Why a firewall is crucial for the safety of your business

There's more to it than just ensuring a firewall is in place

Fire

How well protected is your business from attacks by malicious code?

A recent threat report from Symantec makes it clear that cyber threats are still a clear and present danger, with 50% of last year's attacks aimed at businesses with fewer than 2,500 employees.

Smaller businesses are also adopting server technology, as this has been proven to be one of the most cost effective upgrades to their IT infrastructures. And with businesses often operating satellite offices, the new breed of compact servers offer a shared infrastructure architecture, that must be protected with adequate security measures, which today means robust firewall technology.

When considering firewall protection for your business, use the checklist below to ensure your systems are always protected from attack:

  • Firewalls can be software and hardware based - Ensure each of these components is working together with no conflicts. Platforms such as Dell's AppAsure 5 and SonicWALL technologies offer off-the-shelf solutions.
  • Always consider the router or gateway that is being used - Cyber attacks originate via your business's internet connection. Don't forget to protect your internet gateway and router, as well as the servers and computers connected to your network.
  • Develop robust security policies - A firewall is only as good as the security policy that governs its use. Consider how data flows across your business, and where there might be vulnerabilities. The 'bring your own device trend is creating new threats to data security and must be included in your security policy.
  • Look at the security systems on each device - Firewalls are not just on the servers or internet gateways; they also exist within each operating system in use. A hybrid approach to firewalls often provides the most flexibility. Always consider your business's data security as a whole and not isolated on each PC or the servers in use.
  • Packet filtering can reduce the instances of IP spoofing - IP spoofing attempts to disguise malicious code as legitimate traffic to penetrate a firewall. Rules should be set up to combat these attacks, which includes packet filtering to reject any incoming data files that don't have recognisable identifiers.
  • Defend against DNS (Domain Name System) attacks and sniffers - These types of attack attempt to fool your firewall into seeing the incoming domain as legitimate and letting the data packets through. Data sniffers attempt to identify passwords and usernames as they are transmitted from server-to-server.
  • Don't let your servers become relays for spam - Every business knows that some spam emails will always get through. This is why a robust security policy is needed to update the domains to stop spam become a major drain on resources.
  • Another danger is that your servers become unwitting spam relays. Ensure they are set up to filter spam effectively to prevent these damaging attacks.

It can seem that businesses are fighting a losing battle when it comes to cybercrime. The reality is that every business owner isn't powerless. The sophistication of today's attacks can be more than matched by the firewall technology that is available.

Firewalls like all business services need to be set up and then maintained to ensure they are effective. Your business's security policy should be regularly tested to ensure it still delivers high levels of data security right across your business.