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Traditional Firewalls vs. Next Gen Firewalls – What’s the Difference?

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Firewalls are a standard security tool for the majority of companies, but in today’s changing threat landscape, next generation firewalls are the only firewalls that can provide comprehensive protection.

A firewall is a tool that was originally designed to prevent unauthorized access to computer equipment. The first generation of firewalls was very basic and only offered the bare minimum in terms of network security. The next generation, however, is completely different than its predecessor. This type of firewall offers total-defense against today’s cyber threats including viruses, hackers, spyware, ransomware and more. 

The features of the next generation include IP-based access control lists which can be dynamically updated, continuous network traffic analysis to identify exploits and vulnerabilities, Wi-Fi detection with automated RF signal strength detection to detect rogue clients, stateful inspection firewalls with application intelligence for transparent scanning and monitoring of TCP packets at high speed with no packet loss.

The next generation firewall is based on the idea that every device and network should have its own firewall, marking a more granular and nuanced approach to security at the individual level while still being able to provide network-wide protection.

Let’s compare the two:

Traditional Firewall vs. NextGen Firewall – The Basics

Next generation firewalls are a more sophisticated version of the conventional firewall with improved capabilities. NGFWs, like traditional firewalls, utilize both static and dynamic packet filtering and VPN support to ensure that all network, internet, and firewall connections are valid and secure. Both firewall types should be able to translate network and port addresses in order to map IP’s.

Traditional firewalls and next-generation firewalls, on the other hand, have several distinctions. The most apparent distinction between the two is that an NGFW may inspect traffic based on the application using it.

A NGFW has a high degree of control and insight over programs that it can identify through analysis and signature matching. Whitelists or a signature-based detection approach may be used to differentiate between safe apps and undesirable ones, after which they are identified using SSL decryption. Unlike most traditional firewalls, NGFWs can also receive updates, making them last longer in terms of their useful life than the prior versions.

What are the key differences between the two firewalls, and which one should you invest in for your business?

NGFW = More protection

When comparing the two versions, the next generation model offers more protection than its predecessor. This sort of firewall may be used to protect a variety of devices, including computers and mobile phones. NGFWs are capable of preventing malware from entering a network in the first place, which is something that basic firewalls can’t do.

They are better equipped to address Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) which are programs that fly under the radar, silently syphoning off information or computing resources to promote endeavors like crypto mining.

More protection comes with more cost

The downside to a next generation firewall is that it can be costly to implement, which may make it difficult for small businesses to afford. If you are looking for protection against viruses, hackers, spyware, ransomware and more, then this is the best option. If you can’t afford this type of firewall, or don’t need the extra protection then the traditional type is still a good option. However, it will not protect your business against the range of cyber threats like its successor does.

The traditional firewall is designed to filter out unauthorized access that could potentially be harmful to your equipment. It offers protection from hackers and viruses but not much else. If you are looking for just simple protection against these things then the traditional type would probably work best for you. This type of firewall is also very cost effective, which make it ideal for small businesses. 

But cost is relative

NGFWs can still be an overall low-cost option for companies looking to improve their basic security because they can incorporate the work of antiviruses, firewalls, and other security applications into one solution. 

Next generation firewalls provide better user control

At a minimum, a security policy rule of a network firewall says a connection from Source A to Destination B is permitted or denied. In a traditional firewall, the source and destination are typically defined as an IP address assigned to a laptop or a larger network address that includes multiple users and servers. Humans find this static address policy definition hard to read, and it does not work well for users with different IP addresses as they move throughout the company and while working offsite.

The next generation network firewall vendors aim to tackle this problem by connecting with third-party user directories like Microsoft Active Directory. Identity-based policy gives detailed insight and control of users, groups, and machines, and it’s simpler to manage than static IP-based policy.

Administrators set up the objects in a single, integrated console only once. The IP is mapped to the user and group when a connection is established for the first time, using a third-party user directory query. This dynamic user-to-IP mapping saves administrators from having to update security policy on a regular basis.

How do Next Generation Firewalls enforce Threat Prevention?

Next-gen firewalls can provide threat prevention features as an extension of their deep packet inspection capabilities. They also examine the traffic as it goes through the firewall device for known exploits of present flaws. To detect malicious behavior, files may be transported off-device and tested in a virtual sandbox (this is known as sandbox security).

What’s next for Next Generation Firewalls?

It’s a continual evolution.  And marketers always like to try be the first to capture new ground.  So Next Generation Firewalls and transitioning to what’s called a “Network Firewall“ by Gartner. 

Network Firewalls provide real-time threat intelligence along with additional security functions across the data center, cloud, mobile, endpoint, and IoT.  Really, it’s just an evolution to add more intel and more granular features to what a firewall does.

A firewall is an essential component of any organization’s security architecture that can help protect sensitive data, meet compliance requirements, and guide organizations towards achieving digital transformation.

The Importance of Using a Next generation Firewall

Threats to personal devices and larger networks are changing every day. The flexibility of a NGFW means it can protect devices and your company from a much broader spectrum of intrusions. Although these firewalls are not the right solution for every business, you should carefully consider the benefits that a NGFW can provide, as they have a very large upside in most applications.