Firewalls have been around for a long time serving as a backbone of any effective cybersecurity strategy. However, as the number and variety of threats increases, particularly in the cloud, traditional firewalls cannot keep up and provide the level of protection that businesses and individuals anticipate.
For this reason, users require a firewall to stand against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) combines the essential features of a traditional firewall with additional safeguards against modern cyber threats.
This article defines NGFW in detail, outlining its key features and types.
What is a Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW)?
When inspecting network traffic, classic firewalls take a stateful approach, allowing or blocking communication-based on state, port, and protocol, and filtering traffic according to administrator-defined rules.
When it comes to protecting the cybersecurity of businesses these days, the Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) is the gold standard. With features including application control and intrusion prevention system (IPS) to identify known and zero-day attacks, NGFWs helps to stop sophisticated malware and application-layer attacks that have emerged in recent years.
Furthermore, NGFWs supply a form of zero trust policy, considered one of the emerging cybersecurity trends in 2023, by conducting in-depth data analysis to spot and prevent attacks that may be masquerading as harmless traffic.
Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) benefits
NGFW has distinctive benefits such as:
1. Standard Packet Inspection (Stateful Inspection)
When a user connects to a network, the data they send and receive is broken into packets. Firewalls examine these packets to determine whether they should be allowed into the network or blocked so malicious content cannot spread.
Filtering packets involves checking the layer three and layer four headers to determine where the packet came from, where it is going, and what protocols were used.
2. Deep packet inspection (DPI)
The application layer is just one of the higher-order TCP/IP communication layers that NGFWs can inspect, taking them well beyond their legacy packet-based inspection. The NGFW may check for malware signatures and other threats by looking at the packet's body in addition to the headers, thanks to deep packet inspection (DPI).
The software examines each incoming data packet for similarities to previously identified malicious attacks. For this reason, there are two primary operations involved in this feature:
- Application and identity awareness
Because NGFWs can analyze traffic at the application layer (layer 7), they are distinguished by their application awareness function, which provides security at the application and user identity levels. With application awareness, NGFWs may control which programs are accessible, which are blocked, and how much data each uses, regardless of the protocol or port.
- Integrated Intrusion Prevention (IPS)
The NGFW can better identify and prevent cyberattacks when traffic is inspected at higher TCP/IP levels. Along with DPI, NGFW also features an intrusion prevention system (IPS) through analyzing the incoming traffic, identifying known risks and new threats, and blocking them accordingly. IPS can stop also brute force and Distribution Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks:
The fundamental techniques NGFW uses to detect attacks are:
- Signature detection technique: It analyzes incoming packet data and checks it against a database of known malicious code.
- Statistical anomaly detection method: it compares actual traffic patterns to a reference profile.
- Sophisticated Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS): It analyzes the protocols being used on the network and compares them to normal behavior.
3. Threat intelligence
Considering the rapid rate at which cyber-attack techniques are evolving, any cybersecurity technology must be kept up to date. NGFW may immediately stop attacks and update its policies based on the incoming threat intelligence feed from external sources when new attacks are detected. For example, threat intelligence ensures that intrusion prevention systems (IPS) continue using up-to-date malware signatures in their detection processes.
Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) types
There are several types of Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) available, including:
1. Software-based NGFW
Software-based NGFW may be deployed and used similarly to any other program without requiring special hardware or network configuration. It requires installation and setup for each network device and may be set up individually or collectively on any network, regardless of size or complexity.
It may be combined with other cybersecurity technologies like intrusion prevention and virtual private networks, giving businesses full command and visibility over their networks.
2. Hardware-based NGFW
Hardware-based NGFW is a physical device to which scans and monitors all incoming and outgoing network traffic. Because this type is not physically located on the organization's network infrastructure, they do not affect network traffic.
3. Cloud-Based NGFW
A next-generation firewall (NGFW) service hosted and managed by a cloud provider is a cloud-based NGFW or hosted NGFW. By protecting computer networks, subscription-based network security services eliminate the need for capital spending on expensive firewalls and antivirus software.
Organizations lacking the personnel or infrastructure to run their firewalls or that need to expand their security capabilities rapidly might benefit from using this form of firewall.
4. Unified Threat Management (UTM) NGFW
Antivirus, intrusion prevention, and website filtering are some security features that may be integrated into a single NGFW. Its goal is to combine a wide range of security technologies into a single, all-encompassing product. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) looking for an all-in-one firewall solution can benefit from this NGFW type.
Every company must implement a firewall as part of its overall cybersecurity plan. Because they incorporate the latest network security technologies in addition to the standard firewall filtering features, next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) enhance the overall cybersecurity of a business.
By limiting the ability of untrusted apps and hostile entities to carry out operations, next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) assist enterprises in creating a secure and reliable IT environment.