Security Awareness: What a Next-Generation Firewall Must Do

Today’s networks demand a lot of performance from security tools. These include web application firewalls, IPS, advanced threat protection and sandboxing. These tools also require constant updates to detect new and undetected malware threats. It is called security awareness, and it is the foundation of an NGFW. It includes a world-class threat intelligence organization that feeds new information to the security features of an NGFW.


An NGFW’s visibility into application-layer traffic and various users on your network allows it to enforce granular zero-trust access controls. In addition, most NGFWs offer a full range of integrated security solutions that work together to detect and prevent modern threats. It includes a built-in intrusion prevention system (IPS) that goes beyond traditional firewall capabilities. The IPS analyzes each packet of traffic to determine whether or not it’s a threat, then uses that intelligence to prevent the packet from being delivered. This feature dramatically expands an NGFW’s ability to protect your enterprise from modern threats.

Moreover, an NGFW can inspect encrypted traffic by decrypting and analyzing it. This capability enables your NGFW to identify and block the types of threats that traditional firewalls can’t, including command and control traffic that hackers use to distribute ransomware and other malware. Because of their vastly expanded capabilities, NGFWs demand more system resources than traditional firewalls and can slow down network performance if you don’t carefully configure them. To maximize their value and ensure your network can handle them, select an NGFW application control that offers a comprehensive ecosystem of hardware and software components that you can combine to form a secure zero-trust perimeter. 


While traditional firewalls rely on filtering by attributes such as source and destination IPs, protocols and ports, an NGFW can also inspect the contents of data packets, determining whether they align with your security policies. This level of inspection allows the NGFW to block malicious content while protecting against advanced attacks that exploit flaws in the network’s infrastructure. An NGFW can perform this deep-packet inspection in routed and transparent modes. It helps protect against threats aimed at evasion tactics that bypass or avoid firewalls through tunneling and encrypted VPN traffic. It can even detect and block complex hacking attempts by assessing the context of the attack. This context-based protection is made possible by an NGFW’s built-in functionality to constantly receive updates from external intelligence sources and other threat data networks.

In addition to securing your network against sophisticated attacks, an NGFW can deliver enhanced application visibility by filtering to layer 7 of the OSI model. It is an important capability for securing DevOps tools such as load balancing, as it allows you to understand the exact workload that’s being transferred—unlike the more simplistic approach of using pings for server health checks that can lead to false positives and disrupt real users.


An NGFW must be a living system that constantly updates itself to thwart new types of attacks. It must be able to detect the presence of a wide range of protocols, using stateful protocol analysis detection and other methods that take context into account so that hacking attempts can be blocked before they can wreak havoc. An NGFW should also be able to receive intelligence reports from external threat intelligence networks to be alerted of emerging attack types and prevent them from gaining access to corporate data centers.

Unlike traditional firewalls, which track packets up to Layer 4, NGFWs inspect traffic to the application layer. It means that app-level threats are stopped before they can breach network parameters and get to internal systems to wreak havoc on critical business applications and steal sensitive data.

Moreover, an NGFW must be able to work with the other network security technologies in an organization’s infrastructure. For example, an NGFW should support full SSL decryption to monitor encrypted communication in the network and protect against threats rooted in that traffic. Lastly, an NGFW must be able to scale to meet the company’s current and future data demands. It might involve integrating with SD-WAN or offering options for upgrading the hardware to handle increasing performance requirements.


Many businesses rely on NGFW capabilities like VPN, secure remote access and intrusion protection. Some will also employ sandboxing, advanced malware detection and global threat prevention technologies. These features, plus the option to integrate with a managed security service that looks at motives, targets and attack behavior to give context, indicators and implications, set an NGFW apart from traditional firewalls. NGFWs improve on packet filtering by doing deep packet inspection, which examines more than just the header of each network packet to see where it’s coming from and going. It can determine whether it’s a threat by comparing the packet body with known malicious attacks and other types of abnormal activity.

A comprehensive NGFW also analyzes application traffic, allowing or blocking it based on preset rules and policies. This capability helps businesses protect data on a need-to-know basis, enforce zero-trust strategies and achieve compliance with various standards. NGFWs can also use machine learning and other automation to be more autonomous solutions, adjusting security policies without human intervention. It can help ensure they’re constantly updated with the latest threats and changes in the landscape. It helps them to keep pace with new and emerging cyberattacks before they become a problem for the business. The vastly increased capabilities of NGFWs naturally demand more system resources and network bandwidth, so it’s important to choose one that can meet the needs of the business and integrate well with existing platforms.