Next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) merge the capabilities of the first generation of firewalls with network security tools equipped for handling modern cyberthreats.
See below to learn all about how NGFWs work:
What technologies are used by next-generation firewalls?
Using behavior analysis, NGFWs are capable of anticipating and intercepting cyberthreats, not by identifying them directly, but by detecting network behavior that indicates an upcoming attack or data leak. Behavior analysis capabilities enable NGFWs to mitigate the damages of cyberattacks as well as internally motivated data leaks.
Sandboxing is an approach to cybersecurity where executable files and code from non-native sources are run inside an isolated part of the network. This allows the NGFW to observe, monitor, and analyze the behavior of the piece of code, preventing it from proceeding forward into the network and causing damage to the network’s resources.
Access control management
Access control management is most suitable for being a part of a firewall solution due to its strategic location between network routers, users, and applications. This tool is responsible for verifying and authenticating the identity of users and device logins into the network before they gain access.
The application control technology is available in some NGFWs and web firewalls that enable you to implement security and privacy measures directly into the operations of an application. The traffic of each application can be identified in the data flow, subjecting it to a different set of limitations and security policies as needed.
Traffic monitoring and packet filtering are one of the primary components adapted from traditional firewall solutions. But with NGFWs, packet filtering can be further adapted to the type, source, and destination of the data, such as IP address, source and destination ports.
NGFWs operate on system layers, with most modern solutions ranging between layers 3 and 4 of the OSI model and systems to layer 7 of the network’s applications. Application-layer firewalls are capable of monitoring and scanning the data input and output of the network’s applications, managing its communications according to the set security policies.
Authentication is the key component that enables firewalls to associate known identities with users and devices to apply the network’s policies and access privileges to them.
Authentication techniques vary from traditional passwords and smart cards to biometrics and custom authentication tokens. The pairing occurring between the device or user and the network’s firewall results in a one-time password (OTP) that can be also applied to software and applications seeking access to one or more of the network’s resources.
Centralized security policies
Security policies are rules that organize what applications and user devices are capable of doing and how they’re allowed to behave without being blocked. Generally, this tends to focus on network traffic outbound and inbound that uses specific communications protocols, certain IP addresses, or content types from market applications.
Types of NGFW
- Software: NGFWs can be a part of your network as software that uses internal CPU and RAM resources.
- Hardware: A hardware-based NGFW is connected to the outer parameter of the network and between any segments or components where the traffic needs monitoring.
- Cloud: A cloud-based NGFW is commonly referred to as firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS), which is hosted by a third party. They’re managed and deployed by the security vendor and can be scaled to include users and devices connecting remotely to your network.
Environment of NGFWs
NGFWs need unobstructed access to a number of your network’s components for its tools to work properly. This includes anything from tracking user behavior and logs to controlling access privileges and application permissions.
An NGFW’s administrative client is the management portal that can be used by network administrators to gain access to the firewall’s configurations.
This is usually presented through an easy-to-use interface that connects the user to the remainder of the firewall environments from the servers and engines to gateways and active monitoring efforts.
Some vendors offer a web-based version of the firewall’s administrative portal that can be accessed remotely through a web browser and can allow access to log files and activity records, often for behavioral analysis.
Depending on the complexity and scope of the network the NGFW is covering, the number of servers under it may fluctuate. They’re the hardware the firewall software needs to run its operations.
A single server, depending on capacity, can host a number of the firewall’s engines and tools, such as monitoring, scanning, VPN deployment, and notifications.
Organizations with widely spread-out networks often opt for dedicated logging servers to manage their data logs, analysis, and any required calculations.
Core functionality of next-generation firewalls
While they shouldn’t be used as the sole method of protection, NGFWs are an essential tool of network security, acting as a smart barrier between the user devices and applications and the public internet.
The value of traditional firewalls tends to end at identifying straightforward and previously identified malware and cyberattack avenues, but NGFWs are capable of employing a variety of technologies to offer more protection some key cyberthreats:
Zero-day threats are cyberattacks that take advantage of unknown software and network vulnerabilities. An NGFW combines multiple types of advanced network security technology to detect and mitigate those threats and damages.
Insider threats are the weak point of traditional firewall systems, as they drive the threat past the security line at the outer parameter of the network. NGFWs use access control, application control, and wide-scale enforcement of security policies to monitor and scan the network traffic incoming, outgoing, and exchanged between endpoints.
Any activity by a malicious network user is immediately detected by the firewall, blocking it before it’s able to leak data or inject any type of malicious code, file, or software into the network’s infrastructure.