Understanding the difference: NGFW vs WAF

Understanding the difference: NGFW vs WAF

NGFWs and WAFs are both critical for network security, but they fulfill different functions and protect against various threats. NGFWs focus on safeguarding the entire network, whereas WAFs focus on protecting web applications.

Lets go through both of these one by one to understand and the use case where we can deploy these firewall in context of their capabilities.

Fig 1.1- NGFW Vs. WAF

1. WAF ( Web Application Firewall)

A web application firewall (WAF) secures online applications by blocking and monitoring HTTP traffic to the Internet. It usually protects web-based applications from threats such as cross-site forgery, cross-site scripting (XSS), file inclusion, and SQL injection, among others.

A WAF is a protocol layer 7 protection (in the OSI model) that does not prevent all types of attacks. This type of attack mitigation is often part of a suite of technologies that work together to provide complete defense against a wide range of attack vectors.

WAF ( Web Application Firewall)

A WAF operates by a set of rules known as policies. These policies are intended to protect the application against vulnerabilities by filtering out malicious traffic. The utility of a WAF is due in part to the speed and ease with which policy adjustments may be delivered, allowing for faster response to changing attack vectors; for example, during a DDoS attack, rate limiting can be quickly applied by updating WAF policies.

Placing a WAF in front of a web application creates a barrier between it and the Internet. While a proxy server protects a client machine's identity by acting as an intermediary, a WAF is a type of reverse proxy that shields the server from exposure by requiring clients to pass through the WAF before reaching the server.

2. NGFW ( Next Generation Firewalls)

NGFW stands for Next-Generation Firewall. It is a firewall that provides more advanced security features than ordinary firewalls. Traditional firewalls were primarily intended to filter network traffic based on IP addresses, ports, and protocols.

NGFW combines classic firewall capabilities with new security features such as intrusion prevention, application control, URL filtering, and anti-malware protection. As a result, NGFWs can offer more complete defense against modern security threats like as malware, zero-day vulnerabilities, and advanced persistent attacks (APTs).

NGFW ( Next Generation Firewalls)

NGFWs are intended to monitor network traffic at the application layer, basing security choices on traffic content rather than IP addresses, ports, and protocols. 

As a result, NGFWs can block malicious information while allowing normal traffic through, making them an important part of a comprehensive security strategy.


Lets see the below table define the comparison of Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFW) and Web Application Firewalls (WAF)

NGFW is a Layer 3 and Layer 4 with network layer protection mostly and basic application protection while WAF is purely Layer 7 HTTP based application protection firewall.

Below is the key difference between these two Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFW) and Web Application Firewalls (WAF)

Fig 1.2- NGFW Vs. WAF

Hope it will clarify the difference between NGFW and WAF in the real world to understand where to deploy what. We will come up with the WAF in detail where we will discuss the different types of WAFs (network-based, host-based, and cloud-based WAFs)

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