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What is Palo Alto Software Firewall and why you should take PCSFE Certification

Palo Alto Software Firewall

Palo Alto Software Firewall is a VM-Series virtual next-generation firewall that provides consistent threat prevention and inline network security across cloud environments, helping network security teams regain visibility and control over traffic in their cloud networks. To understand how the Palo Alto Software Firewall works, we must understand the challenges that network security teams face. Network security teams often have limited visibility, control, and protection from threats when resources are distributed across multiple cloud environments. This can lead to an inability to detect incoming threats before they cause damage or, even worse, allow malicious actors access to sensitive systems or data. The Palo Alto Software Firewall provides a comprehensive layer of protection against any potential attack by identifying the traffic entering your network, controlling who is allowed access to your resources, and proactively monitoring for suspicious activity. Furthermore, the Palo Alto Software Firewall enables network security teams to quickly detect malicious traffic and respond with robust countermeasures, helping them stay ahead of any potential threat.

Current Security Challenges

While almost all organizations are moving toward adopting cloud-based VMs, containers, and serverless infrastructures, many still maintain bare-metal servers or mainframes for their data centers or private clouds. These apps tend to be highly interconnected in today’s hybrid cloud environments. Data shown by RightScale shows that almost 70% of organizations worldwide are exploring Hybrid Cloud environments (RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report From Flexera Identifies Cloud Adoption Trends, n.d.). The backgrounds include physical, virtual, and cloud infrastructures that host distributed, highly dynamic applications.

Attackers leverage this complexity and interconnectivity to execute lateral-movement attacks. These realities have created challenges for network security teams in modern cloud and hybrid-cloud environments where it is particularly difficult or impossible to deploy hardware firewalls. Network security teams face various challenges when it comes to cloud network security, such as lack of visibility and control, inconsistent tools and management, and lack of automation and scalability.

Lack of Visibility and Control

In cloud environments, network security teams often do not have visibility or control over network traffic. In the public cloud, many organizations rely on their application development teams to manage security because the network security teams in private clouds and data centers lack expertise and resources. The network security team’s lack of visibility into east-west network traffic prevents them from defining and enforcing meaningful segmentation policies.

591Cert helps organizations take advantage of cloud-native network security capabilities and provides visibility across their hybrid environments. With 591Cert’s platform, organizations can deploy devices into production with software-defined segmentation policies that are managed by the application team and enforced in real time by the device. This allows for an automated, secure network infrastructure, eliminating manual configuration errors and improving network performance. 591Cert’s platform also provides real-time analytics with easy to understand dashboards and alerting for incidents and compliance violations. This enables organizations to proactively secure their hybrid cloud environments while meeting industry regulation standards.

Inconsistent Policies and Tools

Network security teams struggle to manage security consistently across their entire environment because of the different types of infrastructure. A combination of physical networks and workloads, virtual networks and workloads, and public cloud networks and workloads leads to disparate security strategies, policies, and controls in different parts of the environment, contributing to the loss of visibility. Network and DevOps teams use other consoles to manage security across the entire environment. Managing devices and applications between multiple platforms can complicate audit, compliance, and day-to-day management.

Lack of Automation and Scalability

Security is traditionally treated as something that is designed and implemented after applications are already built. As organizations embrace new application architectures, automate their cloud infrastructures, and leverage DevOps methodologies, network security teams must find a way to automate the provisioning of network security policies and controls, as well as elastically scale controls when and where they are needed.

Palo Alto Networks Approach to Current Challenges

Security teams face challenges that make their work life difficult. Palo Alto Networks’ approach to reducing challenges for network-security teams in the modern cloud and hybrid cloud environments. Palo Alto Networks’ approach comes down to offering multiple form factors to integrate with different hosting environments. The PA-Series hardware solutions are often the right choice for workloads on physical machines. Virtualized environments require VM-Series virtual firewalls that are deployed on virtual machines. The CN-Series targets cloud-native development environments that rely on containers and orchestration (Kubernetes). All three firewall form factors offer the same rich set of next-generation firewall (NGFW) features and advanced security subscriptions, and they integrate seamlessly with Panorama for unified security management.

VM-Series Virtual Next-Generation Firewalls

VM-Series virtual next-generation firewalls can give consistent threat prevention and inline network security across hybrid cloud environments, helping network security teams regain visibility and control over traffic in their hybrid cloud networks. VM-Series is the virtualized form factor of virtual next-generation firewalls making it highly automatable and scalable, a requisite for cloud environments. To meet the demand for inline security across diverse cloud and virtualization use cases, you can deploy the VM-Series firewall on a wide range of private and public cloud computing environments such as VMware, Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), Cisco Enterprise Network Compute System (ENCS), Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM), OpenStack, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft public and private cloud, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). The VM-Series Firewall has some capabilities that can maximize the network’s security in hybrid cloud environments as follows.

