3 Differences: Stateful vs Stateless Firewall

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3 Differences: Stateful vs Stateless Firewall

In today’s world, the need for organizations to start protecting their business networks has become increasingly high. Unarguably, no network is 100 percent immune to attacks. However, by having top-notch Network Security measures in place, you can always mitigate potential risks.

Are you running a small-, medium-, or large-sized digital business? Well, irrespective of the type you run, you need to understand that there are several different security measures you can opt for to protect your business network. One of them is to put up a firewall, which will serve as a gatekeeper between your system and the internet.

Furthermore, there are several different types of firewalls out there. One of them, which I’ll be talking about throughout this post, is the packet-filtering firewalls. They are classified into two categories; stateful and stateless. That said, here’s a burning question, who are the key differences between these two categories of packet-filtering firewalls?

The key difference between stateful and stateless firewalls can be seen in their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the former is capable of filtering packets based on the full context and state of a certain network connection. However, stateless firewalls tend to filter packets based on individual information.

It’s worth knowing that there are many differences between stateless and stateful firewalls. In the rest of this post, I’ll share everything you need to know about the two categories of packet-filtering firewalls, including what differentiates them from each other. So, without further ado, let’s get straight down to business.

What are Packet-Filtering Firewalls?

Before going ahead to talk about stateful and stateless firewalls, let’s first look at what packet filtering is all about.

Of all types of firewalls out there, packet-filtering firewalls happen to be the most basic. They are pretty much popular. And apart from that, they’re also effective for protecting local networks from undesired invasion, based upon some established set of rules.

Furthermore, packet-filtering firewalls work by assessing small pieces (packets) to see whether or not they match the predefined rules. The packets are only allowed to pass through the local network when they match the established rules.

Our focus in this article is to discuss the key differences between stateful firewalls and stateless firewalls. As earlier stated, these firewalls are the two types of packet-filtering firewalls. That said, let’s have a quick look at the two firewalls below.

What are stateful firewalls?

For organizations that run a digital business, there are many reasons to monitor the state and context of your network communications. One of the benefits is that it helps to understand information for identifying threats.

That said, stateful firewalls are packet-filtering firewalls that have all it takes to monitor every aspect of network traffic. Of course, this also includes the communication channels of the traffic, as well as their attributes.

Furthermore,  stateful firewalls are often called dynamic packet filters. That’s so because they are capable of filtering small particles, called traffic packets – well, this process is based on context and state, which need to be monitored.

What are stateless firewalls?

Unlike stateful firewalls, stateless firewalls most often depend on some established set of rules in the access control lists (ACLs). The purpose of that is to be able to decide on individual packets. Furthermore, stateless firewalls focus on using data from destination address or source, to figure out whether or not there is any threat.

In a simple term, I’ll say that a stateless firewall doesn’t statefully help to inspect traffic. Instead, it only statically evaluates packets, without necessarily helping to keep track of the state of the network connection.

Pros & Cons of Stateless and Stateful Firewalls

It’s worth noting that both stateful firewalls and stateless firewalls have their strengths and weaknesses. For you to decide the one that better suits your needs, it’s essential to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both firewalls.

That said, let’s have a quick look at the pros and cons of stateful and stateless firewalls.

Stateful firewalls: Pros

One of the benefits of a stateful firewall is that it has powerful memory, which helps to statefully inspect and retain the key aspects of network connections. Apart from that, the firewall is also effective in identifying unauthorized access,

Furthermore, with the help of intelligent systems, stateful firewalls make proper decisions using both present and last evidence. It also provides extensive logging capability, as well as robust attack prevention measures. Lastly, stateful firewalls don’t often rely on many ports for communication.

Stateful firewalls: Cons

As effective as stateful firewalls are, you need to understand that they also have their issues. One of them is that, without regular software updates, they are easily prone to vulnerabilities, which hackers can take advantage of.

Furthermore, there are a few cases where stateful firewalls can get tricked. When that happens, they can give room for dangerous connections to the network.

Have you ever heard of monster-in-the-middle attacks (MITM)? If not, this type of attack happens when an attacker intercepts communications between two parties either, primarily to secretly eavesdrop. Well, another disadvantage of stateful firewalls is that they are highly susceptible to the MITM attack.

Stateless firewalls: Pros

One of the benefits of stateless firewalls is that they offer very fast performance. Also, irrespective of how heavy the traffic is, you can always trust these firewalls to perform pretty fine. Lastly, stateless firewalls are generally cheap to implement.

Stateless firewalls: Cons

One of the things that make stateless firewalls generally weak is that they are not capable of inspecting traffic. Apart from that, the firewalls aren’t also effective for examining an entire packet. Instead, you can only utilize them to decide whether the small pieces match predetermined rules.

The Three Main Differences Between Stateful and Stateless Firewalls

Now that you know the strengths and weaknesses of both stateful and stateless firewalls, let me go ahead and point out the three key differences between them.

  • Implementation cost

If you’re the type that runs a small-sized business, stateless firewalls will be a better choice for you, as they are generally inexpensive to implement. 

  • Security

As you now know, stateful firewalls are capable of statefully inspecting and retaining the key aspects of network connections. Of course, this is pretty much unlikely of stateless firewalls, as they are incapable of inspecting traffic.

That said, the stateful firewalls will be a better choice for corporations who are looking to implement top-notch Network Security measures.

  • IP spoofing

Another difference that exists between the stateless and stateful firewalls is that the former is highly susceptible to IP address spoofing. On the other hand, the stateful firewalls have all it takes to defend against spoofing attacks.

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