If we’ve said it before, we’ve said it a thousand times: In today’s digital landscape, having top-of-the-line network security is paramount to running your business. In addition to having a strong antivirus and anti-malware software program, an important part of your network security plan is operating your business with a good firewall.
A firewall is the first line of defense in protecting your network from outside threats. In fact, firewalls have been an integral part of network security for over 25 years. That’s almost as long as computers have been a part of everyday business life.
Despite its importance, many people don't actually know what a firewall does or how it works. Here’s everything you need to know, starting with the basics.
What Is a Firewall?
The word firewall, when used in the capacity of information technology, has been derived from its use in the physical world. In the real world, a firewall is a component of structure that is used to literally keep fire from passing through a wall. Consider fire doors in schools or workplaces that are made of a thick metal and close automatically when the alarm goes off. This is, essentially, the job of IT firewalls - to block a threat from making its way from one place to another.
When firewalls were first introduced, they were separate, physical devices attached to the network that were capable of blocking unwanted IP addresses and other suspicious activity. They acted as a filter, preventing traffic from entering the network that shouldn't be there. Today, firewalls still exist as separate physical devices. However many devices and software programs have built-in firewalls. For example, many routers now include firewall software, as do personal computers.
Do I Really Need It?
The short answer here is absolutely. The long answer is a bit more complex. Years ago, separate, physical firewalls were necessary because the security that was built into personal computers, servers, and routers was shoddy at best and non-existent in many cases. However, over the last few years, the security protocols that come pre-installed in a variety of devices and software have begun to exceed the capabilities in a single firewall. The question now isn’t “do I need a firewall,” but rather “do I need an additional firewall” or perhaps, “do I need to invest in a next-generation firewall?”
The answers to those questions depend on what it is you’re looking to protect. The firewalls that are built into most routers do a fantastic job of quickly and efficiently identifying and blocking potentially harmful traffic from entering your network. However, they only monitor inbound traffic. This mean that, unfortunately, outbound traffic is fairly unmonitored and if something nefarious manages to make its way in, then it can use your computers and network to proliferate and disseminate it’s malintentions.
Looking to Invest in Your Business’ Security Strategy?
Next-generation firewalls have a plethora of additional capabilities, such as behavior monitoring and analysis that can help prevent attacks simply by anticipating dangerous behavior.
Have questions about firewalls and your organization’s security needs? Let’s explore that in your FREE IT assessment.