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What is a Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW)?

Firewalls are essential components of any organization because they protect valuable assets against cyber attacks. Even if your company isn't classified as high-risk and is small, there's a good chance you'll be a victim of a cyberattack. And, firewalls are virtual barriers that protect your network from these attacks.

Next Generation Firewalls (NGFW) are enhanced versions of standard firewalls that include features such as in-line deep packet inspection, intrusion detection, website filtering, and more.

They not only identify but also completely block malicious packets before they enter your network. NGFWs can detect and combat attacks across the entire network in real-time. As cyber-attacks become more sophisticated, Next Generation Firewalls will remain critical components of any organization's security solution.

In this article we will cover the following topics briefly:

  • What is the meaning of next-generation firewalls?
  • What Does a Next Generation Firewall Do?
  • What Should Be Considered in the Next Generation Firewall?
  • What is the Importance of NGFW?
  • What is the Benefit of a Next Generation Firewall?
  • What is the Difference Between NGFW and Traditional Firewall?
  • What is the Difference Between NGFW and WAF?
  • What is the Best Next-Generation Firewall?
  • How Does Next-Gen Firewall Protect From Malware?
  • What is NGFWs Inspecting Traffic Across Layers?

What is the Meaning of Next-Generation Firewall?#

A next-generation firewall (NGFW) is a network security solution that goes beyond the capabilities of a traditional, stateful firewall. In most cases, a traditional firewall allows stateful inspection of incoming and outgoing network packets. It allows or denies network traffic based on the source/destination IP address, port number, and protocol. It also filters traffic based on predefined policy rules and offers a virtual private network.

A next-generation firewall, on the other hand, includes features like deep packet inspection, application control, web content filtering, intrusion prevention, and cloud-delivered threat intelligence.

Next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) have extensive control and visibility over the applications that they can identify via analysis and signature matching. They may employ whitelists or a signature-based intrusion prevention system to distinguish between safe and malicious applications, which are identified via SSL decryption. In addition, unlike most of the traditional firewalls, NGFWs have a path for receiving future updates.

Next-generation firewalls are now being deployed:

  • as an external firewall on-premises at the edge of enterprises and branch offices
  • as an internal firewall on-premises
  • in private clouds, e.g. Cisco ACI, VMware, Proxmox VE.
  • in public clouds, such as Google Cloud Platform, Amazon (AWS), Microsoft Azure.

Since cybercriminals are also targeting home users, building a next-generation firewall for home use is becoming widespread around the world. If you are interested in how to build an NGFW for a home network, you may read the article written by Sunny Valley Networks.

What Does a Next-Generation Firewall Do?#

Gartner defines an NGFW as:

a wire-speed integrated network platform that performs deep inspection of traffic and blocking of attacks.

According to Gartner, an NGFW should provide at the very least:

  • Standard first-generation firewall capabilities, e.g., network address translation (NAT), stateful protocol inspection (SPI), and virtual private networking (VPN), etc.
  • Non-disruptive in-line bump-in-the-wire configuration
  • SSL decryption for the detection of suspicious encrypted applications
  • Signature-based IPS engine
  • Application awareness, full-stack visibility, and granular control.
  • The ability to incorporate data from outside the firewall, such as white lists, blacklists, directory-based policy, etc.
  • Upgrade path to include future security threats and information feeds
  • SSL decryption to enable identifying undesirable encrypted applications

Next-Generation Firewall Capabilities

Figure 1. Next-Generation Firewall Capabilities

A next-generation firewall also includes the following features:

  • Dynamic routing
  • Strong central management
  • Third-party vendor integration
  • Well-defined APIs
  • Inline deep-packet inspection
  • Website filtering
  • Bandwidth management
  • Antivirus inspection
  • Identity management integration
  • Advanced malware detection (sandbox security)
  • Intelligence feed leveraging
  • Application and user control

What Should Be Considered in the Next Generation Firewall?#

The following capabilities are found in a powerful and effective next-generation firewall:

