What exactly is a firewall, and why are they so important?
A firewall is a system which acts as a layer of protection between your network and the internet. It filters incoming and outgoing network traffic based on a set of rules that are designed to keep you safe. It’s your frontline defence when it comes to defending against viruses, malware and hackers, and it’s essential for any network or device.
Most people are familiar with firewalls that come in the form of software, products like Norton or Bitdefender. However, firewalls come in many different forms depending on the environment and network they are protecting. For example, a typical home user will have a firewall built into their internet router and a software firewall installed on their device – whereas a business will generally have a hardware based UTM system with a physical firewall which protects all devices connected to that particular network.
A firewall works by looking at incoming and outgoing data packets. Data packets are just small chunks of data. The firewall will then judge whether it should allow or block the data packet based on a set of rules.
Firewalls at home
The main goal of a personal firewall is to protect your personal equipment and private network from malicious attacks and unauthorised access. In a home environment, firewalls generally block all incoming network traffic from the internet using a set of pre-determined rules, apart from requested traffic such as internet web browsing or multiplayer access in gaming.
Almost all modern home routers come pre-configured with a built-in firewall to help protect against unauthorised attacks against all devices connected to your network, this includes PC’s, laptops and Macs. We now live in an age where smart devices are used more and more in many different ways. You can now use smart home devices to control anything from playing music, to controlling TV’s, security alarm systems or even ordering food from a smart fridge. Without firewalls, your devices would be accessible to anybody on the internet.
Firewalls in a business
Firewalls in a business are a lot more heavy-duty than personal firewalls and generally come in the form of hardware based UTM’s (Unified Threat Management) systems. The purpose of a business grade firewall is not only to protect devices on the network, but also to protect the data. Businesses will have sensitive data within their network such as customer data, which under the strict regulations of GDPR, must be kept safe. A Unified Threat Management system is one way to achieve compliance.
Businesses generally require custom rules within their firewalls to allow more traffic into the network than normal, this can be for employee remote access, VPN connections or simply monitoring of security CCTV systems on the go. UTM systems allow a network administrator complete control over a business’ network and can be tailored to the businesses needs both internally and externally.
Modern UTM systems can block internet traffic by port number or by country. A UTM firewall will also integrate other protection services such as Intrusion Prevention Technology and Virus Scanning, so even if traffic gets through, it then goes through a thorough cycle of security scans before it gets to your device. UTM’s are powerful machines and are designed to achieve all of this without slowing down your network or internet connection.
UTM Firewalls not only protect incoming traffic, but they also protect outgoing traffic too. This can be setup to prevent unauthorised web browsing and downloading. It also includes services such as Data Loss Protection Technology.