Cyber security is becoming a serious threat with each passing hour. We hear about someone breaking into International Banks or top-secret personnel files almost every other day. Not only this, many cyber crimes take place on a smaller level, like hacking into someone’s social media account and then blackmailing or exploiting them. Most of the crimes go unreported because people lack awareness of cyber laws. This encourages cyber attackers to get away with their crimes as the world has almost completely shifted towards online spaces. Most of communications or transactions take place through the Internet. It has become a more vulnerable place. But there are companies devoted to upgrading the security of all online spaces to make them more reliable and trustworthy places for people to use. Different software and techniques have been developed to combat the danger, which has proven significantly useful. The users should be educated about the importance of adding a security barrier and why it is necessary to upgrade it from time to time. Many steps can be taken to improve the security of your sites or social media accounts. It would be best if you had a strong password, the primary defense line. You should install Antivirus and ensure regular scans for malware. You should have an SSL Certification and also a Firewall. We shall discuss in detail about Firewall below. Let us start with the basic question of what a Firewall is.
In computing language, a Firewall is a network security system; consider it like a wall; it checks incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules as you can not trust the Internet in a sense that all types of people use it (by hackers as well). So Firewall creates a barrier between a trusted network and the Internet.
Firewalls originated from an old practice where people used to create a wall around a building that was on fire to contain it inside the built wall. In the 1980s, this term started to be applied to computer networking. Before the use of Firewalls, people used to use routers till the mid-19th century. Today, a Firewall has eight different types, which are as follows:
As the name suggests, Firewalls installed in a device’s software are categorized as Software Firewalls. It is also called a Host Firewall. You can remodel them with ease. They must be set up individually in all the connected devices in a network and provide more control to the network administrator. Therefore, they take longer to set up. As different devices are connected in a network, all might have different levels of compatibility and requirements. Hence, different types of Firewalls are needed for each device, and the single network will eventually end up having many firewalls. As it is installed in the device’s software, it can identify between programs, which means it can block the permission of one program and simultaneously allow access to the other.
As you can guess by the name, a hardware firewall is installed in hardware devices. It is a physical device itself that works to filter network access. It is also known as Appliance Firewall. Unlike Software Firewalls, you do not require multiple firewalls for a single network. It can protect all the devices on the same network. Therefore, it becomes easier to manage and can be operated on a larger scale. But it can serve as a protection towards outside traffic only and cannot protect the traffic inside the network.
Packet-Filtering firewalls are the most basic types of firewalls regarding the method of operation. It somehow works on the same principle as the routers, but these are better and more efficient. They are usually attached to the routers or switches and work as an inline security barrier. It monitors the network traffic by filtering the incoming packets according to their instructions. A data packet consists of a header and the data it transmits. These firewalls aim to determine which packets should be allowed access and which should not. They check the protocol source, the IP address, the destination IP, the source port, and the destination port to figure out the packet’s status. These firewalls are quick solution providers and do not demand many resources. But you cannot completely rely on them because they only check the header and not the data transmitted by the packet. The data can be infected with malware, so, not the best option to use without any other added security.
The firewalls that work at the OSI model’s session layer, observing Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connections and sessions, are called Circuit-Level Gateways. Their main goal is to make sure that the established connections are safe. These are mostly built inside some software or on pre-existing firewalls. They are similar to Packet-Filtering Firewalls as they do not check the transferred data. On the plus side, these firewalls are easy to set up and do not demand separate proxy servers to work.
Stateful Inspection Firewall
It is a firewall that monitors the state of connections by keeping track of the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) three-way handshake. This helps keep the whole connection record from the start to the end and permits only expected return traffic inbound. The Stateful Inspection Firewall creates a stable table before starting a connection and requesting data.
It stores the information of the connection before requesting the data. It notes the source IP, source port, destination IP, and destination port for every connection. This type of Firewall is an added security because it provides more checks and balances to the connection. It also checks the data transmitted within the packets, which means no malware can enter. Because of this, it requires more system resources as compared to Packet-Filtering Firewalls and Circuit-Level Gateways.
Proxy Firewall is an intermediate device between internal and external systems communicating over the Internet. It works by veiling the requests put forth by the original client as its own. When the client requests access to a web page, the message goes to the proxy server, then forwarded the message to the web server, hiding the client’s identity and location. When these things are hidden, the clients are no more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The web server then permits the proxy server to forward back to the client.