  • It has the ability to detect cyber threats quickly. It is capable of defining attacks in seconds and detecting data breaches in minutes.
  • It should have a number of deployment options as well as a flexible management system. It should be deployed on-premises or in the cloud, in virtual environments, or on bare metal. It should also be able to support a wide range of throughput speeds.
  • It should provide comprehensive network visibility by reporting active applications and websites, the location and timing of a threat, and threat activity across users, devices, and networks.
  • A powerful next-generation firewall should also have advanced detection capabilities to quickly detect advanced malware.
  • It should be able to stop cyber threats before they enter the network, have the most up-to-date intelligence to stop new threats, and have web filtering capabilities to enforce policies on hundreds of millions of URLs.

What is the Importance of NGFW?#

The advancement of technology in all aspects of our lives raises the corresponding level of threat. As new technology emerges, vulnerabilities are often overlooked, and it takes a hacker to expose them. Traditional firewalls were not prepared for the new frontier of applications. As a result, 80 percent of new malware attempts exploit those flaws to gain entry.

Every day, 80,000 people are victimized by email spoofing, and businesses lose billions of dollars as a result of these simple cyberattacks. [DDoS[(/docs/network-security-tutorials/itsec#ddos-attacks) (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks increased nearly 10 times in 2019 by exploiting vulnerabilities in ports and protocols. Aside from that, applications are becoming increasingly common for business efficiency, but they are extremely vulnerable to cyber threats.

The primary benefit of using a next-generation firewall is the unrivaled protection it provides. Cyber threats are becoming more common by the day, and neither home nor corporate networks are protected from external attacks. As a result, it is critical for every organization to have next-generation firewalls in place to protect them from all types of attacks.

A next-generation firewall not only protects the devices from a broader range of intrusions but is also reasonably priced. It aids networks in breach prevention and advanced protection. It also gives them a high level of comprehensive network visibility, as well as a variety of flexible management and deployment options.

Next-generation firewall features detect potential threats in a matter of seconds, as opposed to other mediums. As a result, the protection provided by the next-generation firewall is more advanced, and no organization is safe without them nowadays.

What is the Benefit of a Next-Generation Firewall?#

NGFWs provide numerous advantages for all types of organization networks, including enterprise, small business, and even home networks. The benefits of a next-generation firewall are detailed below.

Increased Productivity: The main advantage of using an NGFW is to securely enable the use of Internet applications. So that it provides users to be more productive while blocking less desirable applications. Next-generation firewalls accomplish this by using deep packet inspection to identify and control applications regardless of their IP port.

Multifunctionality: NGFWs are multifunctional security solutions on a single platform. Next-generation firewalls include integrated intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion protection systems (IPS) that detect attacks based on traffic behavioral analysis, threat signatures, or anomalous activity, in addition to all of the functionalities of traditional firewalls. This functionality aids in performing deeper network traffic inspection and improving packet-content filtering up to the application layer.

Visibility and Manageability: NGFWs provide greater visibility into the applications and network. NGFW helps administrators to see what's going on from the internal network to the external network or vice versa. Also, they can identify the clients who visit the malicious websites or download malicious code, and what the name of the code is, and from which country. This is addressed by the integration of NGFWs with third-party user directories such as Microsoft Active Directory. The dynamic, identity-based policy provides more granular visibility and control over users and groups than static IP-based policy and is easier to manage. Administrators define the objects only once in a single unified console. When network firewalls detect a new connection, the IP address is mapped to the user and group by querying a third-party user directory. This dynamic user-to-IP mapping relieves administrators of the need to constantly update the security policy.

Content Filtering: Another advantage of NGFW is content filtering which is very useful for preventing data leakage and stopping cyber threats with detailed and real-time packet inspection. Content filtering capabilities include URL filtering, threat prevention, and data filtering.

Threat Prevention and Mitigation: Next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) include antivirus and malware protection that is automatically updated whenever new threats are realized. The NGFW device also reduces attack vectors by restricting the applications that run on it.

