What is a Next-Generation Firewall?

For those who work closely with IT professionals, or who own businesses that rely heavily on computer networking systems, the term “Next-Generation Firewall” may sound familiar. For others, it could be a completely foreign concept.

But most computer users know what a firewall is— a device or software that prevents malicious traffic from entering networking systems, reducing the likelihood of a cybersecurity breach or malware attack.

A next-generation firewall (NGFW) is, fundamentally, a more advanced form of firewall security that offers a more robust approach to protecting electronic networks.

In today’s post, we’ll be taking a deeper look at next-gen firewalls, what they are capable of, and the benefits they bring to the businesses, organizations, and individuals who use them.

NGFWs Explained

As mentioned above, next-generation firewalls are security tools that surpass traditional port/protocol inspection and blocking. Instead, they analyze data packets on a deeper level, to ensure that all links between the network, internet, and firewall are legitimate and protected.

Some of the features that NG firewalls offer include:

  • Application and user control
  • Deep packet inspection policy
  • Advanced evasion techniques
  • Virus and malware protection
  • Customized reporting
  • Dynamic routing
  • URL filtering
  • Automation and product integration

What are the Key Differences Between NGFWs and Traditional Firewalls?

The primary difference between a next-generation firewall and a traditional firewall is the number of functions they can perform.

Typically, traditional firewalls only perform two key functions:

1. Traffic Control

Traditional firewalls analyze a data packet based on protocols, ports, or addresses to determine if the packet should be blocked or granted access to the network.

2. VPN Capabilities

Virtual private networks (VPNs) create online privacy and anonymity by producing a private network from a public Internet connection. This is achieved by encrypting data that is transferred between the device and the network.

A NGFW firewall exceeds these capabilities, using several more methods to protect the networks they are used on.

What are the Benefits of Using a Next-Gen Firewall?

Aside from the all-inclusive features that NGFW firewalls provide, they also offer a host of other advantages that businesses, organizations, and individuals can avail of.

Some of the additional benefits a next-generation firewall can present include:

1. Application Awareness

When a business or person uses an application, whether by visiting a website or by downloading an application to use on their computer or smartphone, they are trusting that the developers of that application made it with security best practices in mind. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t always the case, and apps can be used by hackers and malware programs to gain access to your network. 

This is why application awareness is so important. This feature allows a NGFW to detect, allow, block or limit applications based on predetermined rules set forth by the network owner.

2. Intrusion Protection Systems (IPS)

An intrusion protection system (IPS) allows your firewall to act immediately should an unfamiliar threat be detected— without the need for manual approval. This is extremely helpful since viruses and other forms of malware can begin jeopardizing your files and systems within minutes of gaining access to your network. By setting up an IPS with predefined courses of action, network owners get to enjoy peace of mind, knowing that their firewall with automatically respond accordingly in the event of a breach.

3. Network Sandboxing

Network sandboxing is another useful feature that next-generation firewalls supply. Essentially, this feature captures suspicious data packets as they attempt to enter your network, and sends them to a secluded sandbox in the cloud. By doing so, the potentially malicious packet is unable to cause any damage to your information network or the files contained within it. Once the unfamiliar packet is contained, it can then be examined to determine if it is ill-intentioned.

Of course, these are just a few of the surplus features a next-generation firewall can provide. 

How Indeni Can Protect Your NGFW

Indeni is a security infrastructure automation  platform that can be set to automatically collect data from multiple firewalls, load balancers , or web proxy vendors. As Indeni collects  data about how your firewalls are performing and configured, it produces reports that show a list of devices with issues, and notifies you of any problems that are still outstanding. These reports will help you focus on addressing the most critical issues.

From there, Indeni goes one step further by providing actionable remediation steps. 

For example: 

Indeni will notify you if you accidentally left the debug mode command enabled (something that a monitoring tool will not be able to detect), it will then tell you how to disable debug and provide you information about every debug command and its purpose.

If you are planning to invest in a next-generation firewall platform for your business, consider enhancing its performance with network management software like Indeni. Get your free trial today!

BlueCat acquires Indeni to boost its industry-leading DNS, DHCP and IP address management platform to help customers proactively assess network health and prevent outages.