Advanced Threat Prevention – The VM-Series Firewall provides integrated protection and visibility by automatically detecting and blocking threats from malware, ransomware, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and other malicious web traffic.
Automation & Orchestration – With the VM-Series firewall’s advanced scripting language (Palo Alto Networks’ Panorama), users can quickly and easily automate security policies across their entire hybrid cloud environment.
Zero Trust Network Security – The VM-Series Firewall’s advanced security features allow users to create zero trust networks that protect data and systems from unauthorized access.
Advanced Threat Detection – The VM-Series Firewall’s advanced threat detection capabilities provide a robust layer of protection against malicious attacks. By using machine learning algorithms to identify suspicious activity, the firewall can detect and block threats from malware, ransomware, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, phishing scams, and other malicious activities.
Automated Policy Enforcement – With the VM-Series Firewall’s automated policy enforcement features, administrators can quickly and easily create complex security policies that are enforced on all devices connected to the network.

Elastic and Scalable

Autoscaling templates, bootstrapping, and other automated configuration capabilities ensure that you can easily deploy VM-Series firewalls to scale with increased demand. Equally important is the fact that you can deprecate VM-Series firewalls after demand has subsided to ensure that you aren’t paying for unnecessary services. Additionally, 591CERT provides the flexibility to choose which cloud service provider and region your VM-Series firewalls are deployed in. With our platform, you can quickly and easily configure settings across multiple accounts, regions, and clouds with just a few clicks. We also offer pre-built templates that make it easy to deploy and configure VM-Series firewalls in minutes. Security policies and other settings can be applied consistently across all VM-Series firewalls to ensure a secure, reliable network environment that meets your specific requirements.

Automated Orchestration

Integration with automation and orchestration platforms (Terraform, Ansible, etc.) allow VM-Series firewalls to be deployed as part of the application development process to ensure security at DevOps speed. A tag-based policy model, tight integration across multiple cloud infrastructure providers, and a fully documented XML API allow for the creation of flexible policies that can adapt to an ever-changing environment, regardless of the underlying infrastructure. Automation and orchestration of security policies with the VM-Series firewalls provide users with better resource utilization, faster time to market, more consistent policy enforcement throughout deployment phases, and governance at scale. In addition, 591Cert’s system health monitoring ensures that all resources are safe and secure. With proactive alerting and remediation capabilities, organizations can identify issues

Operationally Simple

Unified management from Panorama simplifies network security management, even across different infrastructures and clouds. A single policy model across on-premises devices, branches, and private and public clouds reduces gaps in the overall security posture. Advanced security services deployed on any Palo Alto Networks firewall form factor reduce the need for additional point security products, reducing complexity and making it easy to deploy the right security controls wherever they are needed throughout your environment. With Panorama, you can:

• Automate the deployment of security policies to all firewalls
• Monitor logs from multiple devices in a single pane of glass and gain visibility into threats across the organization
• Quickly and easily define granular policy-based logging for forensics investigations
• Easily apply software updates to keep all devices up-to-date with the latest security features
• Create intelligent, dynamic incident response workflows to reduce risk and speed up your response time.

Best-in-Class Security

Palo Alto Networks has been the leader of the enterprise firewall Gartner Magic Quadrant for eleven consecutive years, protecting over 65,000 organizations worldwide. Our next-generation firewall solutions are designed to provide a secure platform for applications and users to securely access the internet, prevent threats, and ensure compliance.

Our cloud capabilities provide unified security across public clouds, private clouds, virtualized networks, and on-premises environments. Supported by advanced analytics, automation, orchestration, and threat intelligence services, Palo Alto Networks can help protect your business from advanced threats. Our solutions are designed to provide granular network control, giving you visibility into who is accessing what and enabling you to take action when needed. With Palo Alto Networks, organizations can have complete confidence that their applications and users are secure in today’s digital world.

Capabilities offered by VM-Series Firewall

About Palo Alto Networks Certified Software Firewall Engineer (PCSFE)

While almost all organizations move toward a hybrid cloud environment, it will be crucial for you the security engineer to have certification on Software Firewall. This certification will validate and prove your expertise to secure the hybrid cloud environment and advance your security engineer career.

Palo Alto Networks Certified Software Firewall Engineer (PCSFE)

The Palo Alto Networks Certified Software Firewall Engineer (PCSFE) is a formal certification that is suitable for Palo Alto Networks DevSecOps administrators, engineers, and architects who work with securing hybrid cloud environments. This certification exam is a new certification path and was released on July 26, 2023. With this certification it validates the knowledge, skills, and abilities for network security engineers to serve as experts on Palo Alto Networks Software. Success on the PCSFE exam indicates that you have the in-depth knowledge, skills, and abilities to deploy, integrate, and maintain Palo Alto Networks VM-Series, CN-Series, and Cloud Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs). Some steps to prepare the PCSFE exam are follows:

PCSFE Exam Question Format

  • Exam Series: PCSFE
  • Seat Time: 90 minutes
  • Number of items: 60
  • Format: Multiple choice and scenarios with graphics
  • Languages: English
  • This exam is aligned to operating system versions up to PAN-OS 10.2.

