Importance of Firewalls in Digital Security


Traditional Single Layer DMZ with two flanking firewalls

In olden times, when fire was used as an effective weapon in war, kingdoms and empires used to build protective stone walls around cities to prevent the fiery assault from spreading. Those firewalls have now become part of ancient history. However, new forms of firewalls have taken their place. Unlike the old ones, these firewalls are intangible and are used to protect digital devices, servers, and networks from instances of cyber attacks. With the exponential progression of the information highway, the Internet has become a norm in human communications and subsequently, this global computer network has also increased the importance of firewalls.

What Actually is a Firewall?

In simple words, a firewall keeps a check on the incoming data packets in a network or device. Firewalls provide a low-level protection against possible cyber attacks. One can say that they are the first line of defense in any digital environment from internal and external threats. Before we move on to discuss the importance of a firewall, we need to briefly discuss different types of this digital security tool.

For a technical description, a firewall works on the physical layer of the TCP/IP protocol and in so doing, monitors for incoming data packets are do not apply to the firewall’s security parameters. If found, it blocks them and/or will ask the user to confirm that this information coming in is OK to accept. Usually, but not always, if you are running a program and you get a message that this program wants to download some more data, you can say yes, but if you are not sure, it is always advisable to ask someone who is more knowledgeable in the subject as to whether to agree or disagree to the message. Here is a basic Firewall 101 if you’d like to gain additional knowledge how it helps prevent unauthorized data from entering your computer.


Type of Firewalls

There are largely four types of firewalls.

Packet-Filtering Firewall: This is the most basic type of firewall which can analyze separate data packets without taking into account their position in the application layer. The surface analysis of packet-filtering firewall renders ineffective against most of the cyber attacks.

Stateful Inspection Firewall: This type of firewall is able to analyze the Internet traffic with context. This means the header and content of a data packet are also inspected by the firewall. Therefore, state inspection firewall is able to neutralize many types of cyber transgressions.

Proxy Firewall: It enables users to decide which proxy or protocol they want to allow on their Internet connections. For instance, if you only want to allow HTTP connections on your network, then you can do it with the help of a proxy firewall.

Next Generation Firewall: As suggested by its name, this is the most robust and streamlined form of firewall. Aside from possessing essential firewall attributes, it is also equipped with application control and intrusion prevention protocols. Next-generation firewalls are designed to deter most of the cyber attacks. It is important to mention that this firewall type is still in its development phase. Therefore, you won’t find them in the cybersecurity details of most organizational networks.

Importance of Firewalls

There is a reason firewall is considered the first line of defense for computers and networks. Let’s have some discussion to highlights the importance of a firewall, in connection with digital security and data regulation.

Firewall Prevents Remote Access

Many operating systems offer the option of remote access to ensure more convenience to the users. However, the track record of this feature suggests otherwise. In most instances, the feature of remote access is exploited by the hackers to virtually hijack devices. Firewall enables the users to switch off the feature of remote access to prevent any intrusion in the device. Nowadays, the basic firewall comes up as a built-in feature in the majority of operating systems.

Limitation

Even though firewalls are effective in blocking attempts of remote access through local connections and intranet, but hackers using web browsers can still unlawfully gain the control of a device. For that matter, users will need more layers of protection to completely barricade the unauthorized attempts of remote access.

Firewalls Secure the Connections with Private Servers

Users often need to connect their device to private servers other than ISPs. You can’t tell if the given server is maintaining required security protocols to secure the data traffic between the server and users. In such cases, the firewall plays an integral role. Let’s have a look on some of the cases where connection to private servers can be protected with the activation of the firewall.

Online Gaming Environment

High-speed Internet has begotten a whole new industry of online games. Today, the majority of the games are developed with the feature of online play. Keep in mind that all these games work through private servers. These servers are always susceptible to activities of cybercriminals. By enabling firewall settings, you can secure your Internet connection from all such gaming servers.

Private File Sharing

Many users are connected to local servers in order to instantly share files for educational or other purposes. Such intranet connections are also unsecured. Firewalls can also help users in securing their private file sharing activities.

In short, an activated firewall can protect your device from instances of internal cyber attacks.

A Firewall Can Also Help with Content Filtering

The world of the Internet is an open space. An unrestrained amount of information is available to users all the time. However, not all of it is of any use. In some cases, this unrestricted access to the Internet can become problematic for users. For instance, the accessibility of violent and pornographic content to minors is always a cause for concern to parents. They can establish a parental control on the Internet connection with the help of a firewall.

Employees waste a lot of time on the Internet by surfing material not related to work. Use of social media platforms, YouTube, and other time-killing websites has become rampant in workspaces. Employers can establish network firewalls that would enable them to only allow the web content they consider useful. In other words, the effective use of firewall in content filtering can actually help organizations in improving the productivity levels of their employees.

The Future Evolution of Firewalls

When firewalls were used in device and network security systems for the first time, the flow of data was mostly in the vertical direction i.e. from the server to clients and vice versa. However, the Internet has expanded in every dimension in the last couple of years. The flow of data is not constricted to a vertical stream anymore; it has rather become omnidirectional. Therefore, firewall features need a major revamp. We have seen some meaningful improvements in the development of next-generation firewall. However, more is needed to be done to uphold the efficiency of firewalls as an important digital security tool.


Posted On August 19, 2018