It also inspects all accepted applications for any hidden security flaws or confidential data breaches, as well as risks posed by unknown applications. This aims to minimize bandwidth usage from unnecessary traffic.

Advanced Policy Control: An application that may be harmful to one organization may be beneficial to another. NGFWs enable granular levels of control, allowing appropriate employees access to the positive aspects of an application while blocking all access to the negative aspects.

Low Cost: Because they can combine the capabilities of firewalls, antiviruses, web filters, and other security applications into a single solution, NGFWs can also be a low-cost option for businesses trying to enhance their infrastructure security.

What is the Difference Between NGFW and Traditional Firewall?#

A traditional firewall is a first-generation firewall technology that aims to protect networks through various methods such as stateful inspection, packet filtering, a virtual private network(VPN) support, and more. The next-generation firewall has these features as well.

A Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) differs significantly from a traditional firewall's packet inspection/anti-malware methodology. In basic terms, a next-generation firewall (NGFW) employs deep packet inspection (DPI) firewall technology by integrating intrusion prevention systems (IPS), as well as application intelligence and control. This enables the NGFW solution to "visualize" the network packets being accessed and processed.

The most significant difference, however, is that the next-generation firewall has application awareness and uses more advanced methods to prevent the network system from external cyber-attacks. They can recognize cyber security risks by analyzing and matching signatures. They use signature-based intrusion prevention systems (IPS) and other sophisticated tools to determine whether an external source is secure and safe.

Another significant difference between traditional firewalls and next-generation firewalls is that the next-generation firewall includes a path for the company to receive future updates. This feature is not available in traditional firewalls.

Next-generation firewalls provide better security for IT infrastructure. They are based on more advanced security technology. The threat landscape is evolving, and an NGFW can use threat intelligence data to detect and prevent unknown cyber threats from infiltrating a network. Furthermore, NGFWs combine multiple security technologies, such as web filtering, intrusion prevention, and application control on a single platform.

In the long term, next-generation firewalls are commonly cost-effective. Because NGFWs include multiple security solutions on a single platform, the replacement or investment cost of an NGFW is less than the total cost of all security solutions.

The network speed of a traditional firewall decreases as the number of security protocols and devices increases. This occurs because the dedicated network speed does not reach its full potential as security devices and services become more prevalent. However, with a next-generation firewall, you can always achieve the maximum throughput regardless of the number of devices or security protocols.

Moreover, NGFWs provide organizations to use the resources more efficiently. By combining security solutions, organizations are able to consolidate management responsibilities and significantly increase personal productivity. It also provides IT professionals with a better understanding of how bandwidth is used in their infrastructure.

To recap, traditional firewalls are no longer strong enough to defend organizations against contemporary, advanced attacks. Next-generation firewalls can provide actionable intelligence and controls that enable standard firewall features, integrated network intrusion prevention, application awareness, and additional firewall intelligence.

What is the Difference Between NGFW and WAF?#

Because both Web Application Firewall (WAF) and Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) contain the word "Firewall," and the word "Next Generation" in NGFW may imply that it is something better and more advanced, many people have a misunderstanding about them that may expose them to significant risk.

The differences between NGFW and WAF are summarized below.

First, their primary points of focus are different from each other. While a Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) focuses on protecting an organization's internal clients when they connect to the Internet to access various websites, the focus of a Web Application Firewall (WAF) is to protect web applications of the organization from harmful traffic that comes from the Internet to those apps.

The goal of an NGFW is to protect internal users from cyber threats such as malware and to detect them when they attempt to operate from within the company's internal network. A Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) is installed in front of internal users and monitors the traffic that users generate when they connect to the internet. It prevents unauthorized access to a secure local-area network, thereby reducing the risk of attacks. Its main objective is to distinguish a secure zone from a less secure zone and to regulate communications between the two.

