What Is Host-Based Firewall (HBFW) Management?

Host-based firewall management is the process of maintaining a firewall that sits within your OS, server or device. Host-based firewalls are configured using policies and rules to allow or disallow traffic based on predefined criteria — such as a packet’s transport protocol or a device’s IP address source and destination. 

Host-based firewall management solutions connect to a device’s management information base (MIB) through the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to track and provide detailed reports on firewall performance in real time. This allows you to detect and curtail suspicious activity almost instantly, as well as gain comprehensive data for firewall policy patching.

Since they are configured very close to hosts, these solutions are particularly effective while other firewall solutions fail to deter potential attacks.

Although firewalls heighten network security and compliance, misconfigurations impede their efficacy. HBFW solutions are at the front line of addressing this challenge by simplifying firewall configuration and monitoring.

But how do you know which one to choose from the pool of available solutions? In this article, we examine six top solutions and their functionalities.

Importance of Proper Firewall Management

Organizations deploy and manage multiple firewalls to protect their network from spyware, worms and trojans, as well as packet sniffing, hijacking, man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks and injection attacks. However, firewalls are incredibly difficult to set up and manage because their policies are written in low-level, platform- or device-specific Syntax. Also, rules must be configured in a way that allows access to the average incoming and outgoing traffic without letting in malicious actors.

This means administrators must configure firewalls to not only consider IP addresses and corresponding details but also assess each IP to determine its legitimacy.

To further add to this complexity, malware, viruses and attack tactics are constantly evolving — if firewall policies are out of date, the firewalls themselves are essentially defenseless against the latest attack techniques. This means you need to regularly patch them as new threats evolve, rules expire or network configurations change.

Essentially, a firewall is only as efficient as its management, making firewall management crucial for the following reasons:

  1. It includes monitoring and logging the firewall’s activity to detect traffic filtering patterns, which can then be used to further strengthen existing firewall rules.
  2. It entails the assessment of firewall rules to eradicate conflicting rules, prevent legitimate traffic from getting blocked, and ultimately facilitate client conversion and business turnover.
  3. It helps guarantee compliance with industry-specific standards for network and data security. When done effectively, firewall management helps safeguard sensitive data and avoid potential regulatory fines and lawsuits.

Organizations can choose self-managed firewalls (e.g., Windows Defender Firewall) or service provider-managed firewalls (e.g., Falcon Firewall Management) to address the firewall management complexities discussed above.

Pros of a Managed HBFW

A managed host-based firewall is a third-party solution that offers proactive HBFW monitoring and administration, providing companies with several key benefits.

Expert and Automated Management

Instead of burdening your security team with the highly technical task of firewall management, you can leverage the expertise of a managed service provider to promptly address all security issues and provide regular feedback on the state of your HBFW. With managed solutions, network monitoring is also automated, allowing for instant threat/anomaly prevention.

Network Location Awareness (NLA)

HBFWs typically have different network location options. With NLA, you can specify any of the three locations for each firewall rule, ensuring different rules will apply when the endpoint is at different “locations.” Some firewalls have three: domain networks (discoverable, applied when the host system is connected to a domain controller), private networks (discoverable, user-assigned) and public networks (a default but changeable setting, undiscoverable to prevent discovery by other devices on the public network). Users can permanently configure their preferred location or change the location intermittently as required. NLA further enhances firewall effectiveness and improves security.

Streamlined Management

Managed HBFWs are easier to set up, implement and monitor. They save on costs related to employing and training staff, and also on time since security/DevSecOps teams do not have to set up and regularly patch multitudes of rules/policies. This is especially the case for large organizations with heterogeneous firewalls on different endpoints.

Data Access Concerns

One potential downside of a managed HBFW is the given service provider has access to sensitive data within your systems. However, this can be minimized by choosing a reputable service provider and implementing identity and role-based access controls.

Choosing a Host-Based Firewall Management Solution

The following are some important criteria to consider when choosing a host-based firewall management solution.


Consider a solution that deploys quickly, without reboots or configurations requiring a lot of time and effort. There should be customizable templates for easy configuration and maintenance of firewall policies across various workloads and environments. The solution should also allow you to easily circulate policy changes and reuse rule groups across environments.

Centralized Management

A solution that offers a unified dashboard where important firewall metrics are displayed must be a priority. These metrics could include:

  • Details of changes to firewall rules
  • CPU and memory usage
  • Number of attempted, blocked and successful connections/requests
  • Number of malware and virus injection attempts detected and prevented

Automation and Scalability

Large organizations can have hundreds of firewalls, all of which must be managed properly. Since manual management is laborious and unnecessarily stressful, the ideal firewall management solution will take the burden off users and automate firewall monitoring, anomaly detection and threat prevention. This will help ensure that regardless of the scale, you can apply specific app and traffic-source rules, as well as vary the rules across diverse firewalls within your larger environment.


Choose a solution that seamlessly integrates with apps and app components, endpoints, existing firewalls and other solutions in your organization’s stack. The solution must not spike host CPU usage or negatively affect the performance of your host.

Troubleshooting and Compliance

The right solution should log detailed performance data so if any anomalies are observed, your security team can act fast to install a new rule or remove an old one. These logs can also serve as evidence of compliance when necessary.

6 Best Host-Based Firewall Management Solutions

Having considered the functionalities that an ideal solution should offer, here’s six top firewall management solutions, along with the functionalities they offer.

