All businesses - large and small - need a firewall to protect their internal network from outside threats. These threats could include malware, viruses, or criminal hackers. While antivirus software is also important to have, it is not enough. Antivirus takes care of threats that are already in the system, while firewalls stop threats from getting in at all (both security measures are important to implement). A firewall is known as a perimeter defense, kind of like the walled fortress of a castle. It can be breached but it makes it much more difficult for the enemy. However, no wall means the enemy can walk right up to your front door.
What does a firewall do?
A firewall performs the following functions and more:
Blocks incoming network traffic based on source. One of the primary purposes of a firewall is to prevent “bad stuff” from coming into the network such as spam and criminal hackers. Your company will configure certain rules and criteria for what is allowed to come in to the network and what is not.
Blocks outgoing network traffic based on source. This allows you to prevent certain employees from accessing internet websites based on source and content.
Blocks network traffic based on content type. Advanced firewalls have the capability to prevent traffic from coming in based on content. For example, firewalls can be set to disallow known spam emails from coming in. They can also scan content for viruses and keep out files that are infected.
Reports on network traffic and firewall activities. You need to know if cyber criminals are trying to get into your network and if employees are attempting to access inappropriate websites. Most firewalls will allow you to see a report of this information.
What types of firewalls are available?
Software applications. You can purchase a software firewall for both personal computers and for servers. Most operating systems have a software firewall that comes pre-installed. This firewall should definitely be enabled for protection right from the start. You can also opt to purchase a different type of software firewall if you want. While a software firewall might be good enough for a home office or personal computer, it won’t work for larger businesses that handle sensitive data.
Hardware devices. A hardware firewall is a box-like object that is connected to your server. It is more appropriate than a software firewall for large operations. At catmandu, we sell our “Network Security Appliance” (NSA). It is an Enterprise firewall that provides complete network protection that keeps malware, viruses, and intruders out. It is made-to-order and highly-configurable so you are protected in the areas that you need. A hardware firewalls sits between the internet and the Local Area Network which allows for centralized management of the firewall, increased security, and uniform settings for all users.
Why do you need a firewall?
Because you can’t afford not to. And because they work. Though their technology is over 30 years old, firewalls remain the bedrock of security. It is one of the most basic, vital steps that all companies must take in order to protect their data from malicious threats. Remember, a firewall alone is not enough. It should be one part of a comprehensive data security plan that also includes antivirus, policies and procedures for employees, establishment of a culture of security, network access limitations, and protection of mobile devices.
When all of the parts come together, a company is much less likely to be the victim of a costly, damaging data breach.