The main aim of WAF is to prevent external harmful traffic frequently coming from cybercriminals attempting to take over the app with malicious intent, such as stealing customer data, defacing the application, Denial of Service, or even attempting to penetrate the network to access internal databases from the app. A WAF runs between external users and web applications to analyze all HTTP communication. It then identifies and prevents malicious requests from reaching users or web applications. As a result, WAFs protect critical business web applications and servers from application-layer attacks.

In contrast to an NGFW, a WAF can be tested within CI/CD pipelines during or after application development. A WAF displays the app, how it appears, and how the payload appears, allowing you to ensure that everything matches and functions properly.

WAFs differ from NGFWs in that they have the following features:

  • Improve site speed and performance by utilizing advanced caching mechanisms
  • Validate the inputs (Stopping SQL injection)
  • Detect cookie tampering and session tampering attacks
  • Cross-site scripting protection
  • DDoS protection at the application level
  • Unwanted web traffic blocked from websites and applications
  • Attacks are prevented based on known or custom-defined application vulnerabilities
  • Attackers' potentially sensitive server responses are blocked
  • Before vendors release official patches, provide virtual patching to apps

WAF vs NGFW

Figure 2. WAF vs NGFW

Can NGFW and WAF Be Used Together?#

Web Application Security Consortium (WASC) Threat Classification v2.0, Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10, andCWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors all provide very good documentation about the latest web application attacks. Though NGFW solutions are extremely effective and powerful, they may not provide adequate protection against all of these potential threats. As a result, a dedicated Web Application Firewall technology should be used in conjunction with an NGW in enterprise networks that have a web application server that serves customers via the Internet.

Web application firewalls defend web servers and hosted web applications from not only application layer attacks via HTTP(S) but also network layer non-volumetric attacks. Additionally, WAFs can compensate for potentially unsafe coding practices by offering virtual patching for these flaws.

Without a web application firewall, hackers could exploit web application vulnerabilities to gain access to the corporate network. WAFs defend businesses against the following common web attacks:

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a web security flaw that allows attackers to compromise user interactions with applications. It allows the attacker to get around the same-origin policy, which separates websites. As a result, the attacker can pose as a legitimate user and gain access to the data and resources for which they have permission.
  • Denial-of-service (DoS): An attempt to interrupt service, server, or network by flooding it with internet traffic. Its goal is to exhaust the resources of its target and can be difficult to defend against because the traffic is not always definitely suspicious
  • SQL injection is a type of injection attack that allows hackers to execute malicious SQL statements on the database server behind a web application. This allows hackers to bypass webpage authentication and authorization, access the SQL database, and then add, modify, and delete its records. SQL injection can be used by hackers to gain access to customer data and intellectual property.

In summary, web application firewall features such as automatic policy learning, virtual patches that respond immediately to detected threats, anti-automation to distinguish between automated bots and real users, and business protection through user session monitoring are vital. When compared to existing NGFW, they are not comparable to WAF developed specifically for web application level, and NGFW solutions can only handle the above functions to a limited extent.

What is the Best Next-Generation Firewall?#

There are numerous kinds of NGFWs in the IT security world. The market for next-generation firewalls is expected to grow to USD 4 billion by 2025, up from USD 3 billion in 2021. Therefore it may be difficult to make a decision on choosing the best NGFW for your network infrastructure. Also, because purchasing a new NGFW is an expensive investment, you may have a single shot and should make the right decision the first time.

Global next-generation firewall market

Figure 3. Global next-generation firewall market

In this part, the top next-generation firewalls in 2021 will be introduced to be helpful for IT professionals who need to find the best suitable firewall for their organizations.

Magic Quadrant for Network Firewalls, November 2020

Figure 4. Magic Quadrant for Network Firewalls, November 2020

1. Cisco Firepower

Cisco Systems, Inc. is a multinational technology conglomerate based in San Jose, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Cisco designs, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, software, telecommunications equipment, and a variety of other high-tech services and products. They are also active in the NGFW world and provide Cisco Firepower firewall solutions. Its capabilities in zero trust, micro-segmentation, and SD-WAN have propelled it to the forefront of the emerging zero trust market. Cisco Firepower firewalls are available in a variety of configurations and can scale from a branch office to a carrier-grade data center.

