Hackers work day and night to attack systems, and small businesses increasingly top the list of targets. As a small business owner, you have private client information and fewer resources to ensure data protection. Hackers look at this as an opportunity. One of the best protections against an unauthorized intrusion is your firewall. Let’s take a deeper look at your company’s first line of defense.
What is a Firewall?
A firewall stands as a barrier between your computers and the internet. Depending on the severity of your settings, it can block out virtually all traffic or only block known threats. Essentially, when you visit a website, the site and your computer talk back and forth. The firewall looks for data packets that you did not request and denies them access. Unfortunately, a firewall does not always recognize a potential threat. For example, if you use a site regularly, you will want to grant access to the site. If a hacker embeds malicious code onto the site, without the owner’s knowledge, your next visit could come with a virus attached.
For more IT Security Buzzwords: Check out last week’s translations for the small business owner.
Preventing Firewall Mistakes
Firewalls, both hardware and software versions, only work as well as they are programmed to work. When users change threat definitions to allow access to sites, they reduce the level of security. A good system allows for some security compromises to enable users to browse relatively unrestricted; however, the trade-off is that these systems require more monitoring. A firewall acts automatically, but without oversight it becomes out-of-date and easier to work around.
Every time an employee needs to access a specific site, there is a risk that the firewall will disable or block certain functions. Then, firewall definitions in regards to that site need adjustment. Over time, you can have thousands of exceptions to general security functions. Each exception represents a potential threat, but they are necessary for productivity. Monitoring reduces these risks by allowing your security professionals to take preventative steps, identifying trouble spots and enables police reporting.
Before downloading a virus onto your network, most hackers send out fishing expeditions. They check to see if a particular port is activated, giving them backdoor access. Monitoring your firewall logs shows these attempted exploits and allows you to take pro-active steps to prevent them. Instead of waiting until after your network is hacked and cleaning up the resulting mess, you can prevent the hack from taking place. Closing down the ports hackers are attempting to access is one of many different security options when an attempted intrusion is detected.
Even with monitoring, your computer network will eventually fall victim to one hack or another. If you do not monitor your firewall, you will have no idea when or where the virus or intrusion came from. Monitoring allows you to find out exactly when the issue occurred, so you can trace it back and find the vulnerability the hack used to gain access. This allows you to prevent repeat issues in the future.
Many hackers release viruses to cause mischief, but many also have criminal purposes. If your network is hacked for criminal purposes, you need to be able to provide as much information as possible to the enforcement agency investigating the intrusion. This will allow them to gain much greater traction in an investigation, and ultimately, bring more cyber terrorists to justice.
You probably have an alarm system for your business, but it does not do a lot of good unless there is someone monitoring to alert the police. The same is true for your firewall. It does a lot of the heavy lifting for security, but without monitoring you might as well lock the door and leave all the windows open.