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Unified Threat Management

 UTM's - What Role Do They Play in Computer Security?

Unified Threat Management (UTM) is a term that is still foreign to many people even to people interested in computers and even many working in the industry but this will change shortly.

The UTM device is the next evolution of the traditional firewall.

Most of us have a firewall whether we know it or not in the modem we use to connect to our ISP. Its basic function is to prevent outside traffic from entering our local private space by closing unused "ports". 

Think of it as a wall between you and the Internet that prevents anything from reaching your computer. The problem is that we want a few things to get to our computer - e-mail traffic, internet traffic, etc. 

To allow the traffic we want to put in we poke a hole in the wall especially for this type of traffic. These holes are called ports. In general, we are much safer with a firewall than without one, but still, the open exits present possible vulnerabilities that can be done.

Unified Threat Management Devices combine the functions of a firewall with an antivirus solution on steroids. Ports are still opening to allow the traffic we need to get into our day, but every traffic packet that passes through UTM is smartly scanned to detect malware and inappropriate content. They also provide advanced intrusion detection/intrusion services.

Recently, UTM devices have also started offering data loss prevention services. With DLP you can specify data that is private or your intellectual property and this will prevent this data from leaving the network without your specific statement. 

It can be extended to automated services that monitor things like credit card information to protect you from data and identity theft.

The main market for UTM devices was the small to medium enterprise sector due to the cost involved in purchasing the devices and maintenance (in addition to the price of the device itself an annual fee must be paid to maintain the subscription settings similar to a subscription to your antivirus software) but recently vendors / Home office) and with the rise of the ongoing threat of ransomware, it is only a matter of time until there are options available for the home market user.

It is important to note that although UTM devices provide a huge leap in computer protection, they are not recommended as a replacement for traditional antivirus software but as a supplement to it. 

UTM only protects you from external threats and only a traffic scanner in transit. If your daughter or granddaughter significantly brings home a virus-infected movie on a thumb drive and plugs it in, you will want this AV software!

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