What is a Next-Generation Firewall?

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A next-generation firewall (NGFW) is a core cybersecurity product that delivers network security with endpoint protection as a foundational tool. A NGFW is a third-generation firewall technology that’s used to translate network and port addresses in order to map IPs. The goal of a NGFW is to prevent threats and ensure advanced protection with flexible management and deployment options. 

NGFWs include basic packet filtering, application-level gateways, stateful inspections, network, port address translations, and circuit-level gateways. The new firewalls can understand the exact nature of data transfer and identify attacks based on traffic behavioral analysis, unusual activity, or threat signatures. NGFWs benefit all organizations that have large data management systems and give network administrators more detailed context than a traditional firewall. 

What is a NGFW?

How does a NGFW work?

Next-generation firewalls use advanced technology and flexible setup options, in different geographical locations and environments, to provide a more comprehensive security solution for business networks.

Latest technologies

Next-generation firewalls ensure multilayered protection by the combination of several next-level technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation allow the firewalls to detect threats immediately and collectively take action before they affect any system. Automated policies often stop suspicious traffic before an admin is able to check the network. Automated alert technology sends notifications to admins so they can further examine the threat and track that type of suspicious traffic. 

NGFWs also employ deep packet inspection (DPI) technology by integrating intrusion prevention systems (IPS) as well as application intelligence and control to provide visibility of the network packets and extensive control over the applications. The integrated intrusion detection system (IDS) and intrusion protection system allow businesses to detect cyberattacks based on network behavioral analysis (NBA), anomalous activity, or threat signatures.

Setup environments

Next-generation firewalls can work on physical, virtual, or cloud-based environments as well as geographically dispersed environments; however, the performance can vary based on the configuration and network environment. Most of the setups and configurations for network interfaces are stored on the management server. Virtual NGFW engines are logically separate and run as virtual instances on the physical NGFW appliance.

In addition, organizations are becoming more dependent on third-party services and applications for several core functionalities or business processes. Next-generation firewalls protect the network from the vulnerabilities of third-party applications. The functions of virtual or cloud-based NGFWs perform similarly to a physical firewall but are deployed in the cloud.

See more: How NGFW Works: Everything You Need to Know

What are the features of a NGFW?

Next-generation firewalls are feature-rich and have tools for traffic analysis and policy management. NGFWs also include a range of network protection functions like encrypted traffic, malware detection and prevention, and deep packet inspection. NGFWs also include key features like application control, a central management console, advanced threat protection, and support for virtual networks.

Application and user control

One of the most effective features of the next-generation firewalls is application and user control, which allows the matching of network traffic to predefined models. Application control ensures prevention against risk for executing actions through monitoring and controlling security threats. Admins can set policies such as blocking or allowing certain applications and identify which application is causing potential security issues. 

User control monitors users’ access attempts to a system or application, and user-based filtering permits user access to the network based on their assigned roles and restricts external users.

Centralized management

Central management of next-generation firewalls allows teams to automate routine tasks, employ shortcuts, reuse elements, and drill down to assure maximum efficiency with reduced manual effort. 

Centralized management gives NGFW administrators a security health dashboard to monitor events and traffic patterns that help to prevent risks in real-time. NGFWs also support separate management solutions, logging, and reporting.

Advanced threat protection

NGFWs provide protection against advanced threats across network, web, and application access. Next-generation firewalls are developed with a combination of multiple techniques to protect data against advanced malware and can significantly accelerate response to cyberattacks.

NGFWs offer tools that monitor all network flow to identify cyberattacks based on traffic behavioral analysis, unusual activity, or threat signatures and deliver protection. The firewalls include several effective features, such as inline deep packet inspection, intrusion detection, and website filtering.

Virtualization and proxies

Companies are increasingly using public or private cloud deployments and software-defined networks (SDNs) or SD-WANs to store and process data. A NGFW’s virtualization functionalities ensures the security of the virtualized network environment and performs similarly to physical firewalls to deliver the same protection and access for remote workers.

Proxy-based functions extract the stored object data and match them against known threat signatures. The proxies of NGFWs provide protection against threats and data loss, and the TCP session proxy reduces the overall data throughput.

See more: How Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) are Used by Softworx, PenChecks Trust, Flex, CNA, and Blackstone: Case Studies

Why should you implement a NGFW?

NGFWs provide additional advantages to traditional firewalls. The benefits of next-generation firewalls include:

  • Sophisticated security solution compared to a traditional firewall
  • Comprehensive set of security technologies
  • Filter packets based on applications
  • Support application-level awareness
  • Work on Layer 2 to Layer 7 and ensure multilayered protection
  • Enable complete application visibility and control
  • Easy to use and maintain with a standard design
  • Inherent ability to detect user identity
  • Employ deep packet inspection technology
  • Vendors allow organizations to set role-based access

What are the differences between a NGFW and a firewall?

Traditional firewalls work on Layer 2 to Layer 4 and are only capable of partial visibility and control. As a more advanced version, NGFWs work on Layer 2 to Layer 7 and enable complete application visibility and control. NGFWs are designed to address advanced security threats at the application level to enhance online security firmware. They’re well suited to large enterprises and any business with extensive data storage systems or high-performance computing applications. 

What’s the size of the NGFW market?

The global next-generation firewall market value was $3.85 billion in 2021, and it is expected to reach $7.97 billion by 2029, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.8% from 2022 to 2028, according to GlobeNewswire Industry Research. Some next-generation firewall vendors include Palo Alto Networks, Fortinet, Check Point, Sophos, Cisco, and Forcepoint.

Bottom line

When implemented well, next-generation firewalls improve an organization’s overall security posture because they combine traditional firewall filtering functionalities with other latest network security technologies. NGFWs help businesses create a secure IT environment, which prevents untrusted applications and malicious entities from executing functions to reduce the overall risks businesses face.

Next-generation firewalls comprise more open systems interconnection (OSI) model layers and improve network traffic filtering. With more sophisticated features, NGFWs provide a high level of comprehensive network visibility to ensure advanced protection for physical or virtual networks against advanced cyberthreats.

See more: 5 Top Next-Generation Firewall Software

Al Mahmud Al Mamun
Al Mahmud Al Mamun
Al Mahmud Al Mamun is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. He earned his B.S. in computer science and engineering from Prime University, Bangladesh. He attained more than 25 diploma courses and 100 certificate courses. His expertise and research interests include artificial intelligence (AI), artificial neural networks, and convolutional neural networks.

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