The Role of NGFW in Modern Cybersecurity Strategies

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NGFWs can provide advanced protection against today’s sophisticated threats. They can also provide scalability and centralized security management. Unlike traditional stateful firewalls that only inspect data packets based on ports and protocols, NGFW uses deep packet inspection to analyze traffic content, identify vulnerabilities and malware in webpage contents, and more. NGFWs can also use application awareness for more granular policy enforcement.

Integrated Intrusion Prevention

While traditional firewalls are good for limiting access at layers 3 and 4 of the OSI model, NGFW or next-generation firewalls go beyond that with advanced security features. These capabilities allow an organization to view packets in context, enabling it to make better decisions about what traffic should be allowed into the network. The most important of these is integrated intrusion prevention (IPS). This feature looks deeper into data packets than standard stateful inspection, examining everything from the IP address and port to the content of the webpage visited. This helps to block malware and other threats not detected by signature-based protections on older firewalls. As an added benefit, NGFWs can handle very high volumes of data without significantly impacting network performance. This is why many providers bundle IPS with unified threat management (UTM) or NGFW solutions. Having all these different tools on one platform also helps to streamline security tasks that can be automated. For example, a sandboxing capability can be configured on an NGFW to test suspicious files in a controlled environment and send results back to the firewall for detection. This helps reduce the time it takes to identify and respond to new threats and frees up IT teams for other projects. Connecting with external threat intelligence networks can also improve an NGFW’s capacity to identify and block advanced attacks.

Application Awareness

Modern malware is designed to evade signature detection, so NGFWs must incorporate advanced techniques like sandbox analysis to rapidly identify new and evolving cyberattack campaigns. These capabilities are essential to the security of networks, allowing NGFWs to respond immediately to threats and prevent breaches and cyberattacks. NGFWs also offer enhanced visibility into network traffic through deep packet inspection (DPI). While standard firewalls inspect packet headers, DPI examines the entire packet—including the contents, which can reveal many malicious behaviors. This allows administrators to classify applications in real-time and create tailored security policies based on these apps. This allows businesses to prioritize applications, allocate resources efficiently, and ensure compliance with network policies. While traditional firewalls operate on a deny-all model, NGFWs allow, block, or limit applications based on predetermined rules set forth by the network owner. This granular level of control ensures that employees can access only the necessary programs while preventing hackers and malware programs from gaining entry to the organization. The performance demands of modern security tools require a new generation of firewalls that are more than point devices. Unfortunately, most NGFWs are cobbled together from separate security technologies, which makes them inefficient and resource-intensive. To perform their best, they must be able to handle multiple functions simultaneously—deep packet inspection post-decryption, sandboxing, and threat correlation, among others—all while keeping up with high network traffic volumes.


Many modern businesses require an NGFW that goes beyond traditional packet filtering and NAT, incorporating advanced security features like application firewalls, deep packet inspection (DPI), and intrusion prevention systems (IPS). These capabilities allow an NGFW to monitor incoming and outgoing data, effectively detecting unauthorized transfers outside the network perimeter. Sandboxing is essential to address the need for an NGFW to protect both known and unknown threats. This functionality allows an NGFW to execute programs in a controlled environment, preventing malicious activities from escaping the sandbox and tampering with the network. In a sandbox, programs are given their resources, preventing them from accessing other software or the system hardware. Using the sandbox to test programs, an in-house cybersecurity team or external partners can study the behavior of a potential threat and determine its intent. In addition to the performance-intensive sandboxing capabilities of an NGFW, it is critical that the system can also correlate threat intelligence from multiple sources and ingest new information into its security functions at a high speed. This functionality is essential to ensure that an NGFW can respond to a wide range of threats without manual intervention. This includes detecting zero-day attacks through DPI, IPS, and anti-malware functions.

Threat Intelligence Integration

An NGFW should integrate intrusion prevention, anti-malware capabilities, and sandboxing to detect advanced threats proactively. It should also offer scalable upgrade pathways that enable direct correlation of threat intelligence across platforms, empowering the firewall to rapidly respond to known and zero-day attacks, safeguarding the network from malicious activities. Integrated application awareness enables granular control over applications, surpassing traditional port and protocol-based security. It uses application-level identification to filter traffic, allowing complex rule-setting for network access. Unlike a stateful firewall that processes packets module by module with low performance, NGFWs utilize parallel processing to deliver higher speed and better protection. The IPS integration feature expands an NGFW’s ability to identify and block network-based exploits by overcoming encryption to hide malware downloads, command and control activity, and other malicious activities. It enables decryption at high-performance levels, deep inspection post-decryption, detection of malicious URLs, detection of the download of malware and other suspicious files, and threat correlation. The threat intelligence integration function allows the NGFW to collect and process raw data from internal sources like network event logs and records of past incident responses, as well as external sources on the dark web, technical blogs, and social media. It can then feed that data to Security Information and Event Management solutions, endpoints, intrusion prevention systems (IPSs), and other security systems to detect, verify, investigate, and prioritize threats.