What Is Unified Threat Management?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how unified threat management (UTM) simplifies security management while also defending against multiple cyber threats effectively.

[Featured image] IT team applying unified threat management (UTM) on their computer systems.

UTM, or unified threat management, is an information security (InfoSec) system that integrates multiple protective measures into a single solution. It serves as a centralized point of control, providing comprehensive protection against malware, including:

  • Viruses

  • Trojans

  • Ransomware

  • Botnets

  • Spyware

  • Rootkits

IT teams frequently employ UTM systems to protect organizations’ digital assets from unforeseen threats. Rather than implementing individual security solutions, which can be costly and complex, a UTM system combines them into one platform. It is an efficient and cost-effective approach to monitor security threats and attacks. 

UTM solutions have been acknowledged and embraced within the federal government as well. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) partnered with Applied Visions, Inc. in a $16.3 million agreement to create a robust UTM system capable of identifying cyber vulnerabilities in code [1].

Key elements of a unified threat management system

As a combination of varied safety solutions, a unified threat manager helps you meet an array of security requirements. The most common features found in a UTM include:

  • Firewall: For screening inbound and outbound traffic for network breach attempts

  • Antivirus: To monitor internal networks and impede viruses from affecting organizations’ systems and connected devices

  • Anti-malware: For defending against known and unknown malware through sandboxing and other filtration methods

  • Virtual private network (VPN): For creating a secure network connection within a public network, allowing private data transmission through encryption

  • Intrusion prevention system (IPS): To analyze data packets for known threat patterns, swiftly halting attacks upon recognition

  • Web filtering: To prevent access to risky websites or URLs by blocking them from loading on users' devices

UTM vs. next-generation firewalls: What’s the difference?

Next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) and UTMs, though seemingly similar, have notable differences. UTM, often seen as an extension of NGFWs, combines NGFW components with additional security capabilities.

NGFWs primarily function as firewalls, except with more advanced technologies such as a built-in IPS and machine learning algorithms. UTMs encompass these features while also incorporating other security technologies to address other threats UTMs combine these security tools into a single solution for better management and a faster response. 

The choice between an NGFW and a UTM depends on factors such as company size, the expertise of the security staff, and security needs. UTM systems may be beneficial for small to midsize companies with limited security personnel. On the other hand, larger companies with experienced IT security teams may deploy NGFW solutions that allow them to customize their security management better.

Getting started 

Develop the skills you need to excel at IT support with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate on Coursera. This entry-level course, which allows you to learn at your pace, will help you gain skills in typical IT support tasks, such as wireless networking, program installation, customer service, computer assembly, and more.

Article sources

  1. The US Department of Homeland Security. “News Release: DHS S&T Awards Applied Visions, Inc. $16.3M for Threat Management Tool,  https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/news/2017/03/09/news-release-st-awards-applied-visions-inc-163m-threat.” Accessed January 31, 2024.

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