PCSFE Question Topics

There will be various topics on the PCSFE exam, you need to understand each topic so you can pass the PCSFE exam. 

Software Firewall Fundamentals

This topic will cover the basic understanding of VM-Series solutions as there are several software firewalls available from Palo Alto Networks. You should know the different ways of obtaining, installing, configuring, and maintaining Palo Alto Networks software firewalls.

Securing Environments with Software Firewalls

The second topic mostly covers your understanding of Hybrid Cloud environments and how you can secure them. You will need to understand how the traffic flows in these environments, such as Inbound traffic, Outbound traffic, and East-West traffic. Once you understand the flow, you will need to understand the need for Segmentation (how environments can be segmented using a software firewall), Virtualization (how software firewalls can support security in virtualized environments), Application visibility and control, VPN connectivity controls (how authentication, user identification, and various policies may be used to secure VPN connections)

Deployment Architecture

The third topic will focus on key integration considerations for VM-Series firewall implementation in various virtualized environments. You will need to address which platform is being used to host an environment and require you to identify how the VM-Series firewall will interact with different components that are potentially implemented within that environment. You also need to familiar with platforms and common elements that a VM-Series firewall may need in order to receive traffic from or forward traffic to such as: GCP Platforms, HA pair deployment on various cloud platforms, Azure Gateway Load Balancer (GWLB), Amazon Web Services (AWS) Gateway Load Balancer (GWLB), Azure VNET, VWAN, and Autoscaling integration.

Automation and Orchestration

This topic requires you to understand the automation tools recommended by Palo Alto Networks, the requirements those tools have for integration with PAN-OS, and the capabilities of the various methods. The tools involved may include: Ansible, Terraform, and AWS CloudFormation template (CFT). 

Technology Integration

In this topic you need to understand how Intelligent Traffic Offload (ITO) integrates with VM-Series firewalls. The Intelligent Traffic Offload (ITO) gives capabilities to route the first few packets of a flow to the firewall for inspection and to determine whether the rest of the packets in the flow should be inspected or offloaded.

Troubleshooting

This topic focuses on troubleshooting deployment and integration of a CN-Series and VM-Series device. You should understand how to verify and validate the functionality of a CN-Series and VM-Series device, and with options available to identify potential problems with both device deployment and devices passing traffic to or from an environment.

Management Plugins and Log Forwarding

The last topic requires you to be able to identify valid options for forwarding logs, configuration options in Palo Alto Networks CN-Series and VM-Series firewalls, and the requirements for configuration of destination. The following log forwarding destinations that you need to familiar with are: AWS CloudWatch, AWS Simple Storage Service (S3), Azure Application Insight, Google Stackdriver, and Kinesis.

Register for the PCSFE Exam

Finally, the last step is to register for your exam day! You can do the exam on-site at PearsonVUE partners or via Online Proctored. Proceed to the Palo Alto PearsonVUE homepage or Palo Alto live community to register soon. Good luck!

Once you have registered, make sure to prepare for the exam. Check out 591Cert’s online resources such as study guides, practice exams, and flashcards to ensure you are ready on your test day. Our team of experts has worked hard to help you achieve success on your certification journey and we wish you all the best. Remember: practice makes perfect! We wish you the best of luck on your certification exam.

Conclusion

That is all that you need to know about Palo Alto Networks Software Firewall solutions. As technology advances, you will need to prepare your knowledge and skills to always be the TOP Security Engineer. Explore the Palo Alto Networks Software Firewall, try to deploy the software firewall at your Lab, take the Palo Alto Networks Certified Software Firewall Engineer (PCSFE) and be the master of Palo Alto Networks Software Firewall Security Engineer. At the end of the word, if you need any assistance to learn the PCSFE Exam you can always explore https://591lab.com/.

References

  1. Palo Alto Networks Certified Software Firewall Engineer (PCSFE). (n.d.). Palo Alto Networks. Retrieved October 11, 2023, from https://www.paloaltonetworks.com/services/education/palo-alto-networks-certified-software-firewall-engineer
  2. RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report from Flexera Identifies Cloud Adoption Trends. (n.d.). Flexera. Retrieved October 11, 2023, from https://www.flexera.com/about-us/press-center/rightscale-2019-state-of-the-cloud-report-from-flexera-identifies-cloud-adoption-trends
  3. Registration Is Open for the New PCSFE Certification Exam! (2023, July 20). LIVEcommunity | Palo Alto Networks. Retrieved October 11, 2023, from https://live.paloaltonetworks.com/t5/certification-articles/registration-is-open-for-the-new-pcsfe-certification-exam/ta-p/550189
  4. VM-Series Virtual Next-Generation Firewall. (n.d.). Palo Alto Networks. Retrieved October 11, 2023, from https://www.paloaltonetworks.com/network-security/vm-series-virtual-next-generation-firewall 

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