Key features of Cisco Firepower NGFW are given below.

  • Centralized management: It provides easy management of network security solutions' events and policies.
  • Dynamic Protection: Integration with Cisco Secure Workload (formerly Tetration) enables continuous visibility and policy enforcement for applications across networks and workloads.
  • Visibility: It provides granular visibility so that administrators can view the hosts, users, applications, mobile devices, virtual environments, threats, and vulnerabilities in the network. It is vital because what you can't see can't be protected.
  • Real-time threat management: Control network access, application usage, and defend against known attacks. Malware Defense and sandboxing technologies can be used to address unknown attacks and track malware infections across your network.
  • Security Analytics and Logging: Scalable log management combined with behavioral analysis enables real-time threat detection and response times. The continuous analysis allows you to fine-tune your defenses in preparation for future attacks.
  • Automation: The management center correlates security events with vulnerabilities in your network automatically. It prioritizes attacks so that your team knows which events to investigate first. It also suggests security policies that should be implemented.
  • Threat Intelligence Director: Threat Intelligence Director gathers intelligence from a variety of sources by utilizing open industry standards interfaces. It then facilitates the necessary monitoring and containment measures. It correlates observations with third-party sources to reduce the total number of alerts that must be reviewed.
  • Easy remote deployment: Simplifies and automates the deployment of new Cisco Secure Firewalls at remote branch offices.

Cisco Firepower NGFW models are as follows:

FMC1600

  • Up to 50 sensors managed
  • 30 million maximum events
  • 900 GB event storage
  • Network map up to 50K hosts, 50K users

FMC2600

  • Up to 300 sensors managed
  • 60 million maximum events
  • 1.8 TB event storage
  • Network map up to 150K hosts, 150K users

FMC4600

  • Up to 750 sensors managed
  • 300 million maximum events
  • 3.2 TB event storage
  • Network map up to 600K hosts, 600K users

Virtual

  • Up to 25 sensors managed
  • 10 million maximum events
  • 250 GB event storage
  • Network map up to 50K hosts, 50K users

2. Juniper Networks

Juniper Networks, Inc. is a multinational American corporation based in Sunnyvale, California. The firm creates and sells networking products such as switches, routers, network, network security products, management software, and software-defined networking technology. For both small and large organizations, the next-generation SRX Series provides the ideal balance of outstanding security and integrated services for application security, intrusion detection, and sophisticated threat detection. The cSRX supports containerized environments, whereas the vSRX includes a virtual firewall.

The SRX Series from Juniper Networks is a family of firewalls and SD-WAN solutions designed for private, hybrid, and public cloud environments. The firewall combats online threats by scanning incoming traffic with deep packet inspection to detect viruses, malware, and other malicious attachments.

The firewalls also include Juniper Advanced Threat Prevention, which uses machine learning and advanced malware analysis to identify known and unknown threats. Users can manage the security settings of multiple locations from a single location with centralized security management.

Juniper SRX series NGFW models are as follows:

  • SRX550

  • SRX345

  • SRX380

  • SRX340

  • SRX320

  • SRX300

  • SRX5800

  • SRX5600

  • SRX5400

  • SRX4200

  • SRX4600

  • SRX4100

  • SRX1500

3. Forcepoint

Forcepoint is a software company based in Austin, Texas that develops computer security software and data protection, cloud access security brokers, firewalls, and cross-domain solutions. Gartner has designated Forcepoint as a "Visionary." It is one of the more affordable NGFW solutions, but there are no compromises in terms of quality or features. Businesses can use, monitor, and update a variety of firewalls and VPNs instantly and without stress by utilizing this solution.

