Network Firewall vs. Web Application Firewall (WAF)

In this article, you will learn the differences between the Web Application and Network Firewall to help you choose the best option for your business.

When you research WordPress website security, you often find yourself staring at the word Firewall. A firewall is like a barrier between your website/company network and cyber attacks or exterior threats. But did you know that there are different types of firewalls that you can choose?

Network Firewall and Web Application Firewall are two different types of firewalls aiming for cyber security. However, they both target different kinds of cyber threats. The appropriate way of choosing a firewall is by understanding its working and the needs of your company. In this article, you will learn the differences between network firewalls and web application firewalls.


Web Application Firewalls & Everything You Need To Know About Them

Cyber security is not a one-action, complete security strategy. It’s divided into seven levels of security based on the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model, one of which gets executed with the help of Web application firewalls.

Web application firewalls(WAF) strive to maintain application security and give absolute protection to applications like websites. We encounter many WordPress users using firewalls to secure their websites, and those are the WAFs.

These firewalls block the entry of attacks that are disguised as the data submitted to websites. Some of the most dangerous attacks that WAFs obstruct are:

SQL Injection Attacks: SQL injection is a web attack in which hackers inject malicious code to website databases to retrieve confidential information, use it for ulterior motives or even edit the databases.

Read What Is SQL Injection Attack? to learn more.

Cross-Site Scripting(XSS): XSS is a code injection attack in which a hacker embeds code to your website to steal information from your website and the website visitors.

Read How to Fix Cross-Site Scripting Vulnerability in WordPress to learn more.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS): It is an attack in which a hacker attempts to overwhelm your website with fake traffic(bots), which results in crashing your website.

Read Distributed Denial Of Service(DDoS Attack)-Explained to learn more.

The Hide My WP security plugin has a web application firewall that helps block all the attacks mentioned above.

Network Firewall vs. Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Here are the differences that you were eagerly waiting for(or I hope).

They Have Different Functions

A WAF will target HTTP(Hypertext Transfer Protocol) traffic and filter out and block the malicious requests sent to the applications. But the network applications will help secure the LAN(Local Area Network) and protect your network from less secure networks.

Web application firewall focuses on protecting your application, whereas the network firewall manages the security of data/traffic flows into your network. Network firewalls help the safety of all the devices connected to a shared network.

They Work On Different Security Levels Of OSI Model

While the web application firewalls secure the OSI model’s 7th layer(application security) threats, the network firewall protects the 3rd and 4th level security threats.

The third and fourth levels include data and network security. Data security helps secure the data transfer and network security to stop unauthorized network access and ensure that the organization’s network is safe.

They Follow Different Modes Of Operations

We can distinguish between a WAF and network firewall based on their modes of operation too. Each has two modes of operation. Web application firewall works passively and actively. If the WAF works passively, it has no action and thus is less secure.

In the active role, it proactively scans the applications and keeps threats at bay. Whereas network firewall has routed and transparent modes. The routed operation is the primary mode that helps execute protocols by working on the third layer security. The other mode will let transparent data flow by working on the second layer protection.

They Are Based On Different Algorithms

The two firewalls work based on different algorithms. While application firewall uses the Signature-Based, Heuristics, and Anomaly Detection algorithms, network firewall uses Stateless or Stateful Inspection, Packet-Filtering, and Proxy algorithms.

They Differ In Access Control Feature

However, we have the access control feature available on the network firewall and not on WAF. The access control of the network firewall will help you filter access to sensitive files or block users that do not comply with the security policies/criteria.

They Protect Against Different Types Of Attacks

WAFs block attacks like SQL, XSS, DDoS attacks. However, network firewalls prevent attacks like: 

  1. Man In The Middle Attack(MITM): Attack used to intercept data flow between the networks of the application/organization and that of users.
  2. Unauthorized Access: It prevents people from breaking into your network.
  3. Increasing Access Privilege: Hackers can sneak into your network and use the access to gain much control over your network. 

Which Firewall Is The Best Option For You?

The answer to this question is simple because it all depends on what your company needs the most. However, it would be safe to say that having both firewalls will provide high-end security to your organization. 

For instance, if you have a business website accessible by anyone, your website will not be safe only with the help of a network firewall. Blocking attacks(like code injections) that target applications will only be possible if you use a web application firewall having complete visibility into packet data.

But, attacks like SQL can dupe network firewalls because they can see through packet headers. Then again, web application firewalls cannot stop attacks that can only be secured using network firewalls.

But if you deem that you can have a secure digital environment without any of the two firewalls, the choice is up to you. 

Are you looking for a way to protect your website?

A WordPress security plugin will do the job for you. Hide My WP is a security plugin that will protect your website thoroughly. Here are some best features of the Hide My WP plugin:

Hide My Wp security plugin
Hide my WP - WordPress Security Plugin-4
  1. It helps hide your WordPress from hackers.
  2. You can use this plugin to hide your website default Login Page.
  3. It has an intrusion detection system(IDS) Firewall that will keep away dangerous cyber attacks like SQL, XSS, CSRFCommand Injection, brute-force attacks, and more.
  4. You can hide your website source code with the help of this plugin.
  5. You can instantly hide or change various default paths on your website.


If you have a business website or are a part of an organization looking for a best-suited firewall, the right way to choose will depend on your needs. Web applications and network firewalls are very different and work to hit unique targets. They both operate on distinct levels of security, and thus, sometimes it best seems to use both while sometimes not. As I’ve mentioned, the necessity directs the choice of selection. Happy choosing!