Firewalls have become a term of common usage when we talk about network security. But what is firewall protection and what does a firewall do? The most basic explanation for a firewall is that it provides protection for a network or system from unauthorised access by someone on the outside of it. Firewalls can protect business data, such as financial information or employee records, and prevent these from being obtained and exploited by a third party, as well as avoiding malicious software from making it into your systems.
How does firewall protection work?
Firewalls exist in two forms – hardware and software. Software firewalls usually come in a bundle of virus protection software and are simple to install. Once in place, they allow for observations on the flow of traffic and will provide that primary protection against basic threats, such as malicious software accidentally being downloaded by someone with access to the network. Hardware firewall software is a physical product that is essentially set up as the entry and exit point for your network. Hardware firewalls set themselves up as a checkpoint and will automatically reject and block anything the looks like it could pose a potential network threat. The principal difference between hardware and software firewalls is that software firewalls protect individual machines, whereas hardware firewalls provide security for an entire network.
The benefits of firewall protection
Using a combination of software and hardware firewalls gives businesses – as well as individual machines – the best chance of avoiding falling victim to a network attack. Installing a software firewall on each computer in a network also protects others from being affected by an attack to another machine on a network and the gatekeeper function of the hardware firewall acts as an overarching protection. Firewalls also provide a way of monitoring for malicious activities so you can see how much your organisation is being targeted and get some idea as to how high the threat level is. Firewalls don’t need to be operated – once they are in place then they continue to carry out their work, maintaining protection and updating themselves continuously to ensure that network security remains in tact for as long as it is required.
As cyber security becomes a priority for organisations both large and small, a firewall is a basic and essential tool to provide insight into attacks on your network, and to prevent them from being successful.