Next-Generation Firewalls – Hot air or hot stuff?

Network

Next-generation firewalls (or NGFW for short!) are a hot topic right now. But there is a lot of confusion as to what they are and why you need them.

Essentially, NGFWs are an evolution of the traditional port-based protections used in most network security approaches. Rather than simply allowing traffic through on ports like HTTP or HTTPS, NGFWs have application signatures that can identify traffic on a much more granular level.

NGFWs also can do deep packet inspection at high speed to identify and block exploits, malware, and other threats with high levels of precision. Because many attacks are now web-based, traditional firewalls filtering only by port are of limited effectiveness in defending you against these threats.

A NGFW also allows organizations to be more strategic by prioritizing their network usage with powerful shaping rules. For example, you can choose to allow VOIP phone calls or prioritize Salesforce.com traffic while limiting applications like Bittorrent without needing to block it outright.

What are the core features that you need in a NGFW?

There is a lot of discussion about what’s in a NGFW. The four core capabilities that people think of when talking about NGFW are:

1. Application visibility and control
2. Optimizing the use of the internet connection(s)
3. Clear, understandable Intrusion Prevention
4. Seamless VPN for connecting to remote sites and allowing access for remote users.

The important thing is to focus on what you actually want to do, and then work out how best to do it.

Why are NGFWs becoming increasingly important?

It’s all because of the growing strategic important of the web for business.

• Use of web-based tools such as salesforce.com is soaring.
• The web continues to be the number one vector for malware threats, which are becoming ever more sophisticated.
• Organizations also face a growing challenge balancing employees’ demands for access to web based applications like Facebook with the need to optimize productivity.

NGFW capabilities are specifically designed to meet the needs of today’s web-based world. That’s why Gartner predicts that 35% of Internet connections will be secured by a NGFW by 2014.

Learn about the NGFW capabilities in Sophos UTM.

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