The Internet is big and like space, it just keeps getting bigger. Researchers estimate that it doubles in size about every two years. More specifically, the IDC predicts that by 2025 the global datasphere will grow to 175 zettabytes, where one zettabyte equals one trillion gigabytes.
Although most online traffic is benign, some of it is purposely designed to harm your IT infrastructure and organisation. These days, most business IT infrastructure is constantly connected to the Internet and that means the digital threats come at you 24/7. It also means your technology and IT service partner have to be constantly vigilant to combat these constant threats. Ultimately, you’ll need a firewall installed on all devices to protect your business from cyberattacks.
totality services is one of the leading London IT support providers, assisting your business in safeguarding its cybersecurity. We deliver unrivalled expertise in cybersecurity, from installing firewalls to defensive software and essential staff training. So, if you’d like to find out more about our cybersecurity services, please speak to one of our team. Or simply reach out to us for a confidential, no obligation chat about your requirements.
In this blog article we will cover the following points:
- Why firewalls matter to SMBs
- What is a firewall?
- The two main types of firewall
- How firewalls work
- Configuring your firewall
- The benefits of a firewall
- What a firewall can’t do
- There’s more you can do
Why firewalls matter to SMBs
SMBs tend to be a vulnerable source for cybercriminals to target, due to their limited cybersecurity measures. Learning how to use and install a secure firewall creates an extra layer of protection and can be essential for businesses who cannot finance the latest defensive technologies.
According to a study released in June 2023, 61% of SMBs in the UK and US have experienced cyberattacks in the past year. Furthermore, insurer Hiscox estimates that every 19 seconds a small business is hacked by cybercriminals.
Almost one in five (19%) SMBs also claimed the average cost of dealing with a cyberattack could be up to £4,200. A close number (18%) reported a complete lack of cybersecurity measures in their SMBs, meaning the financial consequences of an attack were increasingly difficult to recover from.
What is a firewall?
A firewall is like having a digital defensive perimeter fence around your company’s IT infrastructure. It’s designed to help protect your business, your users, your technology and your customers’ information from malicious content by denying it entry to your network.
How can a firewall protect your computers?
A firewall determines what to let into and what to keep out of your network by checking the ‘packets’ of website traffic attempting to gain entry.
When such a packet arrives, your firewall will assess the data it contains to determine if it’s safe. If it is, the firewall will let it in, but if the firewall thinks the data is harmful it will reject it.
The two main types of firewall
Many of the devices which make up your IT infrastructure will have a built-in firewall. They are known as hardware firewalls.
A hardware firewall is a physical appliance in your communications rack through which all your internet traffic is routed, so it can monitor incoming data.
With a hardware firewall built in, there’s little setup required. They are also simple to install on the other devices attached to your network.
For additional security, you can also install a firewall using a third-party application. These are referred to as software firewalls.
These monitor outgoing internet traffic leaving your organisation, in which you can ‘whitelist’ certain sender IP addresses, email addresses or domain names. This allows your network to explicitly accept data and information from chosen addresses.
As software firewalls are usually installed via a third-party application, some manual setup will be needed. On top of that you’ll need to arrange licensing to cover all your devices the software is installed on.
The advantage of software firewalls is that they will reduce the spread (and, therefore, the threat) of malicious content between your users.
How firewalls work
The important thing to note is that although hardware and software firewalls work in different ways, they share the same goal. This is to protect your network and keep your business, as well as your users and customers, safe from malicious activity.
Firewalls work by cross-checking the many public lists of harmful websites to ensure they are blocked from entry to your network. In addition, they can also identify and reject other unwelcome elements of web traffic you do not want to give access to, such as viruses and crypto lockers.
Configuring your firewall
You can configure your firewall to monitor and block traffic based on several criteria. The most popular choices are restricting IP addresses, website categories and domain names. This can extend to specific words or phrases included in a website’s URL or content and spotting behaviour changes such as large-scale data removal.
The benefits of a firewall
Firewalls are a proven, robust and flexible technology that has evolved as threats have. Generally, with a firewall you can:
Prevent unauthorised remote access
If someone gains unauthorised remote access to your device, they can take total control. Any data available on your device can be extracted and exploited in any way they choose.
Test a variety of configurations to see what works best
A firewall can be installed and set up in many ways to protect your IT infrastructure, depending on the needs of your business, people, and operations.
Maximise resilience, minimise risk
By integrating both hardware and software firewalls you gain optimum protection against various digital threats.
What a firewall can’t do
Firewalls are powerful weapons in the fight against online threats, but there is more you must do to deliver optimal protection for your business’ peace of mind.
In fact, we’re often asked how we can protect your business from cyberattacks. And the truth is firewalls alone are not enough.
Here are some of the threats they cannot protect your IT infrastructure against:
Problem: a hacker imitates a legitimate company’s website and as the communications look credible (such as e-mail), they slip past a firewall unnoticed.
Solution: e-mail scanning software can help prevent such attacks.
Malware, viruses and worms
Problem: a firewall won’t prevent threats like malware, viruses, and worms from entering your network.
Solution: antivirus software will help protect your organisation from such threats.
There’s more you can do
Firewalls, e-mail scanning, antivirus software therefore all have a part to play in the way you protect your organisation’s IT infrastructure, network, people, and customers. But there’s even more you can do to protect your business from cyberattacks, including:
Statistically speaking, your people are the weakest link in your security chain, albeit in error or unintentionally. So, it ultimately benefits your organisation if you train your staff on cybersecurity risks, business regulations, compliance, and industry best practices. Also, be prepared to update and revise your training in line with the evolving threats.
Many software packages will update themselves automatically. But for those that don’t, the designers will regularly provide patches to repair glitches, bugs and security weaknesses. Make sure to use them. In fact, updating your software should become a part of your day-to-day tech processes.
It’s common sense but it’s worth repeating – make the passwords you and your team utilise as hard as possible for cybercriminals to guess and crack. None of your people should share their passwords, even with a trusted colleague.
Overall, installing a firewall on all devices is an important and logical move for any business starting to implement cybersecurity measures. But for SMBs it is an essential step to helping secure your business’ devices from threats and won’t break the bank.
Although they cannot cover all protective action, firewalls establish a firm barrier against harmful and often malicious traffic. If cybercriminals managed to gain access to your devices, it could be damaging and even more debilitating to SMBs. So, always think about where sensitive data is kept and ensure it is backed up too.
Finally, there should always be multiple points of defence – one anti-virus software installed on all your organisation’s devices won’t cut it. But with the abilities of a firewall hopefully we’ve given you a good place to start thinking about how to protect your business from cyberattacks.