The Internet is big and, like space, it just keeps getting bigger. Researchers reckon it doubles in size about every two years.

By 2020, the data distributed by internet servers worldwide is expected to reach 40 zettabytes, there will be over 1.5 billion live websites and as many as 200 billion devices connected up.

Although most traffic is benign, some of it’s bad – purposely designed to harm your IT infrastructure and organisation.

To protect your company from cyber attacks you’ll need a firewall, so in this article you’ll discover…

Why firewalls matter to SMBs

According to research undertaken by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) here in the UK and especially in London, small businesses were subject to almost 10,000 cyber-attacks a day in 2019 – that’s one in five small firms.

The annual cost of attacks to the small business community is around £4.5 billion, with the average cost of an individual attack put at £1,300

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

Hardware firewalls

Many of the devices that 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 and they are simple to fit on all the devices on your network.

Software firewalls

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 and you can ‘whitelist’ certain sender IP addresses, email addresses or domain names to explicitly allow your network to accept data and information from them.

As software firewalls are usually installed via a third-party application, some manual setup will be needed. Plus you’ll need to arrange licensing to cover all your devices the software is installed on.

The added bonus of software firewalls is that they will also 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: 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 range from IP addresses, website categories and domain names to the words or phrases included in a website’s URL or content and spotting behavior changes such as large-scale data removal.

The benefits of a firewall

Firewalls are a proven, robust and flexible technology that has evolved as the threats have. Generally, with a firewall you can:

  • Prevent unauthorised remote access

If someone gains unauthorised remote access to your device they are in control, they can then grab and use any information on that device.

  • 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 you need more to deliver the optimal protection you need for optimal peace of mind.

In fact, we’re often asked, ‘How can companies protect themselves against hackers.’ And the truth is firewalls alone are not enough. Some of the threats they cannot protect your IT infrastructure against include:

Spoofing attacks

Problem: a hacker imitates a legitimate company’s website and as the communications they generate look credible (such as an 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 and e-mail scanning and antivirus software all have a part to play in the way you protect your organisation’s IT infrastructure, network, people and customers but there’s more you can do, including:

Staff training

Statistically speaking, your people are the weakest link in your security chain, albeit inadvertently. So it pays dividends to effectively train your them on the cybersecurity risks, your processes and industry best practices. Be prepared to evolve your training in line with the evolving threats.

Update software

Many software packages will update themselves automatically but for those that don’t, the originator will regularly provide patches to repair glitches, bugs and security weaknesses – use them. In fact, build updating your software into your day-to-day technology processes.

Strong passwords

It’s common sense but it’s worth repeating – make the passwords you and your team utilise as hard as possible for cyber-criminals to guess and crack. None of your people should share their passwords, even with a trusted colleague.

Always ‘on’ and always under threat

These days, most business IT infrastructure is constantly connected to the Internet and that means the digital threats come at you 2/7/365.

It also means your technology and IT support provider have to be constantly vigilant, too.

Here at Totality Services, the IT support provider in London, we are. And we deliver unrivalled expertise in cyber security, from firewalls to defensive software. So please call us for a confidential, no obligation chat about your requirements.