Stateful firewalls consider the full context of network connections. They examine the sequence of packets to determine whether a data packet fits an expected connection state. This inspection makes it easier to detect unauthorized traffic or suspicious attacks. It also protects against man-in-the-middle attacks.
Regarding stateful vs stateless firewall, stateful firewalls outshine stateless firewalls due to their ability to track the state of active connections. Stateless firewalls filter traffic based on individual packets without considering the context of the entire communication, which can lead to reduced efficiency and security gaps. On the other hand, stateful firewalls maintain awareness of the state of connections, allowing for more intelligent decision-making, enhanced security, and improved performance in handling complex network activities. As an MSP, you must consider your client’s needs and security requirements to determine which firewall type is best for them. This will include the type of network environment, size, geographical distribution, and the kinds of devices and applications that use the firewall. In addition, you should also evaluate the level of protection required and whether your client has remote workers. A stateful firewall is best for large enterprises with complex network infrastructure and requires higher protection against advanced threats. It is also helpful for businesses that need to filter incoming data packets using a combination of header information and the state of the current connection. Stateful firewalls perform this inspection using a five-tuple lookup (source IP, source port, destination IP, destination port, and protocol) in a flow or connection table. The packet can enter the network if the 5-tuple lookup matches a policy.
Stateful firewalls keep track of connections’ context or history, enabling them to filter data packets with more profound knowledge than their stateless counterparts. They also retain memory of past behaviors, which can be a valuable deterrent to attackers looking for loopholes to exploit. While stateful firewalls are an excellent choice for most network environments, they often need to be more effective in the face of specific sophisticated attacks. For example, TCP scans and DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks commonly use legitimate packets to hide malicious activities. These packets can be sent out of order and can take advantage of TCP connection states, like ACK or FIN scans, to avoid detection by stateful firewalls. To successfully attack these kinds of networks, the hackers must create a large volume of legitimate packets and make sure the firewall accounts for them.
To combat these types of attacks, next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) have emerged to improve the capabilities of stateful and stateless firewalls. NGFWs offer advanced granular control and enhanced frontline defense, including automated application control and threat intelligence integration.
Stateful firewalls can identify the state of network connections. They can tell what stage of a TCP connection the current packet is in (open sent, synchronized, synchronization acknowledged or established). Stateful firewalls are also aware of communication paths and can monitor traffic streams from end to end. This level of security enables the firewall to detect forged connections and unauthenticated users, which helps to prevent cyberattacks.
Depending on your client’s business environment, you can choose from a wide selection of stateful and stateless firewall solutions. Ensure that you carefully evaluate the ins and outs of your client’s network environments. Determine their complexity, size level, and the data flow type crossing their networks. This will help you decide whether or not stateful is the best option for them. If your clients’ businesses have less dynamic network environments and straightforward approve/deny expectations, stateless firewalls may be a better choice for them. They can filter data packets based on static information that they already know, such as the source and destination addresses and other parameters. They also can perform fast and with high quality even when analyzing heavy data flow. However, they can be vulnerable to cyberattacks and require more memory and processing power.
Typically, stateful firewalls are more expensive than stateless solutions. However, they provide better context-aware protection and can protect against advanced threats by retaining information about past network traffic.
Stateful firewalls can be more prone to cyberattacks because they require a lot of resources and a large amount of data packet information. This makes them a target for man-in-the-middle attacks, where attackers can intercept and manipulate data communications between two parties without either party realizing it. In contrast, stateless firewalls are lightweight and scalable. These devices can quickly filter out incoming threats based on header information, IP addresses, port numbers, and protocols. As a result, they are a good choice for small businesses with relatively low traffic volumes and straightforward approval/denial expectations.
In addition, stateless firewalls can help mitigate risks associated with public internet-facing services by examining the content of each data packet to detect malware. They can also prevent security breaches by preventing unwanted access to internal applications, including web servers. Stateless firewalls are generally ideal for a wide range of application environments. However, larger enterprises may need stateful firewalls to meet their unique network security needs. The ability to handle high-speed networks and sophisticated traffic analysis can help stateful firewalls be a better fit for larger organizations.