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How Strong is Your Firewall? How Secure is Your Network?

When was the last time your company inspected your firewall to make sure it was protecting you against ALL malware and phishing?  

Network Firewalls

In today’s computer landscape, there is always someone who is trying to hack your network. Most of the time, you never know that the attempt happens because your network security system, or “firewall,” has neutralized the attack. But hackers are creative, and continue trying to get into your network. That’s why it’s important to have a strong, updated firewall. Firewalls are a core component of any cybersecurity strategy. In actuality, a firewall isn’t like a physical wall, a single barrier to your computer network. Instead, it is multi-layer perimeter and internal protections around and within your network to keep out malicious traffic, and reduce the breakout speed of attacks. But like most other computer software and hardware, your firewall needs to be managed effectively.

What are the challenges of effective firewall management for network security?

1. How do you select the right firewall for your needs?

You may not realize that there are several types of firewall architectures to select from. Each of these architectures have been developed over time as malware and phishing attacks continue to morph into new types of attacks. Firewalls fall into several categories based on complexity and levels of security.

  • Packet-Filtering Firewalls – Original, basic firewall that makes a shallow check of data packet information that includes origination and destination addresses, port number and packet type without opening the packet for a more thorough inspection.
  • Circuit-Level Gateways – A simple firewall meant to rapidly verify data packets. This type of firewall checks the transmission control protocol (TCP) handshake to make sure that the session is complete. However, this firewall never checks the packet, so malware will get through if it has a verified TCP handshake.
  • Stateful Inspection Firewalls – Works as a collaboration of both circuit-level gateway and packet filtering technology. Better protection than either of the previous firewalls alone.
  • Application-Level Gateways – Also called “proxy firewalls,” this type of firewall prevents the data packet from directly interacting with the network. The firewall inspects the packet at the application layer before it can interact with your network. Includes the protections as a stateful inspection firewall with the added deep packet inspection to see what’s in a data packet to identify malware coding that may have been missed with the previous firewall types.
  • Next-Gen Firewalls – This type of firewall is harder to describe, because there isn’t a consensus as to what is really “next-gen” in comparison to other firewalls. The capabilities vary based on who developed it, but may include the previous capabilities as well as intrusion prevention systems (IPS) that automatically works to stop attacks. It’s crucial to know the capabilities of any next-gen firewall before adding it.

When deciding which type of firewall you need for your company, ask yourself, ”Why should I choose one type of firewall?” Most companies use several types of firewalls and firewall management procedures in order to assemble the strongest firewall to secure the network.

Another idea to think about is what your business is shooting for with the addition of firewalls. Just because firewall management and network security procedures work for one business, that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you. A best practice is to consult with an expert in firewall management before buying any technology.

2. How do you create strong network segmentation?

Network segmentation is a strategy used for installing an in-depth defense against attacks. Benefits are that it can:

  • Slow down attacks
  • Improve general data security
  • Make implementation of a policy of least privilege (POLP) easier
  • Reduce damage that is caused by a breach

Configuring the deployment of firewalls to build strong network segmentation is a key enterprise-level security because of the benefits. The longer network security can stall an attack from breaking into another system, the more time your cyber security team has to identify and contain the security breach. Extra time also limits damage because it slows down the amount of assets and data that an attack accesses.

One strategy of firewall management is to create strong network segmentation by using a range of firewall types to separate different parts of the network from each other. This results in making it harder for malicious attackers to duplicate tactics when trying to breach each segmented piece, which in turn causes more time you have to catch them.

3. How do you block malicious traffic without impacting legitimate queries?

While there is a clear need for firewalls to block hostile traffic, they shouldn’t impede legitimate traffic queries. Blocking legitimate requests will mean degrading the user experience, in turn leading to revenue loss and customer dissatisfaction.

Therefore, the solution is to develop custom configurations for firewall settings to allow specific types of traffic while continuing to block malicious actors. This generally requires an expert to manage your firewall service and guide your business in configuring the firewall for minimum interference and maximum security.

4. How do you manage firewall program updates efficiently?

Often firewalls are software-driven, and need regular updates to adjust their definition of malicious traffic and close potential loopholes and vulnerabilities. Basic firewall protocols always include periodic software updates. Unfortunately, updates are missed occasionally when internal IT departments are understaffed or other higher-priority emergencies happen. While updates seem to be simple procedures, skipping even one can put your entire network at risk of attacks. That’s why hiring an outside firewall expert to manage your computer network updates and implement them immediately will minimize risk.

5. What else does a firewall and network infrastructure expert do?

Firewall experts often combine firewall maintenance with other types of network management including:

  • Creating and updating crucial network documentation and diagrams
  • Managing internet service providers of cable, fiber and fixed-point wireless or DSL
  • Setting up, maintaining and troubleshooting your firewall and other security hardware
  • Configuring switches and layer 2/layer 3 traffic routing policies
  • Installing Cat6 ethernet and fiber connections for your building
  • Setting up and supporting VPN connections to secure remote access and site to site VPN tunnels
  • Planning, installing and maintaining wireless access points and WiFi devices
  • Getting faster WiFi connection speeds in high-density environments such as large cities and installing WiFi in rural areas
  • Setting up network filtering and corporate network policies
  • Supporting BYOD network environments
  • Implementing IT security policies and intrusion prevention
  • Analyzing network events and logs
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