Forcepoint NGFW is a high-availability solution that combines a next-generation firewall with an SD-WAN. You can deploy Forcepoint NGFW on-premises broadband, wireless, and dedicated lines with automated failover to protect against service disruptions. The dashboard provides a top-down view of network activity, allowing you to quickly identify and respond to security events.

To detect zero-day ransomware threats, the firewall includes Forcepoint Advanced Malware Detection. Zero-day protection is beneficial because it protects against unknown strains of malware and ransomware, lowering the likelihood of your network succumbing to the most recent online threats.

Forcepoint NGFW provides whitelisting and blacklisting at the application level to control which applications can access the internet. Because application controls are customizable, you can choose which services can access online services. The firewall also includes accelerated decryption, which inspects HTTPS and SSL/TLS traffic for malicious activity.

For enterprises that require a high-availability and secure firewall solution, Forcepoint NGFW is ideal.

Forcepoint NGFW appliance models are as follows:

  • 6200 series

  • 3400 series

  • 3300 series

  • 2100 series

  • 1100 series

  • 300 series

  • 120 series

  • 60 series

  • 50 series

4. Fortinet

Fortinet is a multinational American corporation based in Sunnyvale, California. It creates and sells cybersecurity solutions, such as firewalls, as well as software and services such as anti-virus protection, intrusion prevention systems, and endpoint security components.

In Gartner's Magic Quadrant for enterprise network firewalls, Fortinet is ranked third. The Fortinet next-generation firewalls are high-performance appliances that supplement the traditional firewall-VPN combination with intrusion prevention, application control, and anti-malware. This NGFW vendor offers a single platform for end-to-end network security.

The company offers Unified Threat Management as well as security and SD-WAN integration. This allows the product to remain affordable and user-friendly.

Fortinet NGFW models are as follows:

  • Fortinet 1800F

The FortiGate 1800F supports high-performance and dynamic internal segmentation, as well as elephant flows that provide secure high-speed cloud on-ramps. Enterprises can build massively scalable remote access solutions with high-performance IPsec encryption capabilities.

  • Fortinet 2600F
  • Fortinet 4200F

The FortiGate 4200F series upends the network firewall market with unprecedented scale and performance for next-generation firewall (NGFW) protection of hybrid and hyper-scale data centers for enterprises and service providers. Enterprises can build highly scalable hybrid IT architectures using VXLAN termination and re-origination.

  • Fortinet 4400F

The FortiGate 4400F series introduces the world's first Hyperscale Firewall, which enables Security-Driven Networking, manages all enterprise security risks, and protects 5G networks. It provides encrypted and high-speed data center interconnects with a high port density.

  • Fortinet 7121F

For large enterprises and service providers, the FortiGate 7121F series provides the industry's highest performance for next-generation firewall (NGFW) capabilities. It is the first and the only NGFW with 400G connectivity and a very high port density, providing super-fast and secure data center interconnects and high-throughput for ideal deployments such as enterprise edge, hybrid data center core, and across internal segments.

5. Palo Alto Networks

Palo Alto Networks, Inc. is a multinational cybersecurity company based in Santa Clara, California. Its core products are a platform with advanced firewalls and cloud-based services that extend those firewalls to cover other aspects of security. According to Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Network Firewalls, Palo Alto has been a leader for several years in a row, and it was also a top choice in the Forrester Wave. Physical appliances, virtualized solutions, and 5G-ready firewalls are among the products offered by the company. All of their firewall solutions have a Single-Pass Architecture and provide full inspection of all traffic. The NGFW will thoroughly inspect all applications, threats, and content to match traffic to a user, regardless of device type or location.

Palo Alto Networks keeps information for the firewall up to date by sharing threat intelligence across the ecosystem. The PA-series Next Generation firewalls from Palo Alto reduce response times through automated policy-based actions, and you can automate workflows through integration with administrative tools such as ticketing services or any system with a RESTful API. Palo Alto Networks Firewalls have key capabilities such as secure access for all users regardless of location, secure encrypted traffic, detection and prevention of advanced threats, and WildFire, which detects unknown threats using data from a global community and automatically blocks them.The Palo Alto firewalls also include features that allow users to be identified and blocked from accessing known phishing sites via URL filtering, as well as prevent users from submitting corporate credentials to unknown sites.

