Malware, ransomware, trojan infections, credential abuse, and brute force attacks are just some of the cyber security threats we face on a daily basis. On a global scale, software and hardware firewall protect businesses and individuals from these ever-evolving threats, saving them millions of dollars in financial losses every year. According to the Network Security Firewall Market report, “The global network security firewall industry generated $3.48 billion in 2020, and is estimated to generate $24.34 billion by 2030, witnessing a CAGR of 21.6% from 2020 to 2030.”
There are so many ways to lose your business and your money through unsafe internet and network security practices, so what are we missing? Let’s explore how hardware firewalls can enhance your cyber security, and why it’s the solution of choice for enterprises.
What is a Hardware Firewall?
A hardware firewall, sometimes referred to as a network firewall, acts as a network gatekeeper. It is a physical piece of hardware, installed between a private network and the internet. It is responsible for controlling what traffic enters and exits the network by filtering traffic based on pre-fined rules and policies. Hardware firewalls integrated with an anomaly-based intrusion detection system (IDS) also identifies irregular behavior that might indicate a threat to the network and its users and devices. By filtering out unauthorized traffic and suspicious behavior, a hardware firewall is an important element of network security. Because of its position between the internet and the private network, all traffic is funneled through it for maximum control. Security administrators can configure a hardware firewall with granular firewall rules that govern what traffic is allowed the enter and exit the network, to and from which specific users, devices, applications, and services.
What is a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW)
You may have seen or heard of a type of firewall called “next-generation firewall” (NGFW) and wonder what it is. Well, a next-generation firewall is the name given to newer, more advanced hardware firewalls. NGFWs perform the same functions of traditional hardware firewalls but integrates additional security capabilities, such as antivirus, intrusion detection, application control, threat intelligence, sandboxing, and more. A next-generation firewall, like Sangfor NGAF, is the best of both worlds, with the personalization options of software firewall and the power and protection of a hardware firewall.
Who Needs a Hardware Firewall?
Hardware firewall is being widely adopted in a range of different scenarios including:
- Businesses that require advanced security and greater reliability to protect a network of computers.
- Businesses that currently don't have the means to centrally managed software firewalls on a large number of network devices.
- Businesses that currently experience poor computing performance due to software firewalls consuming too much resources.
- Businesses that wish to save costs and operational complexity by having multiple security capabilities in one appliance instead of deploying multiple layers of security tools.
- Businesses that wish to save on the amount they currently spend on software firewalls in the long term.
- Businesses that have the personnel and know-how to operate and maintain a hardware firewall.
Benefits of a Hardware Firewall
A hardware firewall relies on hardware for information security, which has many benefits over software firewalls, including:
- High specifications enable hardware firewalls to process large bandwidths, meaning that they can protect a large network with many users and devices and filter data packets much faster .
- Hardware firewalls don’t consume the computing resources of endpoints because no software is installed, thereby ensuring better performance for computing tasks.
- The placement of hardware firewalls enables centralized firewall management using a single-pane-of-glass interface, which significantly simplifies operations and maintenance.
- Centralized management means that security policies are applied to every device and user on the network equally, ensuring that there are no loopholes in the network.
- Advanced security capabilities such as an intrusion detection system, antivirus, application control means, and threat intelligence mean increased threat protection.
- Access to a virtual private network (VPN) connection provides remote and travelling employees secure access to the network by encrypting traffic to ensure data security.
How to Choose a Hardware Firewall for your Enterprise
When looking into your first hardware firewall, you should always start by following a few easy steps.
- Look into capabilities. As with any big investment, thorough research is crucial to making the right choice that best fits for your circumstances. If you were going to buy a car, you wouldn’t just buy any car - you would choose a car that works with both your lifestyle and your budget. It’s the same with your hardware firewall. Decide what types of capabilities you can’t live without, and square that with your budget. A more in-depth discussion of capabilities is provided in the next section.
