Understanding Next-Gen Firewalls: What are They, and why are They Needed?

Understanding Next-Gen Firewalls: What are They, and why are They Needed?

Next-gen firewalls have increasingly become part of discussions related to the hedge fund cybersecurity landscape. Understanding exactly what the term encompasses, and how these devices differ from traditional firewalls, can be complicated. Read on to learn more about next-gen firewalls and the role they can play within an organization.

What are next-gen firewalls? Next-gen firewalls refer to a group of security devices that combine a range of security functions into one platform. These features typically include intrusion detection and prevention services, firewalls, and anti-virus software services. Next-gen firewalls were developed to help streamline the management of security operations for firms, providing businesses with a single platform rather than requiring investments in several separate security devices to keep their networks managed_IT

Why do we need next-gen firewalls? The need for next-gen firewall solutions grew out of today’s ever-changing mobile networking environment. As new devices such as smartphones and tablets, along with applications ranging from Facebook to LinkedIn, have begun to be used on corporate networks, the need for network control has grown greater and more challenging. The benefit to this evolving networking environment is that employees can easily access corporate data from a multitude of devices at almost any location across the globe, improving business efficiency and effectiveness.

Growth of new, unauthorized applications: However, the evolution of the networking environment has also led several unauthorized applications to pop up, making them difficult to track. Traditional firewalls are unable to detect these new applications, making it challenging for administrators to manage and monitor them. Often times, these applications do not contain the appropriate licensing or informed consent, and can include dangerous content, damaging the networks that they are a part of.

disaster-recovery-compliance-darkWhy aren’t traditional firewalls adequate? The reason that traditional firewalls are unable to detect this new network activity is because they rely on port numbers and protocol identifiers to distinguish types of network traffic, as well as managing and dictating the procedures having to do with this traffic.  Historically, applications were browser based and used on those two types of indicators. However, the new age applications that are popping up today across mobile devices do not utilize these identifiers, thus falling under the radar of administrators. Previously, administrators were able to easily block certain applications based on port numbers and protocol type by creating specific automated rules. In sum, all network traffic appears indistinguishable to traditional firewalls, and these devices cannot correctly identify applications that “tunnel” within other applications or encrypted applications, thus driving the need for more sophisticated security solutions. This is where next-generation firewalls come in. Stay tuned for a future blog post on how web application firewalls work to protect networks against automated and targeted attacks.