Firewalls can detect and block threats that can harm a business. However, older firewalls are limited to analyzing network traffic at layers 3 and 4. Next-generation firewalls (NGFW) go beyond this with features such as application awareness and advanced malware detection. NGFWs also offer other security capabilities that improve overall visibility. These include deep-packet inspection, IPS, advanced malware detection, and more.
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Deep Packet Inspection (DPI)
Deep packet inspection (DPI) is a technology that examines the contents of data packets instead of just the header information. This allows it to detect many threats that traditional firewalls often cannot see. DPI can work as an intrusion detection system (IDS) or intrusion prevention system (IPS), or it can also be combined with these systems to create a complete threat protection solution. With DPI, your network can spot malware and other attacks hidden in the data packets rather than the packet header. This allows you to catch the more elusive and sophisticated threats that can slip past conventional firewall filters. Next-generation firewalls with DPI functionality can perform this analysis across the entire OSI model – not just layers 3 and 4, typically done with traditional firewalls. This allows for a more comprehensive view of your network traffic and helps to keep your organization protected against all types of cyber attacks.
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Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)
A next-generation firewall features an intrusion prevention system (IPS). This technology monitors network activity and detects attacks. It can take various actions to stop threats, including closing sessions, identifying entry points into the network and preventing them from spreading or remediating malware. IPS solutions can be software applications installed on endpoints, hardware devices within the web, or delivered as cloud services. Unlike traditional security appliances that bind security to IP addresses, next-generation firewalls inspect traffic based on identity — network app, cloud app, fully qualified domain name (FQDN), and URL. NGFWs also use native SSL/TLS inspection capabilities to spot malware hiding in encrypted traffic. These advanced features are only available on a next-generation firewall, making them essential to your cybersecurity defenses against today’s sophisticated cyber threat landscape. These technologies can help prevent unauthorized users from downloading malicious software on your network and stealing valuable data. They can also detect and block malware’s lateral movement across physical or virtual networks.
Advanced Malware Protection (AMP)
When a cyberattack is detected, the firewall can be configured to quarantine infected traffic and block access by unauthorized users automatically. NGFWs can also leverage threat intelligence feeds to recognize new emerging threats.
Unlike traditional security solutions that scan files at the network’s point of entry, a next-generation firewall can inspect the data packets in incoming packets (up to layer 7 of the OSI model). This enables them to detect advanced cyberattacks such as distributed denial of service attacks. AMP uses threat intelligence and known file signatures to identify and block policy-violating file types and exploit attempts as they enter the network. Additionally, sandboxing is used to examine unknown files and look for risks a regular signature detection system may have missed. In addition, centralized management provides a single dashboard to manage all functions of the next-generation firewall. This enables teams to automate processes and use shortcuts to reduce manual work. It also helps ensure consistent security across different devices and locations. NGFWs can even be cloud-managed to eliminate the need for on-premises servers.
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Unlike traditional firewalls, which rely on ports, protocols, and IP addresses, next-generation firewalls are stateful. This means that they check the characteristics of incoming packets against those of established connections to identify possible threats. This can help to protect against distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), which use multiple computers to send illegitimate requests, flooding a server and shutting it down. An NGFW can also include an intrusion prevention system (IPS), which monitors network activity to detect and block threats based on signatures or by examining the payload of a packet for signs of malicious software.
Additionally, next-generation firewalls can inspect data at higher-order OSI communication layers and offer application awareness to thwart the most stealthy cyberattacks. This can allow them to block advanced malware, including ransomware and several other threats. These features combine to make an NGFW the ideal tool for organizations implementing a Zero Trust strategy. They can protect both on-site and cloud data against sophisticated attacks and are better equipped to thwart today’s most dangerous cyber threats like Cozy Bear, responsible for the SUNBURST supply chain attack of 2020, and Deep Panda, which exploited Log4Shell in 2022.
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Virtual Private Network (VPN)
NGFWs use the latest technologies to provide a more robust and multilayered approach to cybersecurity. They offer standard firewall capabilities, application awareness and control, integrated network intrusion prevention, and cloud-delivered threat intelligence. Unlike traditional firewalls, which inspect packets only based on the data carried within them, next-generation firewalls go beyond that to detect and protect against advanced threats. They can detect malware and zero-day attacks using features like deep packet inspection and IPS. A key feature is their ability to identify and match applications to a list of approved models and apps. This prevents them from taking actions that put your networks at risk.
Next-gen firewalls also leverage inline deep learning to stop unknown and evasive threats.