1. CrowdStrike Falcon® Firewall Management

Austin, TX  | 2011 |

Falcon Firewall Management is a unified network security solution that incorporates endpoint security, threat intelligence and hunting, and instant firewall performance visibility into a single tool. 

As a managed solution, CrowdStrike Falcon Firewall Management incorporates role-based access control (RBAC) and Zero Trust network access (ZTNA) to ensure secure firewall management. It is also compatible with multiple environments (including Windows and MacOS).

The solution deploys within minutes, requires no complex manual configurations, and allows you to propagate updates across the required policies.

Falcon Firewall Management comes with a few key capabilities.

Domain Matching/FQDN

Most firewall protocols allow adding only local and remote IP addresses, but this can be problematic when there are multiple servers behind a single domain name. This phenomenon is common with cloud services (e.g., AWS) and usually implies that a single domain can resolve to hundreds — if not thousands — of IP addresses, making allowlisting/blocking nearly impossible for a firewall administrator to manage.

Domain matching enables CrowdStrike customers to enter a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) instead of an IP address when creating firewall rules for allowlisting or blocking, easing policy enforcement and improving firewall effectiveness.

Wildcard FQDN

While an FQDN solves important firewall management problems, a firewall administrator may still encounter challenges using it where IP lists change regularly without warning, making maintaining the addresses a major headache. This is because standard FQDNs use system DNS settings, meaning that should the IP entries for an address change, the configured FQDN rule may be rendered ineffectual.

Falcon Firewall Management offers a workaround where you can allowlist apps, domains and subdomains using wildcard DNS records that are specified with “*” (e.g., * This allows you to match requests to domain names regardless of IP changes.

Firewall Enhancement Location Awareness

Aside from domain name-based allowlisting, Falcon’s NLA functionality ensures you can configure and enforce firewall policies for IPs regardless of changes to location, ensuring ultra-precise control and improving threat prevention accuracy.

Additional key features include:

  • Single unified dashboard for endpoint and firewall management
  • Lightweight agent that ensures minimal host CPU and memory consumption
  • Powerful rule validation mechanism to prevent the creation of conflicting and faulty rules
  • Detailed logging and auditing for regulatory compliance
  • Safety testing for firewall policies before deployment
  • Granular control for fast troubleshooting

2. Trellix Windows Firewall Management 

Santa Clara, CA | 1987 |

Trellix Windows Firewall Management is part of a suite of products dominated by Trellix Endpoint Security. The product offers firewall protection and management for Windows, Mac and Linux devices. It has a user interface (Trellix ePO software) and is an efficient traffic filtering and malware detection solution.

Key features of the product:

  • Unified management dashboard for Microsoft Defender Firewall
  • Story graph for monitoring threat detections and firewall performance
  • Protection workspace for tracking unresolved detections and escalated devices
  • Customizable security offerings
  • Regulatory compliance facilitation

3. Palo Alto Host Firewall for Windows

Santa Clara, CA | 2005 |

Palo Alto’s host firewall is a solution that can be found within Cortex XDR 7.1 or later. Palo Alto’s Cortex XDR is a network-based threat detection and remediation tool with extensive firewall performance logging capabilities.

It offers two firewall and endpoint protection services: Cortex XDR Prevent, which enables you to configure host-based firewall rules for traffic filtering, and Cortex XDR Pro,which is similar in function but has add-ons such as behavior indicators and swift anomaly investigation.

Key features of the product:

  • Centralized management
  • Data and alert retention
  • Execution file identification and scanning for malicious code injection prevention

Cortex XDR Pro Suite features

  • Compatibility with various external firewalls
  • USB access control
  • Antivirus and anti-malware capabilities
  • Disk encryption
  • Vulnerability assessment

4. Endpoint Firewall Control by SentinelOne

Mountain View, CA | 2013 |

SentinelOne Endpoint Firewall Control is an anti-malware and anti-exploit solution that allows users to configure endpoint communication controls. It uses a lightweight agent that can receive firewall monitoring updates from SentinelOne servers.

Key features of the product:

  • Inbound and outbound traffic monitoring
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Unauthorized data transmission detection and prevention
  • User-friendly management console
  • Regulatory compliance facilitation
  • Behavioral protection

5. Symantec Endpoint Security Firewall by Broadcom

Mountain View, CA | 1982 |

Headquarters: Mountain View, California, United States

Foundation year: 1982

Symantec Endpoint Security Firewall is part of the Symantec Endpoint Protection stack. This firewall enables you to customize rules and settings so that you can re-order the rules for device-aware traffic filtering.

Key features of the product:

  • Intrusion prevention system
  • Rule-based firewall engine for advanced threat detection
  • First- and third-party device protection
  • Antivirus and anti-malware
  • Easy-to-operate console
  • Seamless firewall rule creation, assessment, enforcement and modification

6. Windows Defender Firewall by Microsoft

Redmond, WA | 1975 |

Windows Defender Firewall is a built-in host-based solution on all Windows editions. While Microsoft was launched in 1975, its firewall solution was introduced in 2004.

Key features of the product:

  • Self-managed firewall
  • Network and device-sensitive rule creation
  • Two-way traffic filtering
  • Network access control via IPsec
  • Real-time monitoring and reporting
  • Advanced security via IPsec
  • Intelligent threat analytics
  • Antivirus and anti-malware protection