Must-Have Features of Next-Generation Firewall Services for Enterprise Security

Must-Have Features of Next-Generation Firewall Services for Enterprise Security

A firewall is only as good as its ability to protect against new and emerging threats. Many enterprises are moving to a software-based solution known as next-generation firewall (NGFW) or SD-WAN with NGFW to consolidate anti-virus features, application awareness, and threat intelligence integration into one platform.

NGFWs use advanced analysis to review data packets with scalpel precision. This includes checking the clear-text portion of an HTTP packet to detect malware and phishing attacks.

User & Application Control

Application control is a capability of NGFWs that allows organizations to identify and control applications that run on their networks. This helps prevent cyber threats from introducing malware or stealing data through these applications. It also enables administrators to define policies that prioritize and enforce granular control, block risky applications, and limit bandwidth for specific apps or programs.

Many enterprises prioritize the security of their networks, and to meet the evolving threat landscape, they often turn to advanced solutions; one example is the adoption of next generation firewall services for enterprise use, offering enhanced capabilities to safeguard against sophisticated cyber threats.

While traditional firewalls analyze only the network layer two and transport layers of the OSI model, NGFWs can inspect traffic at multiple layers, including the application layer. This gives them a more comprehensive view of the threat landscape, and they can quickly detect a range of threats that may not show up in signature-based detection. This feature is called deep packet inspection (DPI) and includes features like behavioral analytics, zero-day malware detection, cloud and hybrid environments support, and more.

Integrated network intrusion prevention is also part of DPI and is used to scan for malware, attack patterns, and other anomalies in incoming data packets. NGFWs also use various intelligence sources and can combine this information with security event logs to identify potential threats, minimize response times, and improve operations.

Another important feature of NGFWs is that they provide a high level of availability by using redundant hardware and software. This ensures that the firewall will always be up and running, even if one of the components fails. This is often referred to as high availability or failover functionality and can be enabled by deploying multiple firewalls configured in synchronization.

Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)

A standalone IPS or as part of a unified threat management (UTM) solution or NGFW, this security tool monitors network traffic for signs of malicious activity. IPS solutions detect and block attacks and help you meet compliance mandates for security standards like HIPAA and GDPR.

Unlike passive intrusion detection systems (IDS), IPS solutions sit directly in network traffic flow between the source and destination, analyzing traffic flows and taking automated actions to detect and prevent threats. Depending on the IPS configuration, it can use signature-based or anomaly-based detection to identify cyber threats—signatures can be both vulnerability-facing and exploit-specific—and take action accordingly.

The IPS also performs deep packet inspection to examine the content of data packets and ensures that they comply with established network protocols. It may also use behavioral analysis to determine if a network has been compromised or attacked, and it can respond by terminating the user session, changing router settings, removing malware files from a host, redirecting traffic to a honeypot, or scrubbing sensitive data.

In addition, IPS can help protect against stealth bots and zero-day attacks that turn off other security controls to gain access to your organization. Advanced machine learning keeps IPS threat intelligence current without adding hardware or resources. This reduces the cost of deployment and makes the firewall more effective—and helps you achieve faster, more automated responses to threats.

Network Access Control (NAC)

NGFWs expand on traditional firewall capabilities by inspecting deeper into the data packets to see what they contain and whether they match up with the security policies configured for the enterprise network. This additional inspection is called network access control (NAC).

NAC enables organizations to manage how people, devices, and applications can connect to their networks, providing centralized policy decision-making and enforcement granularly. NAC solutions can be out-of-band and run on separate servers that don’t interfere with the normal traffic flow. They can also be inline, meaning they are integrated with networking infrastructure devices, such as routers, switches, and wireless access points.

These NAC systems authenticate user terminals, evaluate their security status, and implement security policies on them – either allowing, rejecting, or isolating them from the corporate intranet based on security-policy compliance — to strengthen security and reduce IT and Help Desk workload. NAC can also identify and quarantine infected user devices to prevent their spread through the network.

NAC can also provide guest networking access that allows visitors, contractors, and guests to register through a secure portal and gain internet-only access while routing them away from company resources. This can reduce the risks associated with work-from-home and hybrid work-from-anywhere situations. These NAC solutions can also perform advanced device profiling, security posture checks, and automatic incident response to block, isolate, or repair non-compliant user devices – all without administrator intervention.

Security Operations Center (SOC)

Security operations center staff analyze technology infrastructure 24/7/365 for signs of abnormal activity that might indicate a cyber attack. They identify and mitigate threats, ensure that critical systems are restored to operation, and report on security incidents.

A vital component of any SOC is the correct set of tools. The ability to automate, filter, and prioritize alerts to reduce analyst burnout and the “noise” of low-fidelity events is crucial. A SIEM solution can provide the visibility and automation required to help security teams focus on the most significant threats and proactively prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Another important SOC capability is the ability to source and analyze threat intelligence. This enables SOC staff to understand malicious actors’ tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), anticipate future attacks, and respond more quickly when detected. This information can be sourced from open-source intelligence, commercial threat intelligence feeds, and threat-sharing groups or platforms.

Lastly, SOCs must be able to manage the entire technology stack from a single platform, including firewall capabilities, IPS, NGFW, VPNs, and other network security technologies. The ability to deploy and manage these services via a single platform helps simplify network architecture, reduce costs, and shorten incident response times. Next-gen firewalls that feature unified threat management (UTM) combine these security services in a single device.

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