Next-Generation Firewall is a device that works to homogenize the functions of other firewalls. It carries out Stateful, Packet-Filtering, and Deep Packet Inspection. It monitors the data that is being transmitted instead of just the header of the packet. It also checks the complete transaction of data, the Transmission Control Protocol handshakes, surface level, and deep packet inspection. Therefore, you get security from malware and all external threats. This Firewall is very flexible, so you have to select one that suits your network connection.
A cloud firewall, also known as Firewall-as-a-service (Faas), maintains and works on the Internet by third-party vendors. In other words, clients can use this Firewall as a proxy server, and the framework can be modified according to their demands. It is very scalable, which is its biggest advantage. It does not require physical resources. Hence, you can manage the capacity according to the traffic load.
What Firewall Suits Your Business?
Eight types of firewalls have been discussed above, each with its functionality and advantages. It would help if you considered a few things before deciding which of them suits your business model. Some are mentioned below:
- Size of your organization: The size of your organization is an important factor in deciding which Firewall will suit you. Whether you have a small network connection in which installing a firewall to every device connected in the single network is manageable, or you have a large network in which a single device installed on a separate hardware device will be more manageable. These questions will help determine whether a software or hardware firewall suits you.
- Availability of resources: Whether or not you can afford to have a firewall installed on another hardware device or a cloud without separating it from the internal network determines what type would suit you. It would help if you also took the flow of traffic on the Firewall and its consistency into account.
- The amount of security: Different networks require different levels of security. Some of them have sensitive information or personal data of their clients. Henceforth, require more security. So, you should always determine your type of business and select the Firewall or a combination of firewalls as your defense line.
How is Firewall Different From an Antivirus?
Firewalls and Antivirus are both used to protect your computer from security threats. Both work as a defense mechanism for your system. But there is a significant difference between both of them. A firewall is a barrier through which all the data packets which enter or leave the network pass through. During the process of passing, the Firewall inspects these packets and decides whether to give this packet access or not. In simple words, a Firewall acts as a filter, allowing authorized traffic to pass through and blocking unauthorized traffic from entering.
Whereas, Anti-virus works by scanning for potential viruses that might have entered your system or giving you a warning if the incoming traffic seems threatening. First, it detects the virus, identifies it (ensures it’s a threat), and removes it from your network once identified.
Why Is Firewall Beneficial?
There are many advantages of using a firewall for your network. It monitors the incoming and outgoing traffic, secures your system against hacker viruses and malware injections, manages control, provides cost efficiency, and ensures privacy with easy installation.
A firewall, as you know, works as a barrier. Its main purpose is to monitor your network’s incoming and outgoing traffic. Some of these inspect all the transmitted data and the headers of the data packets. They immediately block the site’s access to the infected packets if any malicious packet is detected.
Security against Viruses and Malware
If you have ever used filter paper, it allows the liquid to pass through it and blocks the bigger particles from entering. The same is the case with Firewalls. They let the authorized traffic pass through them and block the viruses and malware injection into data packets by hackers from entering. Therefore, they provide security against Hacker viruses and malware injections.
A firewall allows access and control of your network to a certain host as instructed to it in its settings. This helps in blocking the control of hackers or malicious people. This also provides added security to your network and limits the control of unauthorized hosts.
Software Firewalls are usually very cost-effective and come with many benefits. They always have updated Operating Systems and the latest features and also come with built-in antiviruses for added security. They cost less and provide more advantages.
Concerning privacy on the Internet, it is a major concern of people. Hackers are always on the lookout for personal data and sensitive information. A firewall provides you with this privacy. Clients can mask their identity and location by using a proxy server. Similarly, the domain name and IP address can also be hidden from cyber attackers.
Nowadays, all Operating Systems usually come with built-in firewalls to provide your system with all the safety it needs. But if you have to install it yourself, it is not as difficult as you believe it. You can also seek help from the Internet to install firewalls in your system. Software firewalls are easier to install as compared to hardware firewalls.
A firewall provides security by monitoring the traffic coming in and out of your network and inspecting the data packets. It works as a check post where the data is checked and identified. If the data packets are safe, they are allowed access to the network, but if the Firewall finds any malware or malicious code attached to the packet, it will immediately block its access to the network. This throws most of the attempts made by cyber attackers out of the window. In times like these, when cyber attacks are increasing daily, we must ensure the security of your network and your client’s data. A firewall is making your work easier in securing your devices. It is highly recommended to install a firewall (according to your needs and business model) to your system and lower your risks of cyber attacks.