What is a Firewall and Why is it Necessary?

To prevent hackers from acting on their bad intentions and making your business operations come to a halt, it’s important to use a firewall system.

If you are using a computer that runs a modern operating system, there’s a good chance that you are already using a firewall. Firewalls are widely used in both personal and enterprise computing, and many devices come loaded with one, including Mac, Windows, and even Linux-based computers. In fact, they are considered a quintessential component of cybersecurity.

But what exactly are firewalls and what are they used for? Are there any major advantages of using a firewall? Are there any significant business risks when you choose not to invest in a firewall? In this article, we share insights on these topics and much more!

What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a network or software-based barrier designed to shield your devices (or servers) from cyber threats. By having an effective firewall system in place, you can prevent unwanted and unauthorised access to your devices and network.

How Do Firewalls Work?

A firewall creates a border between external connections and the network it’s set up to protect. It monitors the network connections and inspects all the data packets entering and leaving the network, based on a set of established rules that help it distinguish between trustworthy and suspicious connection attempts (or potentially malicious data packets). If a firewall detects anything of a suspicious or malicious nature attempting to go through your private network, it will block it.

How Do Firewalls Work?

A firewall creates a border between external connections and the network it’s set up to protect. It monitors the network connections and inspects all the data packets entering and leaving the network, based on a set of established rules that help it distinguish between trustworthy and suspicious connection attempts (or potentially malicious data packets). If a firewall detects anything of a suspicious or malicious nature attempting to go through your private network, it will block it.

To safeguard your best interests, a robust firewall can also make devices on your network invisible or untraceable, to prevent anyone with ill intentions from trying to hijack your system by bombarding it with connection requests. Advanced firewalls also keep a detailed record of good vs potentially harmful applications, websites, and IP addresses, along with a list of potential risks and connection attempts that need your attention.

Are Firewalls Really Necessary?

Without a firewall, you would be allowing every connection request from anyone to access your private network from anywhere. As a result, you wouldn’t have much control over your network’s cybersecurity and almost no way to detect and block incoming threats. This would leave your network devices vulnerable to the whims and fancies of bad actors, who could take over the control of your network and hijack your operations, without notice.

But you might be wondering.. “don’t most devices come pre-loaded with a firewall?” The answer is yes, many of them do! However, the standard built-in firewalls are only software-based and take care of only the basic security, like the ones that come bundled with computers and laptops. This is why you should never make the mistake of thinking your devices are already safe and all the potential cyber threats have been prevented, since that’s exactly what the bad actors are hoping for.

What Type of Firewall Provides Business-Grade Cybersecurity?

Businesses need to employ different types of firewalls together as a part of their cybersecurity strategy. Depending on your business needs, you may also need a hardware-based firewall to filter out all the unwanted traffic from your network and prevent cyber attacks.

For optimum cybersecurity and protecting business data, it’s essential to rely on an enterprise-grade firewall that provides the maximum features and extensive network monitoring, to keep an eye out for every single data packet and connection request that reaches your network. A business-grade firewall will also let you control what devices on your network can communicate with external networks. This way, you can determine what types of information, including emails, can be sent out from your network by which user, thereby letting you prevent employees from sharing confidential or sensitive information with unauthorised personnel.

What are the Top Advantages of Using a Firewall for Cyber Security?

1. Prevent Unauthorised Remote Access

No business would want anyone unauthorised to acquire control of their network devices and access sensitive data remotely. To prevent hackers from acting on their bad intentions and making your business operations come to a halt, it’s important to use a firewall system that’s correctly configured to allow only authorised personnel to establish a remote connection with your office network.

2. Secure Sensitive Business Data

By not having a firewall in place, you are leaving your network and devices exposed to all forms of cyber threats, allowing bad actors to access sensitive business data whenever they want to. After accessing your data, cybercriminals could copy it to their own devices, and subsequently delete the data from your servers and devices. As a result, not only could your business suffer a serious setback, but the cybercriminals could also demand ransom for it, making your losses unsurmountable. They could also potentially use it further to harass your clientele, or commit identity theft and other types of financial fraud.

3. Prevent Access to Vulnerabilities of Applications and Operating Systems

The programs and applications you have installed on your servers and devices could have bugs, especially when any software is not updated regularly or when the developers are still unaware of the bugs after the latest update. This could potentially provide cybercriminals with an opportunity to get backdoor access to your network when they hijack those applications by taking undue advantage of these bugs. A firewall would help block such access and ensure your applications remain secure.

4. Prevent Trojans, Viruses, and Other Malicious Software from Entering Your Network

There are countless viruses and malware that are floating around on the internet. If you don’t have a robust and updated firewall that’s actively looking for such threats, your company could fall prey to a malware attack. All it requires is a single compromised device on the network! Cybercriminals can also create and use targeted macros that will instruct your applications to act unexpectedly and potentially delete crucial data or even crash the system. An active firewall will always be looking out for such threats, keeping your data safe and operations uncompromised.

5. Safeguard Your Network from Being Crashed by Bad Actors

Once bad actors get access to your unprotected network, they can choose to shut down your network, which will have an immediate impact on your services and business operations. Most hackers use sophisticated attacks like Denial of Service (DoS) and Email Bomb attacks to disrupt the network operations by repeatedly bombarding the targeted servers with messages or requests for connection. This slows the servers down considerably and eventually causes them to crash.

Getting your system up and running again and trying to recover all your stored business data after such serious attacks, could require a lot of your time and money. In many cases like these, businesses find themselves helpless, as their efforts may not bear any fruits, and they have to surrender to the hackers’ demands, which typically includes ransoms involving huge sums of money.

A robust firewall will effectively block such attacks and ensure that your servers are up and running, while your teams continue to operate, without much disruption.

6. Prevent Hijacking of Email Sessions and SMTP Server

Cybercriminals find it easier to hijack an SMTP server in the absence of an active firewall. Once they are able to achieve this, they are only one step away from sending spam or malicious emails to your business contacts through your email server. Needless to say, this would cause considerable damage to your business reputation, and make clients lose their faith in your brand and its values.

Why is it Crucial to Include Firewalls in Your Cybersecurity Strategy Now?

Over the course of last year, cyber threats have become a growing concern for businesses not just in the UK, but also worldwide. Experts believe this worrying trend is set to continue throughout this year, and even beyond. Cybercriminals know for a fact that the current remote working situation makes not just devices and systems, but also employees more vulnerable to attack. This is why businesses need to become more proactive than ever by creating a foolproof strategy when it comes to their cybersecurity, and having an enterprise-grade firewall is an important step in this direction.

Final Thoughts

Most businesses could easily succumb to a serious cyber-attack, if they don’t have a firewall in place. Having a reliable setup of firewalls can thwart cyberattacks and prevent threats from successfully reaching your servers or devices, thereby significantly reducing risk to your business.

Having said this, a firewall alone can’t protect you from all the cyber threats. Having a holistic approach towards cybersecurity is imperative, as there are countless other measures that you need to take, in order to ensure your business security is not compromised under any circumstance.

If you would like to learn more about business security and firewalls, get in touch with us today, and speak to our cybersecurity experts.

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