Why Your Business Needs A Strong Firewall

June 12, 2017

Although you may not be running a multi-million-pound business or storing military secrets your business may still be an attractive target for hackers. Whilst the recent media coverage of the WannaCry attack focused on the NHS the attack infected numerous small businesses across the world. 46% of UK businesses have identified at least one cyber security breach in the past 12 months.

Measures such as keeping software and anti-virus up-to-date and training staff are certainly helpful in preventing attacks. But, when it comes to cyber security, the more layers you employ the better. That’s why businesses need a strong firewall solution. Your IT Support provider will almost certainly be talking to you about multiple defences. These might include antivirus, anti-malware, password management etc. But somewhat surprisingly large numbers of businesses are operating without a firewall. Or they have something that is completely unsuitable for the type of network that they operate. These businesses may not know what a huge risk they are taking. Many businesses presume that protection is somehow ‘built-in’ to their systems. By the time they discover they have no protection it’s too late.

What is a Firewall?

Image depicting a strong firewall for business
Image courtesy of sheelamohan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A firewall is a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic. It decides whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of rules.

Firewalls have been the first line of defence in network security for over 25 years and they can be hardware, software or both. They provide a barrier between internal networks which are secure and trusted and untrusted external networks – such as the internet.

Why should you have a Firewall?

Your internet connection is used for a wide variety of services such as email, search and social media. You may also have cloud-based services such as Dropbox or Office 365. The same internet connection that handles all your outbound traffic also allows inbound traffic. It’s these inbound traffic that needs monitoring.

A firewall will actively look for known viruses, phishing emails, and spam and block them before they get into your business. When a computer goes online, all the data coming in or out is monitored to see if it’s safe. If the firewall decides it isn’t safe then the data is blocked and the details are logged. What is blocked and what’s let through is constantly updated.

As well as viruses, you can also use a firewall to block certain websites. So, you can set up a policy that blocks individuals from potential time-wasting sites, such as Facebook. Or you can create rules for specific users, devices and times. For example, you might allow your employees to access Facebook during lunch breaks only, while at the same time keeping it completely unblocked for the marketing team.

As well as security, a good firewall can also improve network performance. You can limit the network bandwidth for non-business things such as music. This ensures that higher priority traffic gets through quickly. You can also setup mobile device users and remote users to access internal network resources securely through a Virtual Private Network or VPN.

What firewall do I need?

Software firewalls provide decent levels of protection and are certainly much, much better than having no firewall at all. However, software solutions are best suited to home use or for very small businesses. Some even argue that a software solution shouldn’t be described as a firewall at all. Before data reaches a software solution it has already passed through your router, network switch and your local hard drive. Hardly an impenetrable wall!

Hardware firewalls often include far more sophisticated controls than just web filtering and basic data scanning. These devices provide 24/7 protection. They sit directly behind the router meaning that all data from the Internet must pass through the firewall before arriving on any internal drives.

Instead of relying solely on catalogued viruses, like software solutions, hardware firewalls focus on ‘intelligent’ functions that analyse huge datasets to recognise malware and cyber attacks based on irregular activities.

However, the downside is these devices are extremely complex and managing them is no easy task and we’d suggest that these are configured, monitored and maintained by your IT Support provider.

How We Can Help

Unsure about your current cyber security arrangements? We will provide a free, no obligation security assessment for your small business call us today on 01509 7980 704 or email info@your-itdepartment.co.uk

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