attacks in the past year, particularly with manually deployed ransomware. The majority of malicious TLS traffic that Sophos has detected includes initial-compromise malware, such as loaders, droppers and document-based installers like BazarLoader, GoDrop and ZLoader.

“TLS has undoubtedly changed the privacy of Internet communications for the better, but for all the good it’s done, it’s also made it much easier for attackers to download and install malicious modules and exfiltrate stolen data – right under the noses of IT security teams and most security technologies,” said Schiappa. “Attackers are taking advantage of TLS-protected web and cloud services for malware delivery and for command and control. Their initial compromise malware is simply the advance guard for major attacks, as they’re setting up camp for the heavy artillery that follows, like ransomware.”

Accelerating threat protection

Powered by Sophos Firewall’s Xstream architecture, XGS Series appliances deliver the industry’s best zero-day threat protection, identifying and stopping the most advanced known and potential threats – including ransomware. Protection is fuelled by powerful threat intelligence, available only through SophosLabs Intelix and based on petabytes of SophosLabs threat data. Suspicious files are safely detonated in SophosLabs Intelix virtual environments as well as being subjected to in-depth static analysis for additional detection coverage and intelligence gathering.

New Xstream flow processors within the appliances automatically accelerate trusted traffic, such as software as a service (SaaS), software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) and cloud applications, providing maximum headroom for traffic requiring TLS and deep packet inspection. This greatly reduces latency and improves overall performance for important business applications, particularly those using real-time data. The Xstream flow processors are software programmable, allowing Sophos to offload additional traffic in the future. The flexibility to enhance and adapt connectivity on the hardware itself further protects customers’ hardware investment.

Sophos provides intuitive dashboard visibility of TLS traffic and inspection issues, and security administrators can add exceptions for problematic streams with one click. Performance is also optimised out of the box with an extensive set of rules that are updated and maintained by SophosLabs to exclude safe traffic from inspection.

Sophos Firewall XGS Series appliances and firmware are easily managed on the cloud-based Sophos Central platform alongside Sophos’ entire portfolio of next-generation cybersecurity solutions. Solutions share threat intelligence and automatically respond to security incidents through Sophos’ synchronised security approach. Integration with Sophos Managed Threat Response (MTR) further boosts protection with human analysis for 24/7 fully managed threat detection and response.

“Firewall appliances are evolving to secure newer use cases, including cloud and the sudden shift to a growing remote workforce,” said Frank Dickson, programme vice president at IDC. “The elegance of Sophos Firewall’s Xstream dual processor architecture approach is its ability to accelerate trusted traffic from so-called ‘elephant flows’ – large media streams, VoIP traffic and even cloud applications – to then leverage the general purpose CPU to perform appropriate resource-intensive processes, such as deep packet inspection and TLS inspection. The result is an adaptable network appliance designed to provide protection while meeting changing and accelerating business demands across a variety of use cases.”




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