How NGFW Capabilities Can Strengthen Your Cybersecurity Infrastructure

With modern threats that hide within genuine-looking network traffic, a granular inspection of the data flow is needed. But inspecting and decrypting network traffic at a high-performance level is CPU-intensive and can bring most firewalls to their knees.

NGFWs have the potential to resolve these challenges with integrated capabilities that operate at Layers 4-7 of the OSI network stack. These include:

Integrated Network Intrusion Prevention

The primary function of any firewall is to protect a network from unwanted or malicious traffic entering and exiting the system. Traditional firewalls analyze traffic only on Layer 2 and the Transport layers of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model. However, more sophisticated hacking attacks have found ways to hide within legitimate-looking network traffic and sneak past conventional security methods. One of the NGFW capabilities is that it can provide a more comprehensive layer of protection by analyzing traffic from layers 2 to 7 to enhance online security firmware and prevent dangerous and unknown applications from gaining access.

Additionally, NGFWs are more living systems than their traditional counterparts, regularly receiving intelligence updates to recognize and block new attack types. This feature gives the firewall context in its decision-making process, allowing it to quickly recognize and prevent sophisticated threats before they can wreak havoc on your internal network perimeter.

These capabilities can strengthen your cybersecurity infrastructure to better protect against Advanced Persistent Threats, malware, ransomware, and zero-day exploits, which are common among businesses of all sizes. Plus, fully managed, cloud-based NGFW or UTM (part of our Versa SASE product portfolio) is more cost-efficient than deploying multiple hardware appliances and manually updating them to stay current on the latest hacking techniques. For more information on how an NGFW can help you secure your physical or virtual network, contact us today to talk with one of our security experts.

Deep Packet Inspection

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Almost everything we do online comes in digital packages of data called packets. Emails, messages sent through applications, web browsing, and video conversations fall into this category. Traditional firewalls rely on simple packet filtering to detect threats and block them from entering a network. This approach must be revised to address emerging cyber threats’ number, complexity, and frequency.

NGFWs use deeper packet inspection (DPI) to detect more complex hacking attempts. DPI examines each packet’s payload and header for malware signatures and other suspicious content. It also identifies what application is sending the packet and compares that against a list of approved applications.

If a packet is deemed part of a prohibited application, the DPI can root it out with extreme precision. The system can then either alert a network administrator or reroute the packet. For example, an NGFW can prioritize higher-priority, mission-critical packets to ensure they get through the network ahead of normal browsing or other low-priority traffic.

This granularity of DPI also makes it possible to control specific applications on the network, a feature that would be impossible using traditional firewall technology. For example, an NGFW can automatically limit how much data a network user can transfer to external devices, such as USB sticks.

Application Awareness and Control

Unlike traditional firewalls, which limit security rules to inspecting the packets of data and whether they are part of a legitimate network connection, NGFWs can analyze data on a deeper level. They can inspect traffic at layers 4-7 of the OSI model, which allows them to catch attacks hidden in normal-seeming applications.

When examining a piece of data, an NGFW can analyze the header information and payload against pre-defined application signatures to determine what type of application it is. This gives NGFWs the ability to block rogue or unapproved applications, and it also provides context for security policies. For example, a particular type of traffic is often associated with Internet of Things (IoT) devices. In that case, an NGFW can look for common threats in these devices and block access outside the corporate WAN.

Businesses rely on various third-party productivity applications, but some may be risky or contain vulnerabilities that could threaten the organization’s internal systems. NGFW flexibility makes it easier to monitor and secure remote employees’ use of these applications by using granular policies that can identify, block or limit the usage of these applications.

Behavioral Analysis

A firewall is a key component of any enterprise security infrastructure, protecting devices from threats that can infiltrate and breach networks. However, today’s cyber threat landscape requires more robust threat protection to thwart advanced persistent threats (APTs).

Unlike traditional firewalls, NGFWs can operate at Layer 7—the network protocol stack application layer—which allows them to identify and control application traffic and detect malware attacks. This enables them to block a greater range of threats and bolsters their ability to implement zero-trust policies.

The behavioral analysis uses unsupervised machine learning to analyze raw data and detect anomalies from normal patterns, thus preventing potentially malicious attacks. This feature is also useful for monitoring internal users’ behavior to ensure they follow company policy. An additional capability of NGFWs is Remote Browser Isolation, which prevents hackers from stealing confidential data by ensuring that website code never reaches the end user’s device.

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