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What Every Business Owner Needs To Know About Firewalls

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Many years ago, it was sufficient for companies to install a sturdy front door and deadbolt in order to keep their data secure. Now that most businesses store sensitive information online, the old security strategies are no longer effective. A modern security measure that practically all businesses must invest in is a firewall. Consider a few key facts that may help you to understand the function of a firewall and why your company needs one.

What Is a Firewall?

A firewall is just one of the many forms of protection used for networks. This security measure can exist merely as software that is downloaded onto computers, or it can involve physical hardware. Many computers, or just one, may be the focus of a particular firewall. Either way, a firewall's main function is to keep tabs on traffic that leaves or attempts to enter your network. Not only does this network security device make note of each of these entrances and exits, but it can also stop someone from using the network in an undesirable way.

Firewalls function differently depending on the instructions, or rules, with which they are programmed. For example, you may choose to create a rule where certain employees can only access certain types of data within your network. In this case, your firewall monitors the IP addresses of each and every user who tries to reach a certain virtual destination. If someone with an unauthorized IP address attempts to go to a page with sensitive data, he or she will be prevented from doing so. This is a simple example of a firewall's function; the rules of most firewalls are much more complex.

Are There Different Types of Firewalls?

There are a number of distinct kinds of firewalls that differ based upon their complexity and mode of operation. Perhaps the most basic firewall is the packet filtering firewall. A packet is a sort of message that is sent between two different sources, containing important information about each source, in addition to separate data. Packet filtering firewalls deal with the header that is included in a packet, choosing which communications to allow based on the IP addresses of the sender and receiver. Circuit-level gateways, another type of firewall, function similarly, except they look at a different method of information exchange called a TCP handshake.

There are several types of firewalls whose function is more advanced that the packet filtering or circuit-level firewalls:

  • Proxy firewalls

  • Stateful inspection firewalls

  • Next-generation firewalls

Each of these security options has different advantages and disadvantages. For example, proxy firewalls are not as efficient as circuit-level gateways, but they also work to facilitate communication between two sources. The benefit of this is that they allow exchange of information while letting users remain anonymous, protecting their personal information.

Stateful inspection firewalls are a step up from packet filtering firewalls because they look beyond a packet's header. Namely, stateful inspection enables a firewall to look at the actual data being transmitted in a packet to prevent a virus or similar security threat from entering the network. With this added functionality comes an added cost and reduced efficiency, however. Next-generation firewalls are sort of an amalgamation of each of the types above. This goes to say that a NGFW takes on the functions of packet filtering, circuit-level, proxy and stateful inspection firewalls. Unfortunately, NGFW systems can be very expensive.

Is a Firewall All You Need To Protect Your Network?

Firewalls are necessary but not sufficient for your business's network security. There are many other steps you and your employees must take to protect your network and its data. First, you must maintain your firewall once you install or download it. Be sure to update your software and to invest in new hardware as needed.

With many employees working remotely or using portable devices, you must be sure all computers, including tablets and home computers, have downloaded the firewall software. Similarly, it is critical that all wireless internet systems use password protection and other forms of security to prevent people outside your company from accessing your private router.

Though it may seem simple, remember that every username and password combination serves as a protective measure against unauthorized entrance into the network. For this reason, employees' passwords must be sufficiently complex and should not be shared or posted anywhere for unauthorized users to see.

How Do You Design a Cyber Security Plan for Your Business?

Your company's optimal security plan will vary depending on your budget, as well as what level of security you need. If your business only uses a handful of on-site computers and handles little sensitive information, it will require a less sophisticated firewall and security strategy than if you deal with customers' banking information and use a variety of wireless devices.

 

There is no question that every business that uses computers for information sharing and storage needs cyber security. The main thing to consider is which plan best suits your company. Be sure to choose well, as security breaches can be costly to your business financially and in terms of customer relationships.

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