A firewall (along with antivirus software) is an essential tool every organization or individual has in their arsenal to protect their devices and sensitive data.
However, many people still don’t know much about Firewall technology — at least not much beyond the fact that it blocks unwanted traffic coming from the public internet.
Do you really need it?
Is there already a firewall on your computer?
Do you require both firewall and anti-malware?
What does the firewall do, anyway?
Here, we answer your top four, burning firewall questions.
As mentioned, a firewall is a wall between the public internet and the user’s private network. It allows through only the wanted traffic and blocks malicious traffic riddled with viruses from entering the system.
As a result, it prevents hackers from getting in, obtaining sensitive information, or gaining control over parts (or entirety) of the network.
To filter and mitigate dangerous traffic going in and out of the system, it relies on the rules determined by the organization and the best practices suggested by the security firms.
Essentially, it locks the doors and allows in only the traffic that is known to be safe for business, stopping intruders at the doorstep.
For instance, you can adjust the settings to allow or restrict access to users or mark certain content as non-threatening, allowing it to pass into the network.
Modern firewalls are continually updated and use new findings to inspect and analyze incoming traffic. They detect and block suspicious activity on time, i.e. before the flaws turn into incidents for the company.
Generally, most organizations use four types of firewalls:
- Proxy (application, gateway) firewall
- Packet filtering
- Stateful inspection
- Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW)
On the application layer, information that is going in and out of the network is analyzed to determine whether the messages contain malicious code. A proxy firewall does a deep inspection of the traffic going back and forth between servers and clients.
In packet filtering, a small amount of the inbound and outbound information (packets) is inspected to determine whether it should get access to the network.
Similarly, the stateful inspection also analyzes packets, but on a greater and more dynamic scale — between two or more networks. It inspects the sessions of network connections to control access.
The latest development in firewall technology has been NGFW which combines the capabilities of the traditional tool with the new filtering possibilities for a deeper examination of the traffic.
The signs of a strong firewall are:
- Facilitated (united) management
- Versatile threat prevention
- Capability of scaling
- Supporting multi-cloud environments
Unified management is necessary because organizations nowadays have over 30 security points (tools and protocols that keep the assets safe). All of them have to work correctly — protect all assets of the company.
An intuitive and comprehensive management system allows control and minimizes the risks for increasingly complex infrastructures.
Nowadays, the attack surface (anything that can be exploited by hackers), the number of threats, and new hacking techniques are on the rise and expanding. Firewalls should follow these trends with threat prevention.
For example, it should be able to detect malicious bots, phishing attempts, threatened intelligence, and more.
Scaling is another crucial feature. As the company grows, security should follow suit without leaving the systems exposed at any given moment. Traditional firewalls, however, have not been designed for scaling. Modern versions are correcting that.
Businesses have been adapting complex multi-cloud structures. With that, they have to protect both the public and private cloud from threat actors. New generations firewalls have to support cloud environments as well.
A firewall is designed to detect and remove malware that is attempting to get into the internal network.
However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need antivirus software. Most individuals and companies pair the two for optimal results.
While a firewall is great at filtering dangerous traffic based on the pre-set rules, it can’t remove the virus that found its way into the system from different sources.
For instance, if the virus enters the device via USB, a firewall may not detect it. An antivirus program, on the other hand, will discover and remove it regardless of how it found its way to the device.
Pro tip: Never solely rely on a single tool or protocol to protect your most valuable assets from threat actors. A layered security architecture that consists of multiple protective software creates the strongest security.
Nowadays, firewalls combine capabilities of versatile tools — such as Virtual Private networks (VPN) and even antivirus software. However, if the firewall falls, you also lose the VPN and anti-malware protection.
Pro tip: You might already have a firewall on your device. Make sure to check before you invest in additional software.
In short — yes. Although it’s not required by law, a firewall is your first line of defense from attackers.
It guards the network against criminals that try to approach and find vulnerabilities in your internal network coming from the public internet.
Firewall technology has been developing since the 1980s. There have been different iterations of the tool based on the threats and needs of the organizations that have been using it.
Choosing a firewall that has features that form the best fit for the organization’s architecture is just as important as investing in a firewall.
Nowadays, there are many types of firewalls that can block malicious traffic and protect versatile infrastructures. The most popular choices have been proxy and packet filtering firewalls.
Regardless of the type you choose, it’ll guard your network against common hacking attempts and stop malicious activity before it can do any damage to your devices — such as taking over some parts of the system or downloading private information.