- Look at existing customer reviews. Customer reviews are the best place to find the truth about a product or service. The Gartner Peer Insights website by Gartner Inc., one of the world’s leading technological research and consulting firms, is a great place to start your search for your hardware firewall solution. All reviews on Gartner Peer Insights are vetted and authenticated by Gartner, ensuring that they are genuine and trustworthy. While the reviewer and their organization is kept anonymous, the organization’s size and industry are stated, providing prospective buyers with more context to judge whether a product is right for them.
- Look into ease of integration with other solutions. Good network security is layer upon layer of different security solutions, creating a security stack comprising firewalls, endpoint security solutions like anti-virus, intrusion detection systems, access controls, network traffic analysis, threat intelligence, and more. You must ensure that the hardware firewall you choose can integrate easily with other security products. This helps to eliminate any security gaps that may otherwise exist due to poor integration and incompatibility. Better integration is more likely with products from the same vendor. For example, Sangfor’s NGAF hardware firewall integrates seamlessly with its entire range of security products and solutions.
Hardware Firewall Capabilities to Consider
Different hardware firewalls from different vendors have different security capabilities and the same capabilities can be underpinned by different techniques. When choosing a hardware firewall, it’s important to know what capabilities you require. Request details about those features from the vendor to make sure they fit the needs of your organization.
- AI Malware Detection: Firewalls filter traffic based on rules and policies, such as what IP addresses, ports, and protocols are allowed to communicate. For example, traffic from a particular IP address may be blocked because it has been found to distribute malware, but the firewall doesn’t actually detect and block the actual malware itself. That job has traditionally been left to antivirus or antimalware installed on endpoints. Next-generation hardware firewalls are typically integrated with malware detection engines so that malware is detected at the perimeter before landing on endpoints. Some malware detection engines use AI to detect new and unknown malware to achieve high malware detection rates. Organizations that are using more traditional antivirus on their endpoints can enhance their protection with a hardware firewall integrated with AI malware detection.
- Intrusion Detection System (IDS): IDS is a security tool that detects suspicious patterns of behavior that might indicate a threat. As with antivirus software, intrusion detection systems (IDS) were traditionally standalone security tools now commonly integrated into hardware firewalls. Some IDS work by detecting known patterns of malicious behavior using signature-based detection. However, as cyber-attacks become increasingly sophisticated, the effectiveness of these IDS have somewhat waned. Newer, anomaly-based IDS, on the other hand, use AI and machine learning to detect behavior that deviates from normal network activity so that unknown activity patterns can also be detected. When choosing about your hardware firewall, enquire whether it comes with an IDS and whether it is signature- or anomaly-based to make sure it fits your needs.
- Threat Intelligence: Threat landscapes are constantly evolving as adversaries develop new malware, tools, and techniques. Firewall rules and policies and malware signatures can become outdated very quickly and lose their effectiveness. Luckily, we can mitigate this using real-time threat intelligence. Threat intelligence feeds are continuous streams of data related to potential or current threats, which can be integrated into security devices to enhance protection. When choosing your hardware firewall, enquire about the sources of the provider’s threat intelligence. Threat intelligence may come from the provider’s own security devices, third-party sources, or a combination of both. The source of the threat intelligence may have a geographical bias and, therefore, you should choose a supplier with sources which best apply to your location.
- Security Integration: We have touched on the importance of hardware firewalls being able to integrate with other security tools above. But what is the true value of this? Firstly, integration allows for threat correlation, that is, the correlation of data and events from various security tools. This enables the integrated system to chain together a series of activity to detect the most sophisticated threats that managed to bypass individual security tools. Secondly, integration also enables automated coordinated responses to identified threats. For example, if malware is detected on an endpoint, a command will be issued to the firewall to block the IP address from which the malware was downloaded and isolate the compromised endpoint to prevent the malware from spreading. Security integration builds a truly holistic security system that leaves a network virtually fool proof. Perspective buyers need to weigh up whether this type of integration is required for their level of risk.
