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WHAT IS A FIREWALL?
A firewall is a network security device that grants or rejects network access to traffic flows between an untrusted zone (e.g., the Internet) and a trusted zone (e.g., a private or corporate network). The firewall acts as the demarcation point or “traffic cop” in the network, as all communication should flow through it and it is where traffic is granted or rejected access. Firewalls enforce access controls through a positive control model, which states that only traffic defined in the firewall policy is allowed onto the network; all other traffic is denied (known as “default deny”).Access Control ListsEarly on, the firewall function was initially performed by Access Control Lists (ACLs), often on routers. ACLs are essentially rules written out that determine whether network access should be granted or rejected to specific IP addresses. For example, an ACL can have a line that states all traffic from IP 220.127.116.11 must be rejected, or to allow all traffic on port 80 from 18.104.22.168 to the web server at 10.10.10.201.ACLs are advantageous due to scalability and high-performance, but cannot read past packet headers, which provides only rudimentary information about the traffic.
Thus, ACL packet filtering alone does not have the capacity to keep threats out of the network.Proxy firewallsProxy firewalls act as middlemen; they accept all traffic requests coming into the network by impersonating the true recipient of the traffic within the network. After an inspection, if it decides to grant access, the proxy firewall sends the information to destination computer. The destination computer’s reply is sent to the proxy, which repackages the information with the source address of the proxy server. Through this process, the proxy firewall breaks (or terminates) the connection between two computers so that it is the only machine on the network that talks to the outside world.Proxy firewalls can which inspect content fully and make access decisions based on more specific, granular level of information. Access control this nuanced is attractive to network administrators, however each application needs its own proxy at the application-level.
Proxy-firewalled networks also suffer degraded traffic performance and many limitations in application support and general functionality. This ultimately leads to scalability issues that make a successful implementation tricky to pull off. For this reason, proxy firewalls have not been widely adopted. In fact, even at the peak of the proxy firewall's popularity in the 90s, performance and scalability issues limited adoption to select verticals in niche deployments.
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