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NGFW vs. Traditional Firewall: What's the Difference?

Posted on Dec 21, 2023 by
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The choice between a next-generation firewall and a traditional firewall is crucial for enterprises looking to defend their networks. The distinction between these two types of firewalls lies in their capabilities, as they respond to the escalating sophistication of cyber threats. Traditionally, firewalls have been the steadfast guardians of network security, but with the introduction of specific technology, a new era of enhanced capabilities and functions has developed.

Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW)

NGFW is specifically engineered to combat advanced security threats at the application level through intelligent, context-aware security features. It integrates traditional firewall functions like packet filtering and stateful inspection with additional capabilities to enhance decision-making regarding permitted traffic.

Distinguishing itself, an next-generation firewall possesses the capacity to filter packets based on applications and thoroughly examine the content within packets, extending its reach to layer 7 (the application layer) in the OSI model. This marks a significant advancement compared to earlier firewall technologies, which were confined to operating solely up to layer 4 (the transport layer). As attacks targeting layers 4–7 of the OSI model become more prevalent, the NGFW's ability to address threats at these higher layers becomes increasingly crucial.

The diagram below will illustrate the deployment of next-generation firewall in the network.

Traditional Firewall

Compared to an next-generation firewall, a conventional firewall has restricted functionalities. It scrutinizes incoming and outgoing network traffic, focusing on packet state, source/destination IP address, port number, and protocol. If there is a match with prohibited IP addresses, ports, or protocols, the firewall triggers an alert, essentially governing packet flow in one or both directions.

NGFW vs. Traditional Firewall: Feature Comparison

Parameter
Traditional Firewall
NGFW
Stateful or stateless inspection
A firewall examines each packet individually utilizing static information such as source and destination in stateless inspection. Stateful firewalls, on the other hand, examine the entire context of the network connection, providing greater security
Conduct stateful packet inspections, but take it one step furtner
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
Allow access to VPNs to keep the private network secure when using the internet
Allow access to VPNs to keep the private network secure when using the internet
Working Layer
Work from Layer 1 to Layer 4
Work through Layers 2 to Layer 7
Threat Intelligence
Work on the basis of rules set by the administrator, and thus do not have threat intelligence
Their database of dangerous software and threats is constantly being learned and updated, offering increased security whenever a new threat attempts to breach the system
Packet Filtering
Packet filtering in a typical firewall allows an administrator to evaluate both incoming and outgoing packets before they are permitted to transit across the network
Packet filtering (DPI) examines the contents of each packet, including its source, as opposed to ordinary packet filtering, which simply analyzes the packet's header
Application awareness
Not supported
Possess application awareness and enables organisations to set application-specific rules
Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)
Not supported
Support IPSs, which are capable of actively blocking intrusions and blacklisting all future traffic from a malicious source
Reporting
Only provide standard reports
Offer organisations to pull customised reports with near real-time detail and plenty of reporting options
 

While traditional firewall may provide basic protection to your network systems, the particularities and sensitive nature of running a business require deeper protection, one only a next-gen firewall can provide. Your customers need to know they can trust you with their data, and even a single, minor data breach can make them lose their trust in your business. Most cybercriminals target small businesses precisely because of a lack of appropriate security measures, and because they are aware of how easy it will be to penetrate the system.

Conclusion

In summary, firewall serves as the primary defense for your network, making them indispensable for ensuring security. However, selecting the right firewall solution is a complex task due to the diverse range of firewall types available today. The traditional firewall solution represents a relatively straightforward firewall that focuses solely on inspecting headers. In contrast, NGFW solution is more sophisticated, offering advanced features and comprehensive protection to address the evolving landscape of cyber threats. Make an informed decision to secure your network with the best firewall solution for your security needs.

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