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3 Key Features of a Next-Generation Firewall

A next-generation firewall protects your company network with advanced capabilities, extending beyond the traditional firewall.  

Before we get into the features of a next-generation firewall, let’s review what a next-generation firewall is and how it compares to a traditional one.

Table of Contents

Next-Generation vs. Traditional Firewalls

While traditional firewalls can work to detect suspicious traffic and block network access based on a predefined blacklist, the next-generation firewall includes additional features; detecting and blocking more sophisticated attacks – through the implementation of network security protections at the protocol, port, and application levels. 

The common functionalities present in a traditional firewall (such as state inspection, a virtual private network, and packet filtering) are also included in a next-generation firewall. However, next-generation firewalls are more capable of detecting application-specific attacks, preventing more malicious intrusions since they do a full-packet inspection by checking the signatures and payload of packets for any anomalies or malware.  

In that way, a next-gen firewall is much more capable of protecting your business network from a wide range of threats.

Why Do You Need a Next-Generation Firewall?

Today’s threat landscape consists of more sophisticated cyberattacks which are organized, automated campaigns that target multiple attack vectors using techniques to gain access to business IT environments. 

Blocking such attacks as these (at the network perimeter) is essential to minimize any potential risk to your business’ network. Traditional firewalls just will not cut it, as they lack much of the in-depth visibility to identify and prevent these more advanced attack methods.  

The differentiating features of next-generation firewalls can create unique benefits for your business’s network security.  

One feature is that next-gen firewalls can block malware, unlike traditional firewalls. Incorporating antivirus, application awareness, inspection services, protection systems, and several other security applications into one solution makes a next-gen firewall a perfect cost-effective solution to improve your business security posture.

Key Features of a Next-Generation Firewall

1. Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)

Intrusion prevention systems (or IPS) are designed to monitor your business’ network to identify malicious events, then take the proper action to prevent them. The IPS can send an alarm to an administrator, drop the data packets, block the traffic, or (if needed) reset the connection altogether.  

Attackers use encrypted traffic to conceal their malicious activity. To prevent such attacks, it’s important to select a solution for your business that includes integration with an external threat intelligence network.

A next-gen firewall uses machine learning-based threat intelligence to detect threats to keep your network better protected. 

2. Content Inspection and Identification

Next-gen firewalls can display all activity across hosts, networks, devices, and users, including active applications, websites visited, as well as connections and files sent between different devices. This detailed level of monitoring allows your business to prevent malicious behavior and achieve better threat detection by utilizing the Zero-Trust method. 

A good firewall solution will inspect and identify threats rapidly in real time, providing alerts that allow for swift threat management and elimination.

The next-gen firewall will work to identify and inspect the content of each data packet as it moves throughout your business’ network, providing protection from newer attacks that can often take root at differing levels.

3. Policy Controls

Next-gen firewalls allow your business to set up and control policies at a granular level, for users, groups of users, applications, and more, to provide policies tailor-fit for any use case. Your business can choose which users can access which applications, and in even more depth, which parts of the application they can access, on an as-needed basis. 

Network traffic can be filtered according to the application (as opposed to just port or protocol) when a next-gen firewall is in use. The firewall could be set to block all traffic from a specific application or even control application access in greater detail.

By actively monitoring which applications (and users) are bringing traffic to your business’ network, the next-gen firewall has an innate ability to analyze traffic to increase overall visibility.