What are next-generation firewalls? Why do they matter for enterprise cybersecurity and endpoint security in particular?
We occasionally define and describe the critical capabilities of business endpoint security. This is not an idle activity; enterprise IT decision-makers must understand the vast variety of solutions and their offerings to make the best choice. Therefore, understanding the individual capabilities of the average solution is essential.
Thus we turn to next-generation firewalls, possibly one of the most misunderstood components of an endpoint protection platform. But what exactly does a next-generation firewall actually do?
What are Next-Generation Firewalls?
Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) refer to the third generation of this kind of technology, and also a unique combination of technologies.
On the one hand, next-generation firewalls act as traditional firewalls; it operates to monitor traffic between a trusted network (i.e. yours) and an untrusted network like the Internet. Therefore, it works to prevent both malicious and unnecessary network traffic. Firewalls can prevent malicious Internet software from uploading to your network. Additionally, it can also block traffic to and from specified network locations like ports and applications.
Critically, it does this bidirectionally, monitoring both incoming and outgoing traffic. This helps prevent sensitive data from leaving the network via Data Loss Prevention and helps facilitate virtual private networks (VPNs).
Where next-generation firewalls differ from their legacy counterparts is scope. First, in addition to its legacy capabilities, NGFWs also boast other network device filtering and monitoring tools. These include deep-packet inspection and intrusion prevention systems. Moreover, NGFWs also entail third-party identity management integration tools, antivirus inspection, encrypted traffic analysis, and website filtering.
Also, what makes these firewalls next-generation involves deployment options. Legacy firewalls almost exclusively operated via on-premises deployments. However, NGFWs utilize and facilitate cloud and hybrid deployments. As such, it can help secure cloud databases and applications, and secure diverse use cases like small businesses.
Why Do NGFWs Matter?
First, next-generation firewalls are vital in maintaining a Zero Trust Network Access model. Zero Trust dictates that no program or user should receive any leniency during verification. Next trust, always verify. Everything must undergo the process to ensure that hackers do not infiltrate your business through recognized programs.
Additionally, NGFWs are an essential component for securing the cloud. The COVID-19 pandemic and the sudden move to mass work-from-home policies accelerated many plans for cloud migration. Taking the steps to secure these new cloud resources should be of the highest priority for organizations of any size.
Finally, we need to consider the dangers of malware, especially ransomware. While sometimes overshadowed by identity-based threats, ransomware, in particular, can cause serious damage to a business’ reputation and bottom line. The theft of critical data and the resulting IT downtime often results in chaos, confusion, and more than a few compliance fines.
Some experts argue that the digital perimeter no longer exists, or perhaps that identity now constitutes the digital perimeter. Yet you must protect your endpoints and network traffic ports as well. After all, hackers don’t care how they break into your IT environment. They just want in.
You can learn more in our Endpoint Security Buyer’s Guide.
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