- Application Control: Application control refers controlling what applications are permitted to run on endpoints connected to the network. This allows network administrators to block any applications that are deemed to lower employee productivity, such as social media applications, and applications that can pose a threat to the network, such as VPN and anonymous proxy applications that allow employees to bypass the company’s firewall, which leaves them open to attack. Application control relies on integration with endpoint security solutions, where the latter reports all running applications on the endpoint, and the former enforces blocking. Prospective hardware firewall buyers who wish to make use of application control must ensure that the firewall and endpoint security solution integrate to this.
- Web Application Firewall: A web application firewall (WAF) is a type of firewall that works in the same way as a network firewall but is designed to filter HTTP traffic to and from web servers. This protects the web applications and services hosted on the server from web attacks such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS). WAFs are predominantly standalone devices but can also be integrated into hardware firewalls to provide protection for both the network and web servers. If you are a small or mid-size business that operates its own public-facing web applications and website, a WAF-integrated hardware firewall is ideal for saving costs and complexity.
Best Next Generation Firewall | Sangfor NGAF
Sangfor NGAF is powered by the malware detection and protection of Sangfor Engine Zero – an AI-powered malware detection engine for protection against advanced and zero-day attacks, and Sangfor Neural-X – a threat intelligence platform with sandboxing capabilities that can protect your network against the newest threats. Integrated with Sangfor WAF, Sangfor NGAF helps organizations protect their network and web applications from malware and intrusion attempts.
Sangfor NGAF fully integrates with Sangfor’s range of security products including Endpoint Secure (EDR) and Cyber Command (NDR) to deliver threat correlation and coordinated response capabilities. The security products also combine to form our Extended Detection, Defense, and Response (XDDR) solution, anti-ransomware solution, and application containment solution.
NGAF can be installed on-premises as a network hardware firewall or on the cloud as a virtual firewall, compatible with Sangfor HCI or VMware ESXi.
Visit the Sangfor NGAF product page to learn more about its features and capabilities, advantages, customer success stories, data sheets, and more.
What should be the first step toward a network security-conscious future for your business? There is no solution that is 100% secure, but by layering the right security solutions on top of the right foundation, you significantly reduce your risk of losing money, data, and reputation to cyber-attack. Hardware firewall provides the foundation on which we build our fortress of network security-solitude.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely. It’s the first line of defense against harmful network traffic. It provides more comprehensive protection than a software firewall, is easier to install and update, and works 24/7.
Normally, a hardware firewall comes as a single unit with software pre-installed. Some hardware firewalls work on general OSs like Linux, most Firewalls come with an operating system specifically designed to run the related software, reducing the risk of attack using vulnerabilities. They can also work alongside a larger and more comprehensive security system with advanced threat detection to provide greater overall protection.
A hardware firewall requires a higher initial investment than software firewalls, as it requires hardware installation. While software firewalls cost less to deploy, you may find that over time you will pay more for the monthly subscription fee than you would have ultimately paid for a hardware firewall, which typically remain effective for 3-5 years.
The primary difference between hardware and software firewalls is that the hardware firewall runs on a physical device, while software firewall is installed on a machine. Most PCs come with a built-in software firewall.
This will depend heavily on individual business needs. A hardware firewall is more secure, protects more computers and endpoints, and runs on its own power, not affecting computer performance. Centralized management means that a hardware firewall is easier to update for all users, making the subsequent operations and maintenance less troublesome and time-consuming. Software firewalls are better for businesses with smaller budgets, fewer endpoints, or fewer employees. However, with software firewall’s lower price tag comes lower inspection and protection capabilities, and complex operations and maintenance.
Absolutely. Using software firewalls in conjunction with hardware firewalls adds a layer of security to individual endpoints and the entire network, as long as they are compatible with each other. When implemented together, hardware firewalls can provide network-wide protection from external threats, while software firewalls can provide more granular and closely inspected data protection for each individual device they are installed on. In many cases, businesses and individuals that are more concerned with their cyber security often implement multiple hardware and software firewalls to minimize any weaknesses in their defense.
Different businesses and organizations will have different cyber security needs depending on their industry, scope of operation, and the amount of confidential data they process on a daily basis. To find the best hardware firewall or a tailored cyber security solution for your needs, we recommend checking out our Enterprise Firewall Buyer’s Guide.