A Next-Generation Firewall’s Definition
To improve enterprise network security, a next-generation firewall (ngfw) combines traditional firewall technology with other network device filtering functions such as inline application control, an integrated intrusion prevention system (IPS), threat prevention capabilities, and antivirus protection.
Gartner characterized the ngfw as a “deep-packet inspection firewall that goes beyond port/protocol inspection and blocking to incorporate application-layer inspection, intrusion prevention, and bringing intelligence from beyond the firewall” a decade ago.
Traditional firewall vs. next-generation firewall
Traditional firewalls solely employ Layers 3 and 4 of the OSI model to regulate network traffic between hosts and end systems. They utilize stateful inspection to allow or refuse traffic depending on port and protocol.
These stateful firewalls were readily overcome day in and day out as sophisticated threats such as ransomware began to appear. Unsurprisingly, a more advanced, intelligent security system was in high demand.
Enter the next-generation firewall (NGFW), hailed as the next step in network security. A basic firewall with more granular features for identity, user, location, and application controls.
Features of NGFW
Today, next-generation firewalls are still in use, and they provide a number of advantages over their predecessors in terms of on-premises network and application security.
- Application control: NGFWs keep track of which apps (and users) are causing traffic to flow via the network. This means they can naturally monitor network traffic to find application traffic, regardless of port or protocol.
- IPS: An intrusion prevention system (IPS) continuously monitors a network, looking for hazardous events and taking action to prevent them. The IPS can notify an administrator, discard packets, restrict traffic, or completely disconnect the connection.
- To comprehend the threats that are targeting or have already targeted an organization, threat intelligence is data acquired by various nodes within a network or IT ecosystem. This is a critical cybersecurity tool.
- Antivirus software, as the name implies, detects viruses, responds to them, and refreshes detection capabilities in order to keep up with the ever-changing threat landscape.
What is the role of an NGFW?
When it comes to safeguarding business networks, NGFWs go above and beyond what standard firewalls can do.
They delve deeper into network traffic to figure out where it originates. As a consequence, they may amass a larger body of information about malicious traffic and its associated risks, which are continually attempting to breach the network perimeter, get access to business data, and damage an organization’s image.
NGFWs can function all the way up to Layer 7the application layer where a typical firewall can only work at Layers 3 and 4. This implies that app-level attacks, which are among the most serious and pervasive, are thwarted before they breach, saving time and money in the process of cleanup.
What is the purpose of an NGFW?
Traditional firewalls aren’t up to the challenge in today’s cyberthreat world, which need more robust threat defense.
NGFWs can stop malware and are better suited to fight advanced persistent threats (APTs) like Cozy Bear, which is blamed for the 2020 SUNBURST supply chain assault, and Deep Panda, which is known for exploiting the Log4Shell vulnerability.
NGFWs have also provided enterprises the potential to not only simplify security operations but also take the first step toward a fully realized security operations center, thanks to integrated threat intelligence and networking and security automation possibilities (SOC).
However, all of this potential benefit comes with a set of disadvantages.
NGFWs face a number of challenges.
While NGFWs might be beneficial, they lack the capability needed to support today’s distributed workforces.
With most users and endpoints situated in corporate or regional offices, backhauling traffic to an NGFW made sense.
However, today’s applications are cloud-based, making conventional networking and security solutions like NGFWs and VPNs obsolete due to their lack of scalability.
Most cloud programmes, such as Microsoft 365, were created to be used directly over the internet. Using NGFWs to protect local internet breakouts would require duplicating the corporate security stack. In order to justify the expense and difficulty of maintaining that many firewalls, you’d have to install NGFWs or stacks of security appliances in every branch office.
Furthermore, NGFWs were never intended to handle cloud-based applications. They’re quickly overloaded by cloud apps since they can’t grow to accommodate the large number of long-lived connections the apps generate, thus they’re unaware of them by default.
They also cannot natively process SSL-encrypted data, which is crucial today that practically all internet traffic is encrypted. SSL inspection must be performed in software rather than on the hardware by NGFWs. As a result, new security risks such as sophisticated malware emerge.
Cloud firewalls are the wave of the future.
More than a decade ago, the next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) that are in use today were designed. Today’s businesses are cloud-first, and they want more dynamic, current capabilities to develop data security and access controls capabilities that NGFWs were not meant to provide.
With cloud providers like AWS and Azure, companies will need corporate firewall capabilities across their local internet breakouts. Unfortunately, NGFWs were not designed to defend cloud applications and infrastructure, and virtual firewalls suffer from the same restrictions.
As a result, it’s only natural that your firewalls accompany your apps to the cloud.
4 Key Advantages of Cloud Firewalls
This design inspects network traffic for all users, apps, devices, and locations in real time. It can identify malware disguised in encrypted traffic by inspecting SSL/TLS traffic at scale. It also lets you create sophisticated network firewall policies that span many levels and are based on network apps, cloud apps, fully qualified domain names (FQDNs), and URLs.
Regardless of connection type or location, a cloud-based IPS provides always-on threat prevention and coverage. It monitors all user activity on and off the network, including SSL data, giving users, applications, and connections full visibility.
DNS security and control:
A cloud firewall acts as a first line of protection, preventing users from accessing dangerous domains. It improves DNS resolution to improve user experience and cloud application speed, which is particularly important for CDN-based apps. It also has fine-grained controls for detecting and preventing DNS tunneling.
Visibility and simplified management
A cloud-based firewall provides real-time visibility, control, and rapid security policy enforcement throughout the platform, as well as simplified management. Each session is thoroughly logged and analyzed from a single dashboard, providing visibility into all users, applications and locations.
Only one company can deploy a complete set of cloud firewall functionalities as part of a comprehensive cloud security platform.
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