Unlike traditional firewalls that inspect and filter data at a basic level, NGFWs scrutinize the content of packets at higher-order TCIP/IP communication layers like the application layer (layer 7 of the OSI model). This provides granular policy enforcement based on applications and their characteristics rather than on ports and protocols.
Deep Packet Inspection (DPI)
Deep packet inspection (DPI) is a powerful feature used in next-generation firewalls that police traffic in and out of networks. Unlike traditional firewalls that use simple packet filtering to scan and block illegitimate network traffic based on ports, protocols, and source or destination IP addresses, DPI goes a step further by inspecting the content of each incoming and outgoing packet.
This deeper level of analysis is vital for detecting and preventing advanced threats typically hidden within packet payloads. For example, DPI can see buffer overflow attacks and other types of malware by looking at underlying code. This method also helps ensure that all applications adhere to their claimed protocol, preventing security breaches.
Another way DPI identifies malicious activity is by comparing the packet data against a database of known patterns or signatures. This technique is valuable for detecting certain types of known threats, but it requires frequent signature updates to remain effective.
DPI can also help classify network traffic at the application layer, allowing enterprises to prioritize or limit access to specific applications or services. This is important for ensuring that business-critical applications are not being overloaded and provides granular degrees of control to meet the needs of modern businesses, especially those that need to adhere to strict regulatory guidelines.
Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)
Most firewalls can inspect data packets and determine whether they should be allowed to pass through. However, next-generation firewalls take this further through deep packet inspection (DPI). DPI allows the system to examine the content of a packet rather than just its IP header information. In addition, the next generation firewall can identify and block malicious traffic that other security solutions can’t.
Anomaly-based detection: Many IPS systems maintain a database of known attack patterns called signatures, which they look for in data packets. When a data packet matches a signature, the IPS detects it as a potential threat and takes action accordingly. This could involve blocking users, resetting network connections, or even terminating the connection altogether.
Application awareness: NGFWs can understand applications more granularly than just port and protocol, which allows them to enforce specific policies for those particular application behaviors. This can prevent malware from avoiding detection by using non-standard ports to bypass the firewall.
Simplified management: Most NGFWs provide unified management platforms that allow IT teams to monitor, configure, and update their security policies from a single interface. This streamlines security management, reduces complexity and improves efficiency.
Many NGFWs can also inspect SSL/TLS encrypted data traffic, enabling them to identify potential threats hiding in encrypted packets that may otherwise bypass traditional security measures. This feature allows organizations to proactively apply additional security measures like sandboxing and machine learning to stop unknown threats.
Application-level protection is an essential feature of NGFWs that goes beyond standard stateful inspection by providing granular context about what is running on the network and what rules are applicable. This enables organizations to enforce fine control over applications and limit bandwidth for risky ones. It also helps protect against threats not based on ports, protocols, or IP addresses, which are common in many hacking attempts.
NGFWs can analyze traffic at higher-order OSI communication layers, such as layer 7, to identify what type of data the packets contain. This allows granular rules to be applied, such as blocking or allowing, based on the context of what is being used, which can be much more effective than protection based solely on ports, protocols, and IP addresses. This is a crucial capability of NGFWs and a component of DPI.
Some NGFWs can integrate with other security systems, such as intrusion detection and prevention systems, security information and event management (SIEM) systems, and endpoint protection platforms to offer comprehensive protection against advanced cyber attacks. They may also be able to communicate with external threat intelligence networks to keep up with current attack trends.
To make NGFWs more effective, it is essential to provide them with complete network visibility and to implement proper and rigorous rule management practices. In addition, it is necessary to train employees on how to recognize and avoid phishing emails and suspicious downloads, as well as how to report suspicious activities to their IT departments.
Unlike traditional firewalls, which filter packets based on port and protocol information, next-gen firewalls analyze data at several OSI model layers, including the application layer (layer 7), where many modern attacks occur. This advanced capability is an essential feature that helps NGFWs detect and block various new threats without signature-based detection.
Behavioral analysis is another critical security capability some NGFWs offer that provides additional protection against malware and other cyber attacks. It is similar to an airline X-ray machine that checks for dangerous items in luggage, and it can spot unauthorized devices on the network or detect malware trying to enter your system, even if the attack is entirely unknown.
As a result, some NGFWs incorporate threat intelligence to recognize and automatically update security policies in real-time. This is particularly important for IPS-based solutions because attack techniques and malware strains are constantly changing, and this helps prevent old signatures from being used by attackers.
The ML-powered next-generation firewalls from Palo Alto Networks use machine learning to see everything, identify all the different ways your network is attacked, and then take a proactive approach to prevent those attacks before they happen. This helps eliminate manual configuration errors and improves the speed at which the NGFW can respond to