A Firewall is a type of network security device that analyzes and filters inbound and outbound traffic as it crosses the network perimeter. The filtering aspect of a firewall is governed by security policies that an organization establishes and refines over time.
It can be helpful to think of a firewall as a castle wall, which sits as a barrier between your corporate network and the public internet. It's the firewall’s job to prevent malicious traffic from climbing over the wall and into your network, while also enabling safe traffic to reach the right recipients.
A firewall effectively creates a walled garden around your network. All traffic that goes in and out of your organization must first cross the firewall. This means the firewall has unparalleled visibility into the contents of inbound and outbound traffic. Based on security policies, the firewall constantly scans traffic to decide whether it should be permitted or blocked.
Undoubtedly, firewalls are really important for cybersecurity and data protection. These tools are the armed guards that protect your network from saboteurs and cyber-attackers. A good firewall will be able to uncover and block a variety of sophisticated cybersecurity threats, preventing them from ever reaching your network.
So far, so good. But firewalls come in many forms and types. One of the major obstacles small businesses face when trying to choose a firewall is knowing which one to go for. Below, we’ll look at the different kinds of firewall and help you decide which one - or multiple devices - would best fit your business.
One of the easiest ways to differentiate between firewalls is to assess whether the tool is stateless or stateful. A stateless firewall analyzes traffic by looking at each packet. These traditional firewalls will look at factors such as the traffic’s destination IP address, header data and sender information to decide whether the packet is safe to cross the network. This is useful for blocking overtly malicious traffic but, over time, cyber-criminals have become more stealthy and sophisticated, making stateless firewalls slightly hit and miss in their effectiveness.
To combat this issue, vendors started to introduce stateful firewalls. These more intelligent tools work by analyzing the details of a session end-to-end. Essentially, stateful firewalls are contextually aware. They can analyze traffic based on numerous factors to gain a clearer idea of whether it’s malicious or not in a way stateless firewalls simply can’t achieve.
The next-generation firewall (NGFW) features all of the benefits of stateless and stateful firewalls with additional capabilities. These devices make use of further security mechanisms, such as intrusion prevention, application whitelisting and sandboxing, to accurately and swiftly discover malicious traffic and block it, with an extremely high success rate.
NGFWs have become the go-to standard for companies of all sizes today. They are the best form of firewall defense against external malicious traffic.
As you review the different firewall options, you may come across a few other categories that it is helpful to know about. These are as follows:
You might now be wondering which type of firewall is best for your business. In truth, the answer is nuanced depending on your unique needs. Hardware firewalls, for the most part, don’t tend to be the way to go due to usage constraints. Software firewalls are useful for securing network premises, however, and cloud firewalls are undoubtedly the way forward for securing cloud resources.
As you can see, firewalls have evolved dramatically since their inception and the pace of innovation shows no sign of slowing. Cybercrime as a whole has increased by 600% since the beginning of the pandemic, meaning it’s never been more important for organizations to invest in bolstering their security defenses. Firewalls, as we’ve demonstrated, are one important way to defend against malicious attacks.
Generally speaking, a NGFW is the best choice for most businesses out there when looking to improve network defenses. However, it’s wise to speak to IT experts who can offer tailored advice about the best security defenses for your business. That’s where we come in.