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Next Generation Firewalls (NGFW)

Traffic Monitoring with NGFWs: The Eyes and Ears of Your Network Security

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If your business relies on internet connectivity to operate (and pretty much all businesses do these days), you simply can’t afford to be in the dark when it comes to understanding and policing what’s happening on your network. You need clear visibility into traffic to catch problems early, as well as firewalls to block threats.

But here’s the thing – traditional firewalls only give you half the picture by filtering what traffic comes and goes. Once something is allowed entry, you still have no visibility into what it does behind the scenes. That’s like letting strangers into your house because they look harmless from the outside, without ever verifying if they wander into rooms and access things they shouldn’t.

To fix this blindspot, next generation firewalls (NGFWs) uniquely provide both filtering AND continuous monitoring of permitted traffic via advanced capabilities like deep packet inspection, application visibility, and intrusion prevention. This makes an advanced network firewall the ideal eyes and ears for system security – illuminating blindspots while still controlling access.

Why Net-Gen Traffic Monitoring Matters More Than Ever

Network attacks ain’t what they used to be. Gone are the days when hackers would try and brute force your network defenses. Now they use clever social engineering and craft customized malware to fly right under the radar. Once they infiltrate your network, you could be losing data and money for months before you even realize it. And you know the damage that can cause, both financial and reputational.

As such, relying solely on basic firewall filtering is no longer enough. Attackers disguising malicious actions as permitted traffic easily bypass such defenses focused only on blocking known threat signatures at the perimeter.

Instead, tight monitoring of allowed traffic is equally crucial to spotlight tell-tale signs of compromise like abnormalities in data flows, user activity, and network patterns. Advanced NGFWs analyze permitted traffic down to packet-level across metrics like users, applications and content to catch insider threats, credential misuse and zero-days based on behavior algorithms. No amount of disguising can hide from NGFWs.

The always-on vigilance makes your security posture more proactive – ready to swoop in at the first sign of reconnaissance rather than only reacting once damage reaches critical levels. This inside-out visibility bridging gaps between security, network and application teams is what makes NGFWs the all-seeing eyes and ears of defense.

Catching the New Breed of Threats

Next generation firewall monitoring dodges the masks used by modern malware, social engineering tactics and insider threats in three key ways:

  • Deep content inspection – NGFWs examine the DNA of network activity to profile normal behavior and uncover anomalies, even if they are concealed.

  • User awareness – Attacks rely on disguising as authorized staff, so monitoring specific user traffic helps uncover identity theft and account misuse faster than typical defenses focused only on locations and devices.

  • Continuous analysis – One time or periodic audits are not enough as attackers constantly evolve tactics. Constant NGFW monitoring means your network has no blindspots.

The added visibility makes your defense ready for anything the offense throws with increasing speed, accuracy and consistency.

How NGFWs Elevate Traffic Monitoring

NGFW capabilities like applied machine learning and threat intelligence integration take network monitoring into an entirely new league. Here’s a breakdown of the key features NGFWs gain specifically around elevating network traffic monitoring:

Deep Packet Inspection (DPI)

Like an X-ray machine for network traffic, deep packet inspection looks under the hood of packets and investigates full content payloads using behavioral analysis algorithms. This reveals exploits, malware and command-and-control activity even if it’s professionally encoded to appear harmless.

Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)

Why just spot threats when you can zap them mid-flight instantly? IPS erase exploits and attacks on sight based on traffic patterns. By blocking threats preemptively, IPS prevents infection while also learning tactics.

Application Awareness

NGFWs understand exactly which apps are generating traffic, even if using unconventional channels. This prevents shadow IT and allows managing traffic based on criticality.

User/Identity Awareness

Typical monitoring sees only locations and devices without knowing specifically who is acting behind the scenes. NGFWs integrate with directories to tie traffic trails explicitly to users and identities. This adds accountability while uncovering compromised credentials quickly based on unlikely access locations or times.

Beyond Security: Additional Benefits of NGFW Traffic Monitoring

While NGFW monitoring is extremely effective at preventing threats, its utility extends far beyond security use cases alone:

Improving Performance

Detailed application and user-level insight allows precisely identifying high resource utilization. Traffic shaping and bandwidth optimization provides headroom while catering to critical apps and users.

Planning Capacity

Historical usage trends empower predicting future traffic patterns accurately. This allows budgeting infrastructure upgrades aligned with long term requirements rather than knee-jerk reactions to temporary surges.

Accelerating Troubleshooting

Instead of the fragmented visibility provided by domain-specific tools, NGFWs offer a single dashboard correlating cross-layer application, network, and user details. This speeds up diagnosis and investigation significantly. Issues that took days to pinpoint now take just minutes.

Maintaining Compliance

Regulatory standards have extensive logging and reporting requirements. NGFWs continuously collect and archive traffic metadata required for compliance audits related to HIPAA, PCI DSS, and so on.

Enhancing CX and Brand Trust

Thanks to the prioritization of business critical applications and users, NGFWs prevent network issues from interrupting customer interactions and vital processes. Smooth operations and breach avoidance builds long-term trust.

Best Practices for NGFW Traffic Monitoring

If you are planning to set up next generation firewall monitoring on your network, here are some quick tips and best practices to keep in mind:

  • Set Traffic Baselines – Profile normal patterns over time across metrics like volume, flows, application usage etc. Irregular spikes become instant red flags.

  • Customize Monitoring Rules – Augment out-of-the-box settings with alerts and reports tailored to applications vital for the business based on their traffic patterns.

  • Review Regularly – Analyze reports, quarantined threats and other metadata at least weekly, if not daily. Investigate anomalies immediately before they become incidents.

  • Refine Policies – Let traffic analytics guide policy fine-tuning over time. Add new app signatures, updated blocking rules, tighter user controls and optimized bandwidth limits.

  • Integrate With SIEM – For organizations dealing with huge volumes of monitoring data, integrating NGFWs with SIEM systems enables further correlation, retention and a unified interface.

  • Track Threat Intelligence – Stay updated on latest threats and IOCs by subscribing to threat intel feeds. This keeps monitoring rules current to emerging exploits.

Final Word

Legacy firewalls and isolated monitoring tools are no match for today’s sophisticated threats that fly low and cause prolonged damage. NGFW visibility bridges interdepartmental gaps by consolidating application, network, and security perspectives using traffic as a universal language.

The enhanced threat detection, user access controls, and usage analytics ultimately translate into risk reduction, operational efficiency, and superior customer experiences – all of which are likely music to the ears of any business owner.

Wanna become a data scientist within 3 months, and get a job? Then you need to check this out !