A firewall is one of the most important computer security components that any business can adopt. The term ‘firewall’ itself, however, is not always clearly understood.
A firewall may consist of a software program or it may be a hardware device used in combination with software. In either case, the purpose of a firewall is the same: to prevent company computers from directly connecting to the internet. Instead of allowing a direct connection, the firewall stands in the way acting rather like an intelligent filter, deciding on the fly which connections to permit and ban. This is important because without a firewall performing this ‘gate keeping’ function, employees may inadvertently direct their browsers to sites that are known to install malware on the systems that connect to it.
A firewall helps with this problem in two ways. Firstly, it can be configured to control outgoing connections so that employees cannot go to known harmful sites. Secondly, however, it can also be configured to control incoming connections as well. The firewall will block these so that hackers trying to gain access to a company network find their usual attack routes obstructed.
For a firewall to do its job effectively, every internet connection and every computer should be protected. Intelligent firewalls, however, allow different portions of the system to operate under differing security rules. In this way, for example, a system can be configured to allow public FTP traffic only on a single, specified computer. The company may need access to such traffic, but because allowing it can carry some risk, it is best not to allow it globally.
A firewall can be set up and managed as part of a managed programs approach for IT support.