One of the most commonly-used Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions for facilitating and maintaining network security among individuals and corporations alike is firewall software. However, traditional firewalls aren’t as sufficient as they used to be in maintaining network security.
The third and latest generation of firewall software, Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW), merges the security capabilities of traditional firewall solutions with more modern security tools, such as packet inspection, behavioral analysis, and intrusion prevention systems.
NGFWs aren’t the only solution used in EDR and network security, but what makes them special, and why do you need an NGFW for your network?
Why NGFW is Important?
Firewalls are the first and primary line of defense standing between your network’s user devices, applications, and databases, and the public internet. It’s responsible for continuously monitoring and filtering incoming and outgoing network traffic to maintain the integrity and security of your infrastructure.
NGFWs take matters a step further as they’re able to effectively block a myriad of advanced cyber threats, such as malware and application-layer attacks. Additionally, vendors of NGFW solutions can include a number of useful network management and control tools.
“Traditionally, firewalls have been used to protect organizations from security threats… A next-generation firewall is more sophisticated than this because it functions at layer 7 of the Operating System (OS),” says Dmitriy Teplinskiy, IT Consultant in Networking and Cybersecurity.
“As the number of data breaches, data hijacking by encryption and other cybercrimes keep rising. NGFW will be the next major security measure that is widely implemented on all business networks regardless of the size of the organization to keep systems secure,” adds Teplinskiy.
Following are a few of the benefits you can expect when using an NGFW solution:
Network Resource Efficiency
NGFW solutions often double down as network management solutions. This enables you to determine the network resources your user devices and applications have access to, minimizing communication requests on limited resources to avoid low speeds and increased latency.
Providing Application-level Security
Added features at the level of application security work as an internal intrusion detection and prevention system. These features work alongside packet-content filtering, analyzing incoming and outgoing data, and identifying its source and destination in order to determine if it’s abiding by network security and privacy policies.
By including application information in the traffic filtering process, an NGFW is able to better detect and intercept network activities and behaviors that deviate from the set standard; usually a sign of an intelligent attack or threat.
Network Access Control (NAC) is one of the most critical features offered by NGFWs. It offers comprehensive visibility into the user activity within the network and lets you control user, device, and application access to certain network resources on the public internet.
Similarly, NAC features can automatically block users and devices that don’t comply with the network’s security policies from accessing critical parts of the infrastructure.
Advanced Content Identification
Through advanced in-depth packet inspection, an NGFW is able to scan the content within incoming network traffic. It scans and analyzes it to determine whether it constitutes a threat or meets the network’s standards and security.
This feature in NGFWs can extend to include URL filtering and site blocking, preventing specific or all network users and devices access to certain out-of-network resources.
Built-in Policy Control
Policy-based NGFW control enables you to set and manage security and privacy policies. Instead of the rudimentary deny-allow policy model used by traditional firewalls, NGFW allows network admins granular levels of control, enabling certain network users and devices access to resources inside and outside the network while preventing others.
The specificities of policies may vary based on the NGFW vendor. Generally, policy controls tend to include everything from IP addresses and communications protocols to certain applications and even entire content types.
Simplified Network Infrastructure Management
NGFWs are capable of providing a centralized dashboard for managing the network, including the monitoring of in-network traffic and analyzing it to pinpoint bandwidth-heavy activities and applications.
Centralized access and management of the network’s resources would enable you to cut costs in the long run and make more efficient use of the currently available network resources before considering expanding.
Protection from Advanced Cyber Threats
Threat protection is an NGFW’s primary functionality; combining malware protection with antivirus and intrusion prevention tools. Those 3 main security tools and responsible for mitigating and greatly minimizing the avenues of attacks.
Combined with application and user control, NGFW can scan applications on the network’s whitelist for hidden vulnerabilities and malicious codes, and executable files. Centralizing security reduces the overall pressure on the network’s resources and infrastructure.
Bandwidth Management Capabilities
By being the direct mediator of network traffic between the network’s user, devices, and application traffic, the public internal and internal communications, NGFWs are also able to control bandwidth allowances and usage.
Proper bandwidth management ensures faster and low-latency transfer of traffic inside and outside your network. It can also be adjusted to prioritize highly-critical applications, users, and devices in case few bandwidth resources are available.
What Cyberthreat Does an NGFW Defend Against?
At the end of the day, an NGFW is a network security and EDR solution. The best indicator of a firewall’s quality is the number and complexity of threats it’s able to detect and prevent before they cause damage to the network’s infrastructure or digital assets.
Following are a number of cyber threats and attacks that NGFWs are able to protect your network from:
Malware is an umbrella term that covers a wide variety of cyber threats that could danger your network. It’s a piece of software that’s capable of causing damage to your network’s infrastructure from corrupting systems files and databases to creating backdoors and creating unauthorized, out-of-network access to confidential resources.
An NGFW uses a number of tools and features to detect malware. It scans incoming data packets for known malware, but some solutions are capable of detecting never-seen-before malware and viruses.
Another threat that NGFWs protect against is ransomware. It can be stopped on multiple instances, from detecting its source as malicious or suspicious to detecting it as malicious code when scanning packets of incoming traffic.
A properly configured firewall can further secure your network by utilizing sandboxing features, isolating suspected threats, and blocking them from accessing the remainder of the network’s resources if they exhibit suspicious or malicious behavior.
Additionally, NGFWs can be set to limit unauthorized data flow between network segments, preventing any threats from causing widespread damage.
SQL injections are a type of attack typically targeted at web-based applications, where the attacker injects malicious code into the application, forcing it to execute inside the network and bypass traditional firewalls.
Most NGFWs come equipped with features akin to a Web Application Firewall (WAF) that targets and filters out SQL injection attempts. How reliable the protection depends on the firewall vendor, as well as the security configurations you set.
Data leaks and breaches make up a considerable percentage of security threats the average network suffers. They violate the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive and protected data and can be used for malicious purposes or sold on the dark web.
Thanks to its ability to monitor and scan outgoing network traffic the same as incoming network traffic, an NGFW is able to catch attempts at transferring unauthorized data outside the network, or through the detection of large amounts of unusual data traffic that’s exiting the network.
Malicious Executable Files and Code
Malicious executable files and code are another type of threat that traditional firewalls aren’t capable of detecting at the outer parameter of the network.
An NGFW can be configured to set executable files and code within applications to run inside a sandbox; testing their authenticity before they’re given access to a part or whole of the network.