An NGFW can minimize unknown traffic while providing visibility and policy control. This is important because most malware attacks are directed at specific applications. Malicious hackers use proxies, remote access, and encrypted tunnel applications to circumvent security controls like firewalls. An NGFW can protect against these circumventions with fine-grained policies and reputation-based malware detection.
Deep Packet Inspection
While conventional firewalls rely on packet filtering that polices traffic flow in and out of a network based on port, protocol, source, and destination address, NGFW (next-generation firewalls) go further. They provide micro-level policies enabling organizations to view packets in the proper context, allowing and blocking them based on application awareness. A key element is deep packet inspection, also known as DPI, information extraction, or complete packet inspection. This advanced form of packet filtering goes beyond examining just the packet header to inspect the entire data payload of each packet, weeding out non-compliance to protocol, viruses, spam, and other defined criteria. This is a critical capability for detecting advanced threats that bypass traditional firewalls by exploiting application vulnerabilities. Continuous deep packet inspection enables NGFWs to detect malware, ransomware, and other attacks that would otherwise go undetected by firewalls. It helps prevent malware from spreading from a single device in your network to other devices and users. This is why pairing an NGFW with a threat detection solution is essential.
Web Application Firewall
A web application firewall (WAF) protects from attacks targeting a company’s servers. WAFs protect from many threats, including SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and buffer overflows. Early WAFs were stateless and used static rules to analyze inbound traffic and predict whether a threat was likely to emerge. However, relying on pattern recognition alone is ineffective against modern, sophisticated attacks such as phishing, malware, and ransomware. Next-generation firewalls, or NGFWs, offer a much more effective way to block these advanced threats. NGFWs feature advanced capabilities like deep-packet inspection, an intrusion prevention system (IPS), and cloud-enabled threat intelligence services to recognize and stop a broader range of zero-day attacks and advanced malware. They also include features like application awareness and increased network visibility by inspecting encrypted VPN traffic. And they’re designed to be more autonomous, integrating machine learning and various automation to update security policies without human input. That makes them an excellent choice for organizations implementing a Zero Trust model.
Threat detection is the ability to detect and block various attack techniques. Many NGFWs provide this through various technologies, including sandboxing (the ability to analyze suspicious files in a secure environment) and machine learning algorithms. In addition, they often connect to external intelligence sources to stay up-to-date on new threats and behavior patterns. Unlike traditional firewalls, next-generation firewalls can inspect traffic at higher layers (from the Transport Layer to the Application Layer of the OSI model). They also allow for more granular rule enforcement based on applications, users, and content. NGFWs can also identify malicious activity hidden in encrypted traffic, using SSL inspection to decrypt and inspect network traffic at scale. In addition, they provide integration with other security tools like DLP and NGAV for a unified defense against all types of attacks. They also include user behavior analytics that establish a baseline for normal network behavior and alert on any deviations. This enables the NGFW to quickly and accurately identify unknown zero-day threats.
Dynamic Threat Analysis
Unlike traditional firewalls, which examine and allow or block traffic based on ports and protocols, an NGFW can filter data packets according to applications. This helps protect against modern attacks that often occur at the higher levels of the OSI model, such as malware distribution and ransomware. NGFWs also include dynamic threat analysis to help uncover unknown zero-day threats. While static analysis depends on examining the contents of files and programs for signs of malicious intent, dynamic malware analysis executes potentially harmful code in a sandbox environment so that security experts can watch its behavior. This type of threat analysis is vital to protecting against advanced Gen V cyberattacks that can evade static detection and other security solutions, such as antivirus, antimalware, and IPS. Fortunately, next-generation firewalls can perform these functions as a single solution without extra third-party solutions. This allows them to deliver unified threat management (UTM) services, which offer features like sandboxing, advanced emerging threats, and more. This reduces network complexity and streamlines management. The best NGFWs will provide these capabilities and more in a single application dashboard for a streamlined network architecture.
Zero-day protection is a crucial feature to look for in your next-generation firewall. Threat actors use zero-day exploits to penetrate networks, steal data, disrupt operations, or launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Zero-day vulnerabilities are known but not patched, giving cybercriminals the advantage. NGFWs expand on traditional firewall capabilities with features like inline deep learning, which uses machine learning to detect unknown threats. This technology can stop evasive zero-day attacks by analyzing file contents for the presence of malicious code. A next-generation firewall with this capability combines machine learning, sandboxing, and research to block risky downloads and email attachments before they reach your network. This enables you to avoid potential cyberattacks and protect your employees from the dangers of phishing emails, ransomware, and malware. Moreover, this capability offers simplified, centralized management with a single dashboard. It also reduces the number of security devices and protocols you need to deploy, boosting overall network speed.