A firewall is a form of network security that can help defend your business against cyber-attacks and data breaches. It does so by keeping an eye on your network traffic and blocking intruders and visitors from getting unauthorised access. It also prevents access to information on your systems based on specific coded rules.
The best firewall software for business establishes a barrier between a secured and network and an unsecured network.
In addition, small business firewall software does not only block suspicious traffic, but it also blocks malicious software that can infect your computer, whilst still letting legitimate traffic through. Network firewalls commonly serve as the pioneer of protection in the typical home network security. Here are some of the best practices that you can apply for your firewall setup.
Reject by Default
Restrict all traffic by default and specifically enable only certain traffic to known network services. This technique gives good control over the traffic and lessens the possibility of a breach. You implement these actions by creating a rule set in your access control list to restrict all traffic.
The rules you use to determine network access must be as specific as possible. This is the concept of least privilege, and it provides granular control over your network traffic. Always identify as many parameters as possible in the rules you wish to apply.
There are some additional firewall standards you can establish to help ensure protection of your computer network. Nevertheless, the following methods are critical irrespective of the firewall program you choose.
Protect Your Firewall
Protecting your small business firewall software is the first step in setting up and managing a secure firewall. Never let your firewall execute actions that are not properly secured. For example:
- Disable simple network management protocol (SNMP)
- Rename, disable, or eliminate any default user account and amend all your default passwords
- Create additional administrator accounts based on responsibilities, specifically if various administrators will be controlling your firewall. Keep the number of people who can control the firewall to a minimum.
Perform Network Firewall Structure Tests
You must test your firewall to verify it is working as anticipated. You must incorporate both penetration testing and vulnerability scanning to test your firewall structure. Keep in mind to always back up your firewall structure.
Strong Firewall Management
After your firewall structure is settled, you need to ensure strong firewall management. This should involve the following:
- Conduct vulnerability scans
- Frequently review firewall regulations/rules
- Keep all microcode updated
Firewall Automatic Updates
With enhancements in technology, many procedures have become quicker and simpler. It cannot always be possible for firewall controllers to consistently check for updates and execute updates frequently.
To avoid errors when manually updating your firewall, you can automate the process instead. An automated system can be organised to check for updates and apply them whenever necessary. This is one of the most important firewall setup best practices you can implement.
Perform Regular Firewall Audits
Security audits are the best way to make sure firewall rules are followed as expected, as well as external security rules that apply to the network.
Any unauthorised firewall configuration changes that don’t follow your company security guidelines are flagged as non-compliant, eg; a tech opening an unauthorised port. It is vital to conduct regular security audits and vulnerability scans to make sure no unauthorised changes have taken place with the firewall.
Security audits are generally most needed when a firewall is initially setup, or when any bulk changes are made to the firewall settings, and on a regular basis. Audits should always be part of your firewall setup best practices to maximise your cybersecurity.
Firewall & Network Connectivity Issues
Sometimes a network connectivity issue gets mistaken for a firewall issue. There can be many reasons why a computer cannot connect to a certain network. In most situations, the problem is associated to the firewall. Often it’s mistakenly thought that a firewall setting is preventing a user connecting when it’s in fact the network connectivity. Let’s differentiate the two.
A firewall protects either a single computer or a whole network of computers and is akin to a moat or wall around a city. The firewall protects the computer or network by only allowing data to enter and exit though restricted access points, and only once specific criteria is met.
Every packet of data encountering the firewall is validated before being allowed inside the network. The firewall repels any data that does not follow policy, as established by the firewall’s controller. Inaccurate settings or a software problem may cause firewalls to block all the data from entry, imitating a network connectivity conflict.
For computers to exchange data they must be connected to one another via a network. If you cannot connect a computer to the network it typically means something is wrong with the settings or external components responsible for establishing a connection such as a router, modern, or ethernet cables. Even a network card glitch (needing a reset), updated drivers, poor network hardware or incorrect software settings can impede network connectivity.
Many small businesses overlook these best practices with their firewall setup. Whilst other network security measures are important, one of the best tools to protect your business and data is to establish a strong firewall configured properly. It’s like building a strong gate and walls for your house to keep the intruders at bay.
Preventing a data breach if far better than trying to recover data from your backups after a cyber-attack has stolen or corrupted critical files. As the old saying goes: prevention is better than cure.