Palo Alto Networks PA series NGFW appliance models are as follows:

  • PA-7000 series

  • PA-5450 series

  • PA-5200 series

  • PA-3200 series

  • PA-800 series

  • PA-800 series

  • PA-400 series

  • PA-220 series

  • PA-220R series

6. Check Point

Check Point is a multinational American-Israeli software and combined hardware and software provider for IT security, including network security, endpoint security, cloud security, mobile security, data security, and security management. Check Point NGFWs have access to over 6,500 Web 2.0 applications and use the world's largest application library. The company does an excellent job of truly preventing and blocking threats and attacks, and their portfolio includes 23 firewall models designed to run all threat prevention technologies at the same time, including SSL traffic inspection.

Check Point provides 23 NGFW models that are designed to run all threat prevention technologies at the same time, including full SSL traffic inspection. It allows for Application Inspection and Control, as well as hybrid cloud support. Check Point, which was founded in 1993, is a pioneer in firewall technology and a market leader in information security.

Check Point is well-known in the carrier space, with over 2500 communication service provider (CSP) customers around the world.

Check Point's enterprise firewall product line consists of 17 appliances and two chassis for hardware blades with a maximum bandwidth of 400 Gbps. It can also be delivered as a virtual appliance, which can be deployed on VMware, Amazon Web Services (AWS), OpenStack, and Microsoft Azure, or as software.

Check Point Quantum Security Gateway NGFW models are as follows:

  • 26000/28000 series
  • 15000/16000 series
  • 6000 series
  • 1500/1600/1800/3000 series
  • 44000/64000 series
  • 1507R Wired/Wireless

7. Sophos

Sophos Group plc is a British manufacturer of security software and hardware. Sophos creates products for endpoint communication, encryption, network security, email security, mobile security, and unified threat management. Sophos' primary focus is on providing security software to organizations with 100 to 5,000 seats. Sophos protects home users through free and paid antivirus solutions (Sophos Home/Home Premium), which are intended to demonstrate product functionality.

Sophos is regarded as one of the best next-generation firewall (NGFW) solutions for small businesses. The company offers flawless prevention and detects hidden risks. It can successfully isolate an infected system, and the product provides detailed traffic insights, system status reports, and easy access to active firewall rules. However, there are a few drawbacks.There are, for example, limited integration options with external tools such as endpoint protection platforms. On the other hand, its implementation, management, support, and cloud functionalities are highly rated, making it a popular choice among many businesses. There is AWS and Azure support available.

The Sophos XG series is a next-generation firewall that uses threat intelligence and intrusion prevention to protect against unknown threats. Deep learning is used in the Sophos XG Series threat intelligence to detect zero-day threats. This enables the firewall to respond automatically, such as quarantining malicious content to prevent it from spreading to other systems.

A web application firewall guards against Layer 7 web-based attacks. Similarly, an anti-spam solution protects a user's inbox from threats such as phishing attacks and spam.

A VPN client allows remote workers to easily connect to your network. The VPN client is available for Windows and macOS, allowing users to connect to the VPN network from anywhere.

Sophos NGFW models are as follows:

  • XGS 87/87w, 107/107w, 116/116w, 126/126w, 136/136w

Provide excellent value and all-in-one connectivity for all of your branch office, retail outlet, and small business connectivity requirements.

  • XGS 2100, 2300, 3100, 3300, 4300, 4500

Provide performance and versatile connectivity options to meet the security infrastructure requirements of larger SMB and mid-sized businesses.

  • XGS 5500, 6500

Provide performance, connectivity, and redundancy without compromise to power the most demanding distributed enterprise networks.

