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firewall; network security

Understanding the Role of a Firewall in Your Network Security

Aaron Foglia
3 min read
Feb 27, 2023 10:52:08 AM

What is a firewall?

A firewall is the first line of defense in protecting your network from outside threats, and firewalls have been an integral part of network security for over 25 years – almost as long as computers have been a part of the everyday business world.

Despite the important role a firewall plays in your cyber security posture, many don’t actually know what a firewall does or how it works. Here are the basics of what you need to know.

How does a firewall work?

In layman’s terms, a firewall is the bouncer or gatekeeper for your network security. Think of someone monitoring the door day and night, checking for credentials, and determining who goes in and out. Firewalls keep an eye on attempts by unwanted traffic to access your business’s operating system – forming a barrier between computers and other networks. This includes blocking unsolicited incoming network traffic and assessing network traffic for anything malicious like hackers and malware.

More literally, a firewall is a device designed to restrict unauthorized access to a network or computer. Firewalls are also designed to implement specific security controls and segment an organizational network based on access requirements and protections. For example, computers with an enterprise that have access to data protected by regulations (PCI-DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, etc.) can be located on network segments separated from the rest of the organization’s network. A firewall only welcomes the incoming connections it has been configured to accept.

Types of firewalls

Firewalls can either be software or hardware devices. A hardware firewall is physical, similar to a broadband router, stored between your network and gateway. Software firewalls are computer programs installed on user devices that work through ports and applications. There are also cloud-based firewalls, known as Firewall as a Service (FaaS). A benefit to cloud-based firewalls is their ability to grow with your organization and support perimeter security.

There are several specific types of firewalls based on their structure and functionality.

Packet-filtering firewalls. This is a management program that can block network traffic IP protocol, an IP address, and a port number. It is the most basic form of protection and is meant for smaller networks. While helpful, it also has limitations. You need additional protection to distinguish between friendly and malicious web traffic.

Proxy service firewalls. This system filters messages at the application layer. It acts as a middleman between your internal network and outside servers on the web. It’s also known as a gateway firewall.

Stateful multi-layer inspection (SMLI) firewalls. The SMLI has standard firewall capabilities and keeps track of established connections. It uses dynamic packet filtering to monitor active connections and determine network packets that can pass through the firewall. It monitors all activity within a network and makes decisions based on defined rules and the context of previous connections and packets.

Unified threat management (UTM) firewalls. This program combines the functions of the SMLI firewall with intrusion prevention and antivirus. Additional services like cloud management may be included under UTM.

Network address translation (NAT) firewalls. An NAT firewall can assess internet traffic and block unsolicited communication. It only accepts inbound web traffic if a device on your private network solicited it.

Virtual firewalls. This is an appliance used in a cloud-based system, both private and public. This type of firewall will assess and manage internet traffic over both physical and virtual networks.

Next-generation firewalls (NGFW). Next-generation firewalls are more sophisticated and have more levels of security, going beyond standard packet filtering to inspect a packet’s contents and source. NGFW can block more sophisticated and evolving security threats like advanced malware and protection from questionable sites.

Why do you need firewalls?

Firewalls are an organization’s first line of defense against cyber-attacks. Without a firewall, there is no clear boundary between what is inside and outside your network. A firewall protects many potentially exploitable internal programs from danger. Here are just a few of the reasons you need the appropriate firewall protection for your organization.

  • Detect and combat rogue activity throughout your network.
  • Secure networks against phishing attacks.
  • Identify and block red flags on incoming emails.
  • Identify and alert regarding dangerous users.
  • Establish specific policies for blocking and allowing traffic.
Protect your organization

As cyber criminals find new ways of breaching networks, businesses need to respond with robust network security solutions. Blockade®, is a fully managed next-generation firewall, security, and threat detection service available only through Locknet Managed IT. Blockade® includes additional security features designed with industry-leading technology and services that go above and beyond a basic packet-filtering firewall resulting in a higher level of network protection. It’s a customizable solution, allowing us to bolt on additional network services such as SD-WAN and Wireless Access Points. Businesses who are serious about guarding themselves against security threats choose Blockade® as the first line of defense and a critical component of their layered security strategy.

These are just some of the features included in Blockade®:

  • Hardware, software, firmware updates, and licensing
  • Fully managed firewall appliance, monitoring, forensic analysis, and remediation
  • Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), web filtering, content blocking, gateway virus, malware blocking
  • Locknet’s proprietary ThreatFeed IP Risk Assessment scoring and blocking service
  • Annual external vulnerability assessment
  • Monthly reports
  • Customizable solutions

As a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), the team at Locknet® Managed IT are experts in network security. Contact us to incorporate managed firewall, security, and threat detection into your organization.



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