Unsafe websites and cyber threats pose a growing risk to companies. With the increasing appetite of ‘bad actors’ to illicitly access companies’ proprietary information to later sell it on the Dark Web, mounting a proper defence is essential.
Firewalls should be considered essential in today’s competitive business environment. The main distinction between these security solutions is that they’re either hardware-based or software-based. Both can be effective at protecting your operating systems, but hardware firewalls are preferred due to their robust capabilities.
What Does a Firewall Do and How Does It Work?
Firewalls filter incoming and outgoing traffic by analysing, assessing for risk, and when needed, blocking access to and from networks.
For example, a firewall may see requests originating from Outlook and Microsoft Exchange which would usually represent normal activity. The emails will need to be scanned for viruses and malware but, otherwise, this would be reasonable, and the traffic would be allowed to pass through the network uninterrupted.
However, when an attempt is made to gain access to the company’s network from an external source, this will be examined by the firewall to determine its validity. Unwanted intrusion attempts or unusual data packages are examined and sometimes blocked before they reach the company’s network and servers.
Firewalls use a series of rules to confirm what is acceptable traffic passing across the network or connecting to it, and what is not. These rules can help to avoid malicious software such as malware and viruses reaching company terminals or infesting a vital server, thus protecting your sensitive data.
New and emerging cyber threats pose a continuous problem for companies, who simply cannot afford to ignore them.
Firewalls weren’t initially thought to be required for personal computers when purchased and brought into the home. Even in the business world, companies didn’t worry much about network threats as the internet wasn’t widely used as a business tool until the 1990s. To put this in perspective, Amazon.com wasn’t launched until July 16, 1995…
Even early Microsoft Windows versions like Windows XP didn’t come with an adequate software-based firewall or antivirus software. Enterprising home users tried out ZoneAlarm, an early software firewall for consumers, to add a better layer of much-needed protection.
However, as the Millennium approached, internet adoption, the use of email, and the advent of computer hacking all grew exponentially. Things were different now.
For companies needing to protect their assets, Cisco was one of the first to provide hardware router firewalls. These performed packet-level inspections to block network traffic and access attempts.
Since then, firewalls have become multi-layered, highly configurable, and come in different types and sub-types depending on what their function is.
Types of Firewalls
Software firewalls have their place. However, when protecting a computer network, a Windows PC, or a Linux workstation, a software firewall is insufficient.
Software applications can suffer from an execution failure error, and crash. If that was your firewall app, you’re expected shield just went dark. Hardware-based solutions, like properly configured router-based firewalls, offer greater protection because they’re ever-present.
A network switch with a built-in firewall can protect the company’s servers and connected devices. Cloud-based SaaS apps and mobile apps let IT network administrators and security specialists monitor network usage and traffic in real-time, adjust settings, review alerts, and prevent unauthorised access.
Microbyte offers two kinds of hardware firewall options:
UniFi Switches and Routers
UniFi Security Gateway uses a compact hardware network switch with its UniFi Network app to manage it.
Network traffic monitoring, management, and routing are provided. You can manage traffic at the network and port level via their app. It has a highly visual interface and is data-driven allowing network admins to make network configuration changes or grant access to new network users, from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop device.
Hotspots can be set up for guests on the network and employees can be granted the right to use their devices, as required. Of course, Microbyte will help set this all up for your company.
Cisco Meraki is a highly sophisticated system for larger SMEs and companies with complex network security requirements.
The Meraki Dashboard acts as a control centre for all network activities. This secure cloud solution can manage company networks, connected mobile devices, cellular gateways, sensors, smart cameras, and more.
The sophisticated network security system learns from the activities of all authorised users on the company’s networks and from their traffic patterns. It establishes which network activities are normal and which are suspect. This uses a smart learning algorithm which goes way beyond basic network rules that were established long ago.
Security updates to software and firmware updates for network hardware avoid unwanted gaps in security due to missed patches. In the past, these could have been new avenues of attack, but thanks to continual updates deployed as they become available, networks are made safer.
Additional Features of a Firewall
Block lists are designed to help block threats before they occur. These IP blacklists are used to stop improper traffic and malicious network connection attempts originating from already known bad IPs or IP neighbourhoods.
Traffic can often be blocked on a per-country basis too. For example, when a remote employee is working abroad from one of 3 countries, network access attempts from any other country can be automatically blocked. Microbyte sets up many other access protocols and security procedures that can be deployed to verify each remote user beyond these initial steps.
Content filtering is increasingly required within businesses to prevent inappropriate content or improper websites from being accessed on the company network.
More sophisticated network management tools provide content filtering to better manage what happens both within the network and when using the internet too.
Real-time traffic integration
Network incoming traffic can sometimes be viewed in real-time by network managers using dashboards.
Microbyte helps you set up these dashboards to highlight when data usage has suddenly spiked, or suspicious access is occurring. Staff and network IT professionals can be immediately alerted to address the malicious traffic or network security issues to resolve them.
Let Microbyte Protect Your Business
Microbyte can assist in the installation and configuration of the best firewall for your business.
Firewalls must be properly configured to provide appropriate protection depending on the needs of the company. This is often combined with other steps such as antivirus tools at the operating system level to scan for risky email attachments and suspect file downloads.
Don’t risk a poorly configured firewall leaving your business at risk from outside threats.