Every company needs protection from hackers and sources of malicious website traffic—even ones that work exclusively in the cloud.

Did you know that over half of all cyberattacks are targeted at SMEs because they tend to have less network security and are seen as easy prey? Cybercriminals do not waste time trying to hack the big corporations when they can quickly penetrate a small business and do all sorts of damage—everything from stealing money from bank accounts to shutting down your network in exchange for a ransom.

When it comes to protecting your company’s data, vigilance is key. A firewall isn’t the sexiest piece of tech, but it’s the first line of defence between your computer network and the outside world, and should be one of the key parts of your security infrastructure.

What does a firewall do?

The job of a firewall is to help prevent malicious software and unauthorised connections from entering your network. It basically stands like a burly nightclub doorman, evaluating all the traffic and data packets that want to enter your network, before letting them in based on clearly defined rules.

A network without a firewall is like a building without a locking front door – anything or anyone can enter without challenge.

Firewalls come in all shapes and sizes and can be hardware, software or a combination of both. Software firewalls are the easiest to install, and they often come built-in with licensed software like Microsoft Windows. The downside is they require installation on specific computers, one at a time, and the level of protection tends to be low overall.

For businesses, a hardware gateway firewall protecting the edge of your network combined with local software firewalls is generally a better option since it can protect your entire network and the devices attached to it as a single installation.

Firewalls stops all sorts of attacks

Getting a firewall in place should be the first order of business for any organisation that connects to the internet. Without a firewall, all your connected devices are vulnerable to all sorts of attacks that could bring down your business.

Here are some of the things a firewall can help protect you from:

  • Intrusions: Prevents hackers gaining unauthorised remote access to your network and doing whatever they want with your information. Firewalls by default block all attempts from outside connections unless explicitly allowed by you.
  • Spyware: Prevents hackers attempting to ‘spy’ on your network to find out useful information about your company, such as your financial data and records.
  • Malware: Prevents malware, ransomware and phishing attacks that try to steal your data, damage your computers, infect your visitors or block access until cash is paid.  By adding gateway anti-malware functions to your firewall, you can stop the majority of malicious software from ever entering your network. When paired with device anti-malware, this offers multi-layered security which will prevent all but the most sophisticated attacks.
  • Brute force attacks: This is the cyber equivalent of trying every key on the keyring to gain access to your network, where hackers churn out thousands of username and password combinations to discover your login credentials. Once your password is discovered, hackers can do whatever they want inside your system.
  • DDoS attacks: Prevents malicious actors flooding you with internet traffic to overwhelm your systems and take them down. Even for businesses unlikely to be targeted by large scale DDoS attacks, protection is necessary to avoid your network being commandeered by cybercriminals to use as part of a ‘botnet’ to level attacks against others.

Bear in mind that firewalls, while great, can only help in stopping these types of attacks. So many things contribute to a secure environment, including firewalls, antivirus, multi-factor authentication, encryption tools, and having good cyber policies in place. Back-up systems should also be a key consideration.

Data breaches are on the rise 

To put this into context, here are some eye-opening statistics on data security that highlight the importance of maintaining a firewall:

  • Up to 88% of British businesses have suffered data breaches in the last 12 months, Carbon Black reports.
  • One SME in the UK is successfully hacked every 19 seconds, according to Hiscox, with 65,000 hacking attempts taking place every single day
  • 51% of organisations were hit by ransomware in the last year, according to Sophos—and the most successful attempted include data in the public cloud
  • Cyber breaches cost the average small business £25,700 in basic ‘clear up’ costs every year—and your insurance is unlikely to cover it
  • 33% of UK organizations say they lost customers after a data breach
  • Sadly, 60 percent of small businesses don’t survive a cyberattack, according to a recent US-based report.

When did you last update your firewall?

A firewall is not a ‘set and forget’ system. Cyber criminals are extremely creative and new threats are emerging all the time. If you’re not updating your firewall regularly, then you’re going to be missing the sophisticated defence mechanisms that can make all the difference between a network that is secure, and one that is not.

What’s more, while traditional firewall appliances simply acted as a locked front door to your network, modern firewall appliances, known as ‘next generation firewalls’ or ‘gateway security appliances’ can do much more.

A modern firewall can provide you with detailed reports about your network’s traffic, which can help you to troubleshoot problems. Firewalls often have additional built-in features that can also help you enforce company policies on internet usage—things like streaming films at the office or preventing malicious websites from being accessed from within your network—with content filtering controls.

So, the firewall you choose should definitely be supplemented by other security components, which would typically comprise of antivirus software, e-mail security, content filtering, and strong identity and access management infrastructure.

With all this in mind, it’s important to check that your firewall is fit for purpose and eliminates the widest number of threats. There are many firewalls on the market and every business has unique needs. That’s why you should talk to TFM. We can figure out your network vulnerabilities, then help you choose the right solution, supply the hardware, install it and maintain it for your business—so you can get on with the day job, safe in the knowledge that you’re fully protected. And sleep much better at night!