The threat landscape is continuously evolving, exposing e-commerce platforms to a myriad of security risks. Almost 91 percent of e-commerce sites have experienced at least one attack per year. Luckily, firewalls have emerged as a robust solution against cyber incidents by monitoring and filtering the internet traffic accessing your network.
One such critical component of network security is the application level gateway firewall. This type of firewall acts as a bridge between users and any potential cyber threat. Today, we will delve into an understanding of application level gateway firewalls and their critical role in network security.
- 1 Introduction to Application-Level Gateway Firewalls
- 2 The Architecture of an Application-Level Gateway Firewall
- 3 Why Application-Level Gateways Matter in Cybersecurity
- 4 Comparison: Application Level Gateway Firewalls vs. Packet-Filtering Firewalls
- 5 The Security Benefits of Using Application-Level Gateway Firewalls
- 6 Potential Challenges and Solutions with Application-Level Gateway Firewalls
- 7 Real-life Applications: How Industries are Leveraging Application-Level Gateway Firewalls
- 8 Final Words
Introduction to Application-Level Gateway Firewalls
An application gateway is a firewall proxy that provides robust network security. Such gateway firewalls filter the incoming node traffic based on predetermined specifications, which means only network application data is filtered. Such network applications comprise File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP), Telnet, and BitTorrent.
Application-level gateways offer a highly secure network system communication. For instance, if you want to access a webpage, you will not be directly connected to the main server. Instead, a proxy server will create a connection with the main server on your behalf.
The Architecture of an Application-Level Gateway Firewall
Application level gateway firewalls operate by inspecting and filtering traffic based on the actual content of the data packets. These firewalls delve into the application payload to determine whether the traffic is legitimate or potentially harmful. Here’s how they actually work:
- Step-1: The user leverages TCP/IP application to contact an application gateway.
- Step-2: The application gateway inquires about the remote host with which the user wants to make a connection.
- Step-3: After user verification, this gateway accesses the remote host instead of the user to deliver the packets.
Why Application-Level Gateways Matter in Cybersecurity
An application gateway is substantial to prevent cyber attacks by filtering the incoming data packets at the program or application level. By leveraging proxies, it enables a secure connection for remote users.
For instance, if an external user tries to penetrate your system, these firewalls will run a proxy or any such instance where the server’s functions that he or she is trying to access will be replicated. This way, the actual application which not be harmed due to this intrusion.
As such, these gateways support two simultaneous connections. One between the proxy wall and the internal server and the other between the proxy server and the remote user. Enterprises prefer ALG firewalls because of the following:
- Deep packet inspection
- Risk mitigation
- Simplified operation
- Superior user experience
Comparison: Application Level Gateway Firewalls vs. Packet-Filtering Firewalls
While traditional packet-filtering firewalls focus on examining network and transport layer information, ALG firewalls operate at a higher layer of the OSI model. Here is a quick overview of their differences:
|Application Level Gateway Firewalls
|Layer of Operation
|Deep inspection of application content
|Examines source/destination IP, port, protocol
|Protection from Application Attacks
|High (Effective against application-specific attacks like SQL injection, XSS)
|It can introduce latency due to deep inspection
|Minimal impact on performance
|Effective for content filtering and DLP
|Limited content filtering capabilities
|Granular access control based on applications, users, or user groups
|Basic access control based on IP addresses
|Provides anonymity through proxying
|No anonymity features
|More complex to set up and manage
|Relatively simpler setup and management
|Requires higher computational resources
|Less resource intensive
The Security Benefits of Using Application-Level Gateway Firewalls
The utilization of ALG firewalls offers several notable security benefits:
Simple traffic logging
This approach keeps a traffic logging record that informs about potential access attempts. This helps organizations gain insight into who is trying to access their network, providing fine-grained control.
Advanced threat detection
ALG firewalls can identify and thwart application-specific attacks that might bypass other firewall types.
These firewalls enable content filtering and data loss prevention by inspecting the content of data packets.
ALG firewalls can enforce granular access controls based on specific applications, users, or user groups.
The proxying feature of ALG firewalls adds an extra layer of anonymity between internal and external networks.
Potential Challenges and Solutions with Application-Level Gateway Firewalls
Cybersecurity tools most often come with certain challenges, and ALG firewalls are no exception. You must understand these challenges to decide if using these proxy firewalls is right for your business.
Impact on network performance
As application-level gateway firewalls perform intensive deep packet inspection, this can slow down the performance of networks. Therefore, you must ensure that your network is ready to handle this additional load.
Each protocol needs a proxy
Each protocol, like HTTP and SMTP, requires its proprietary proxy application to function. If you use generic proxy agents on these undefined assets, they may allow traffic to pass through the firewall.
As ALG firewalls offer high-level security, they are generally more expensive than other network security tools. So it is always wise to assess your budget before making any purchase decision.
Real-life Applications: How Industries are Leveraging Application-Level Gateway Firewalls
Numerous industries have recognized the value of application-level firewalls in securing their networks.
SHOPYY, a popular e-commerce platform in China, experienced difficulty managing its web traffic. They deployed an application layer firewall solution that resulted in fending off 4.09 million cyber attacks in the first month. This bolstered the platform’s reliability cut operational costs by 60%, and reduced US page load times by 72%.
Another Netherlands-based insurer Aevitae faced data visibility and security issues due to aging infrastructure. To address this, they adopted CloudGen Firewall and WAF on Microsoft Azure and on-premises. This solution resulted in streamlined security and scalability.
Future Trends: The Evolving Role of Application-Level Gateway Firewalls in Network Security
As technology advances and cyber threats become more sophisticated, the role of ALG firewalls is expected to evolve, We will likely see the following:
- Integration with AI and Machine Learning for enhanced threat detection and response
- Increased focus on application gateways in IoT Security
- Enhanced cloud security via ALG firewalls
In a nutshell, application level gateway firewalls stand as a formidable defense against application-layer cyber threats. They offer businesses a comprehensive approach to detect anomalies in their traffic, so they can take proactive measures in safeguarding their network resources. These firewalls perform deep packet inspection of data sets and provide granular network security. As the threat landscape continues to evolve, ALG firewalls are expected to adapt and remain at the forefront of safeguarding digital assets and sensitive information.