The Importance of Firewall Protection

Firewalls are not physical objects ‘extinguishing fires’ alike to their name, but they are essential components of the internet security infrastructure that help prevent unauthorized access to a computer or network. They act as a virtual barrier between the world of the internet and your computer, screening the information that flows in and out of your device. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into the world of firewalls, their role in cyber-security, and how you can use them to benefit your personal or professional online activities.

What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a security device or software that operates at the point of entry and exit for data and network traffic between a network, typically a corporate network, and other external networks, such as the internet. It monitors and controls incoming and outgoing data packets based on the protocols and rules defined by the network administrator. These rules can be designed to block unauthorized access to your computer and allow or deny any incoming or outgoing traffic based on specific criteria set by the organization.

Firewalls use different methods to intercept incoming internet traffic to your computer, such as Packet Filtering, Stateful Inspection, and Next-Generation Firewalls. Packet filtering is the most basic form of firewall, where packets that do not meet pre-configured criteria are blocked. Stateful Inspection, on the other hand, examines the entire packet context and maintains a record of any previous packet exchanges that occurred to decide if it should allow or deny packets. Next-Generation Firewalls provide more advanced options by including intrusion prevention systems (IPSs) and other advanced threat detection technology as part of their firewall infrastructure.

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What are the Benefits of Firewalls?

The most significant benefits of firewalls are their ability to safeguard user data and network from unauthorized access, malware, phishing attacks, and other forms of cybercrime. In today's digital world, cyber attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated, targeting unsuspecting individuals and organizations alike. Firewalls play a critical role in preventing and mitigating the damages that occur during these cyber-attacks.

For example, suppose you are using the internet and are browsing through various websites and applications. In that case, a firewall will act as a barrier and inspect all incoming data to ensure that it is not malicious, it cannot execute dangerous scripts and will block any traffic that it detects leads to processes that may be harmful to the user or organization. Additionally, firewalls can also prevent unauthorized access to web applications that are vulnerable to injection attacks, such as poisoning or SQL injection.

Firewalls can also be used for other important functions unrelated to security. These functions include: controlling network bandwidth utilization by limiting the amount of traffic that can pass through an interface at one time, controlling the kind of content that users can access, and preventing users from accessing adult or inappropriate websites, and other undesirable content.

Types of Firewalls

There are two primary types of firewalls, hardware-based and software-based. A hardware-based firewall is a physical device designed to perform all of the firewall duties and plugged directly into the network at the router. It has its own operating system, CPU, and memory to handle duties assigned by the network administrator, and it’s able to inspect, control, and block traffic. These firewalls come with features like Quality of Service, VPN connectivity, and Traffic Shaping to provide more robust security measures.

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Software-based firewalls, on the other hand, are installed on your computer as an application. It examines your inbound and outbound traffic, records suspicious activities, and displays alerts whenever unidentified traffic wants to communicate with the computer. Software-based firewalls are relatively easy to install and configure compared to hardware-based firewalls, which have a steep learning curve. It’s essential to note that software firewalls can only shield users locally, while hardware-based firewalls protect larger networks.

Real-Life Examples of Firewalls in Action

With the rise of cyberattacks all around the globe, it’s now more important than ever for organizations and individuals to ensure they have an effective firewall in place. Recent events illustrate our point, for example, on May 7, 2021, the world was shocked when the ransomware group DarkSide attacked Colonial Pipeline – one of the largest fuel pipeline systems in the United States. The attack affected fuel deliveries and led to long lines of vehicles waiting at petrol stations, and many gas stations went dry for days. The fact that the company was unable to continue with its operations for a couple of days led to widespread panic and skyrocketing petrol prices.

According to security experts, the attack began with a single user account suddenly becoming compromised, which resulted in unauthorized access to Colonial Pipeline’s network. Had they had the proper firewalls and cyber-security protocols in place, which included proper monitoring of network access, secure password management, and notification when suspicious access occurs – this attack could have been thwarted before it ever caused a critical problem for the company and its clients.

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Conclusion

Firewalls are a critical component for any computer or network system, regardless of whether it is a personal or enterprise-level network. They help protect user data and their network from malicious external access, which could cause extensive damage like data theft, data corruption, or other security breaches. If you don’t use a firewall, attackers can easily gain access to your system and steal your confidential data, modify data, delete data, or install malware. To ensure you are protected, you must install a reputable firewall solution and keep it updated regularly. The cost of a high-quality firewall solution is small when compared to the cost of a security breach, and, in the end, the benefits of firewall protection far outweigh any costs. Enroll in our free cybersecurity course to learn more.

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