Traditional Firewall vs. Next-Generation Firewall: What’s the difference?

With cyberattacks on the rise and even the largest companies spending millions of dollars on their cybersecurity being impacted, never before has the importance of having the right security measures in place been brought to the forefront as today. A data breach could compromise the information of clients and customers and bring a company to its knees. One technology that plays a huge part in protecting a business from outside attacks is a firewall.

But when you talk about firewalls, there are two main types that are most commonly used: Traditional Firewall and Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW). Here, in this blog, we discuss the main differences between the two and which one offers the best protection.

History of firewalls

Back in the late 1980s, the very first firewalls were created by the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). The earliest form of the firewall was capable of operating on the first four layers of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model, namely the Physical layer, Data Link Layer, Network Layer and Transport Layer. This firewall was simple but capable of examining the properties of every individual packet of data passing through the network and checking if it matched a configured set of rules. If the packet matched the rules, it was allowed to go through, and if it didn’t, it would be dropped. While it was very easy and straightforward to manage, it was highly reactive, and could easily be defeated by smart hackers or bots.

Over the next decade, there were several advancements in the world of firewalls and these advancements gave birth to the Next-Generation Firewalls (also known as the third generation of firewalls) most businesses and internet users use today. However, the initial next-gen firewalls only started looking deeper into the Transport layer headers and would not become the powerful mode of protection we know today until 2008, when Palto Alto Networks created the first NGFW.

Differences Between Traditional and Next-Generation Firewalls

ParameterTraditional FirewallsNext-generation Firewalls (NGFW)
Working LayerTraditional firewalls work from Layer 1 to Layer 4NGFWs work through Layers 2 to Layer 7.
Packet FilteringIn a traditional firewall, packet filtering allows an administrator to review both ingoing and outgoing packets before they are allowed to pass through the network.Deep Packet Filtering (DPI) inspects the contents of each packet, including its source, unlike standard packet filtering, which only reads the header of a packet.
Stateful or stateless inspectionIn a stateless inspection, a firewall inspects each packet individually based on static information like the source and destination. On the other hand, stateful firewalls look at the overall context of the network connection and provide greater security.All NGFWs conduct stateful packet inspections, but take it one step furtner.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)Traditional firewalls allow access to VPNs to keep the private network secure when using the internet.NGFWs also allow access to VPNs to keep the private network secure when using the internet.
Application awarenessTraditional firewalls do not have application awareness and do not allow admins to set specific rules for different applications.NGFWs possess application awareness and enables organisations to set application-specific rules.
Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)Traditional firewalls do not provide IPS.NGFWs have IPSs, which are capable of actively blocking intrusions and blacklisting all future traffic from a malicious source.
Threat IntelligenceTraditional firewalls work on the basis of rules set by the administrator, and thus do not have threat intelligence.NGFWs are constantly learning and updating their database of malicious software and threats, offering greater protection every time a new threat tries to breach the system.
ReportingTraditional firewalls only provide standard reports.NGFWs offer organisations to pull customised reports with near real-time detail and plenty of reporting options.

While traditional firewalls may provide basic protection to your network systems, the particularities and sensitive nature of running a business require deeper protection, one only a next-gen firewall can provide. Your customers need to know they can trust you with their data, and even a single, minor data breach can make them lose their trust in your business. Most cybercriminals target small businesses precisely because of a lack of appropriate security measures, and because they are aware of how easy it will be to penetrate the system.

This is a major reason why you should consider upgrading to a next-generation firewall if you haven’t already done so. However, no two NGFWs are the same, and not all will fit each organisation. To learn more about the kind of next-gen firewall that will best suit your organisation, as well as a customised demonstration, get in touch with us at Intellect IT. We have seen the rise of the traditional firewall and every successor since, and are well-placed in helping you on your journey to a more secure network

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