8. OPNsense

OPNsense is a FreeBSD-based open source firewall and routing software developed by Deciso, a Dutch company that manufactures hardware and sells OPNsense support packages.

By implementing the Sensei (ZENARMOR) plugin on OPNsense you can be the owner of a very powerful and cost-effective NGFW. OPNsense and Sensei (ZENARMOR) plugin is one of the best next-generation firewall solutions for especially small businesses and home networks. You may find more information about how to build your own NGFW for home use in the article written by Sunny Valley Networks.

Also, before making your final decision on choosing the NGFW solution for your business, we recommend reading the Best Open Source Firewalls article which introduces the open-source firewall solutions that can also be run as NGFW with Sensei/Zenarmor.

Deciso also provides OPNsense appliances as listed below.

  • DEC3860
  • DEC3850
  • DEC3840
  • DEC2680
  • DEC850
  • DEC840
  • DEC690
  • DEC670

How Does Next-Gen Firewall Protect From Malware?#

Current security threats include advanced malware, stealth bots, and zero-day, which are intelligent enough to not only disable security controls and steal sensitive data but also to stay hidden in the network while waiting for further commands.

Malware protection is one of the most important advantages of a next-generation firewall. It protects a network by preventing malware from entering it and defending it against external attacks. Next-generation firewalls are far better equipped to detect APTs(Advanced Persistent Threats).

A next-generation firewall (NGFW) is an L7/application layer firewall, which means it can differentiate between different applications and implement granular security policies at the application layer. To be application-aware, next-generation firewalls use deep packet inspection and intrusion prevention techniques. These techniques allow firewalls to make wiser blocking decisions based on very specific criteria and inspect traffic contents for threats as approved applications are allowed into the network.

For instance, instead of having a policy that allows all clients or no clients to use the Instant Messaging application, an NGFW will implement policies that allow clients to use Instant Messaging in a way that adheres to the company requirements and does not potentially expose them to a security breach.

Threat prevention capabilities are a natural extension of the deep packet inspection capabilities of next-generation firewalls. They inspect the network packets as it passes through the firewall for known exploits of existing vulnerabilities. To detect malicious behavior, files can also be sent off-device and emulated in a virtual sandbox (sandbox security).

An NGFW's advanced capabilities not only reduce the risk of data breaches but also avoid or minimize the use of non-business applications, which may cause bandwidth bottlenecks and impede employee productivity. In a BYOD environment, different policies for individual devices may be established, with priority given to mission-critical applications.

What is NGFWs Inspecting Traffic Across Layers?#

Traditional firewalls use only the information from the fourth layer of the OSI model to guide their actions. On the other hand, NGFWs can inspect traffic from multiple layers of the OSI model (Layers 2-7). So that NGFWs can inspect the application layer, the seventh layer. This is significant because the application layer is where data interacts with the user and is increasingly being used as a vector for attack.

 Next-generation firewall packet inspection

Figure 5. Next-generation firewall packet inspection

An NGFW inspects Layer 7 traffic to determine which ports application packets should connect to. And if the port does not match, the NGFW can block the packets. For example, if an HTTP packet is sent through an FTP port, the NGFW will flag it as potentially suspicious and prevent the packet from passing through. That sequence is dependent on the development of a policy that is enforced in that scenario. An IPS is capable of enforcing such a policy. Layer 7 inspection is a component of the application awareness features that are common in NGFWs.

Application awareness is a critical component of reducing attack vectors in a network infrastructure. A whitelist of applications can be created on an NGFW. As a result, suspicious or unauthorized applications that are not on that whitelist are not permitted to pass through the firewall. Even if an application is on the white list, it does not mean it can be completely trusted. A trusted application can still be compromised, and malicious content can be encrypted in traffic. A hacker, for instance, could use steganography tools to conceal malicious code within seemingly harmless files. Malicious content in an application can be detected by the NGFW which has DPI capabilities using analysis and signature comparison to determine if the packets contain malicious code.