What Is A Network Firewall? (plus 5 types of firewalls to know about)

If you leave your home to go on vacation, do you lock your doors?

If you park your car on the street, do you shove valuable items out of sight?

We have an instinct to protect physical items such as expensive electronics, credit cards, and cash from falling into the wrong hands. 

Yet selling personal data is a lucrative market for cybercriminals, and owning a business without protecting the data on your network is like not bothering to lock your doors even if you know there are thieves in the area.

And what’s the best way to protect your network?

With a network firewall.

At Straight Edge Technology, we want to make sure your business is secure and protected against cyberattacks. 

That’s why we’ve written this blog post to explain what a network firewall is and how it protects your business. 

Table of Contents

  • VECTORS-01
    1. What Is a Network Firewall?
  • VECTORS-02
    2. Five Types of Network Firewalls (and How to Choose the Right One)
  • VECTORS-03
    3. What happens if you don’t have a firewall?
  • VECTORS-04
    4. Other protective measures you can take

What Is a Network Firewall?

Here’s how it works:

Your private network allows you to share data between computers and access shared printers, scanners, and copiers at your business. 

However, the flip side is that if a hacker gets access to the network, they can steal an enormous amount of data, plant malware, or commit some other kind of cyberattack

The purpose of a firewall is to protect your private network from the public internet so that cybercriminals won’t be able to break in and commit these attacks.

the-purpose-of-a-firewall-is-to-protect-your-network

A firewall can be:

  • A stand-alone piece of hardware
  • Built into your router
  • Built into the software of your computer
  • Built into cloud infrastructure.

Why is it called a “firewall”?

In computing, the term “firewall” comes from literal “firewalls” in buildings.

In construction, firewalls are walls built of fire-resistant materials that extend from the foundation to the roof so that if one part of the building catches on fire, the whole building doesn’t go up in flames.

In the same way, a computer firewall keeps the “fire” of malicious content on the public Internet from spreading into and damaging your private network.

How a firewall works

A firewall scans the data entering your network, letting some of it through but not all of it. 

Firewalls grant or deny access to your network based on numerous types of data, including:

Of course, not all firewalls work the same way. Later in this article, we’ll explore the five types of firewalls, how they filter data, and how reliably they can filter out malicious data. 

But for now, just know that firewalls are programmed to know which data are “safe” and which data should be rejected.

a-firewall-scans-the-data-entering-your-network

Network firewall vs. host-based firewall

Many computers have a firewall built into their system as part of the software. For example, your antivirus software also has a built-in firewall. These are host-based firewalls because they protect a singular computer. 

On the other hand, a network firewall protects an entire private network. That’s why they’re popular with businesses, especially a business handling sensitive data.

But remember, any business can have its data stolen by cybercriminals! Cybercriminals often go after smaller businesses because they assume their data won’t be as rigorously protected.

No matter the size of your business, you should look into getting a network firewall.

But what type of network firewall is right for you?

Keep reading to find out!

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Five Types of Network Firewalls (And How to Choose the Right One)

There are multiple types of network firewalls on the market. This is great for you because it means there’s an option out there that meets your needs.

But it can also be frustrating to know which kind to choose!

Let’s go over five types of network firewalls, what they each do, and how you can know if it’s the right type for you.

1. Packet filtering firewalls

A packet-filtering firewall either rejects or accepts incoming packets of data into the network based on their IP address and whether the access control list allows that IP address into the network.

Packet-filtering firewalls are pretty basic and sometimes considered outdated. They’re relatively inexpensive and efficient but do not offer as high security as some other types of firewalls because someone could send a malicious packet from a trusted IP address.  

Ultimately, they provide basic security for smaller organizations or can be used alongside other firewall types as part of a layered defense.

packet-filtering-firewalls-filter-packets-of-data

2. Circuit-level gateways

Circuit-level gateway firewalls don’t examine IP addresses. Instead, they examine the Transmission Control Protocol and other protocol messages and decide, based on their criteria, whether the session that’s being initiated is legitimate.

Like packet-filtering firewalls, circuit-level gateways don’t examine the contents of the data packets. So while they are inexpensive and efficient, malicious data could still bypass the firewall as long as the protocols look legitimate. 

Circuit-level gateways and packet-filtering firewalls are known as stateless firewalls. Stateless firewalls provide basic security, have fast performance, and can be used as part of a layered defense, but they are also easier to bypass.

3. Stateful inspection firewalls

Unlike stateless firewalls, stateful inspection firewalls inspect the contents of data packets, looking for hidden threats. 

A stateful inspection firewall examines the contents of a data packet and then compares it against data it’s already let into the network. This way, it can pinpoint suspicious behavior in the data packet and reject it if anything seems off. 

Although this makes for robust security, it also takes a lot of processing power and can slow down network traffic. It’s also more expensive than stateless firewalls.

4. Application or proxy firewalls

Application-level firewalls, sometimes called “proxy firewalls” or “application-proxy firewalls,” are unique because they reside on a proxy server instead of the main server.

proxy-firewalls-reside-on-a-proxy-server

What does this mean?

This means that cyberattacks and malware cannot directly enter your network. It also means that your firewall has its own IP address, which disguises the main server’s IP address.

Application-level firewalls don’t just examine data; they go a step further and control the execution of code.

Although application-level firewalls are great at protecting your data, they can cause your connection speed to suffer because they restrict network traffic to a single access point. 

5. Next-generation firewalls

Next-generation firewalls offer the most robust security of all and are favored by large organizations with lots of sensitive data.

Unlike other firewalls, which monitor data entering or exiting the network, next-generation firewalls monitor the entire network for threats.

Essentially, a next-generation firewall combines a traditional firewall with an intrusion prevention system, an anti-malware device, and a web content filtering feature. 

Due to its complexity, a next-generation firewall should be implemented by a professional IT department so it can work correctly with your company’s other security measures. 

It’s the most expensive type of network firewall, but it’s also the most secure.

5-types-of-firewalls

What Happens if you Don’t Have a Firewall?

Remember, without a firewall, your business is vulnerable to attacks.

What does that mean?

It’s like leaving the front door of your business open when you go home for the night. You might be fine, but you’re just inviting someone to come in and wreak havoc.

Cybercriminals target businesses with no firewall and execute malicious code remotely. They spread malware such as viruses or ransomware, costing small businesses an average of $10,000 to get everything fixed. 

Not only that, but by giving criminals access to your entire network, they can infect interconnected devices. 

Every business should have a firewall. But the bigger you are, the more sensitive your data is, and the more computers you have on your network, the more critical it is to ensure your firewall offers top-notch protection.

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Other Protective Measures You Can Take

It’s always a good idea to have a layered defense system instead of relying on just one thing to keep your data secure. 

For instance, when you park your car on the street, you probably lock your doors. You probably also shove valuable items out of sight. On top of that, you might take your most valuable items with you. 

By taking multiple protective measures, there’s a higher chance that your items will be safe.

In the same way, don’t rely on firewalls alone to keep your data safe and your Internet secure. 

So what other protective measures can you take?

Let’s get into it:

And finally, make sure you hire a good IT professional who can help you with disaster recovery if anything should go wrong!

4_Additional_Steps_To_Take_To_Secure_Your_Network

Conclusion

Are you ready to keep your business data secure?

At Straight Edge Technology, we offer all of the above services and more!

In fact, our entire mission is to keep small businesses like yours secure and running smoothly. We take on the headache of network security, so you have time to focus on your team and your customers.

Ready to learn more?

Speak to an expert today!

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