Top Tools to Pair With Your Firewall

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Today’s online threats are a very different beast from those we encountered in the earlier days of the internet. Research conclusively shows that both the scope and the number of cybersecurity threats are increasing year by year.

Indeed, Wired magazine has gone so far as to suggest that cybercrime and the malspace — the online scene where hackers, criminal organizations, and espionage groups convene — are set to become the next entrepreneurial growth sector.

As online threats escalate in terms of both volume and sophistication, traditional security tools, such as a firewall, can no longer ensure online security unless they form one part of a multilayered cybersecurity plan.

What is a firewall and what does it do?

A firewall is a type of network security tool. Firewalls both monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic according to a set of predetermined security rules. In that sense, a firewall is used to establish a security barrier between trusted networks and untrusted networks, the best example of which is the internet. Firewalls are either network-based, host-based, or virtual.

  - Network-based firewall

Network-based firewalls are positioned in a LAN or WAN, between a device and the internet. These firewalls can be either a software or hardware appliance and tend to be installed and configured by trained professionals. Network-based firewalls act as an extra line of defense by preventing attackers from reaching multiple devices running on the same LAN or WAN network.

  - Host-based firewall

Host-based firewalls, on the other hand, are deployed to the host itself. The best example of this is the firewall that’s built into the majority of operating systems. Most modern computers and mobile devices have this layer of security, though many users don’t even realize it’s there. Host-based firewalls protect the individual device from malware and viruses. On shared connections, they also act to prevent harmful infections from spreading throughout the entire network.

  - Virtual firewall

With more and more data being stored in virtualized environments, virtual firewall appliances, or cloud firewalls, have become an integral part of cybersecurity systems. They work in the same way as other firewalls, just installed on a virtual host, protecting the traffic going to and from the cloud or other virtual servers.

What a firewall can and can’t protect against

As mentioned earlier, firewalls are a vital part of any cybersecurity strategy, but they’re only one tool and aren’t enough alone. Here’s a few examples of what these security tools can and can’t protect against:

A firewall can

  • Help stop unauthorized access of your network
  • Filter network traffic and communications
  • Block network ports

A firewall can’t

  • Prevent DoS and DDoS attacks
  • Stop malware entering a system
  • Protect against social engineering attacks
  • Stop viruses infiltrating a network
  • Handle zero-day threats
  • Protect against malicious insiders

Add these tools to your cybersecurity arsenal

Securing your network can seem like a daunting task. Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there to work in conjunction with your firewall to easily and effectively boost your cybersecurity strategy. Back up your perimeter security with these additional and now essential tools:

  - Virtual Private Network

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can be used in several ways. Either download a VPN to protect your device or get a VPN router to protect an entire network. VPNs work by creating a private network and encrypting any data in transmission in the course. Once primarily privacy tools, they have risen to the fore as an essential piece of security software.

  - Antimalware and antivirus software

While technically these security tools perform the same job, you still need both. Antiviruses are the older version and can handle older threats such as Trojans and worms. Antimalware programs, on the other hand, are better equipped to deal with newer, more dynamic malware. These two security tools complement each other by staving off both traditional and more sophisticated cyber threats.

  - Data loss prevention software 

Particularly important for businesses, data loss prevention (DLP) software (also known as data leak prevention) does as the name suggests and helps protect a network from data loss. It does this by detecting any potential data breaches and preventing end-users from moving key data outside of a network, either accidentally or intentionally. DLP can also be used to monitor and block sensitive data that is in use, in motion, or at rest and ensure data is not lost or accessed by unauthorized users.

  - Email scanners

In 2019, the FBI received reports of 23,775 business email scams, which resulted in companies losing more than $1.7 billion in time and money. Email scanners help reduce scams and mitigate the risk of human error by automatically scanning every email message that’s received into a server, checking for viruses, malware, and spam. Some email scanners also incorporate a technique known as sandboxing where suspicious files or URLs are “detonated” in a secure test environment to see what happens before sending the email through to a network. Sandboxing is particularly effective against zero-day threats.

Email scanners should be used in conjunction with better staff training on phishing attempts and how to detect them.

  - Intrusion detection systems

Intrusion detection systems (IDS) are software applications that monitor network traffic for any malicious or suspicious activity. They constantly scan and analyze data packets, alerting the user to any anomalies or security breaches so they can be dealt with quickly. IDSs use a database of recognized attack methods to identify threats immediately.

  - Access control

Access control does exactly what it says and controls who has access to a network or device. With remote working becoming more common, these handy tools allow businesses to authenticate and authorize people logging onto their systems, ensuring users are who they say they are. Access control software lets you track exactly who’s coming in and out of your network.

Protect yourself

Firewalls are just one line of defense in protecting against cyberattacks. Although they’re much more sophisticated than when they first appeared back in the 1980s, firewalls only help protect against certain malicious traffic, not against programs intent on penetrating a network. 

By employing a firewall along with these other essential tools, you’ll create a cybersecurity arsenal to help strengthen resistance against attacks, protect your devices and data and keep out the hackers and snoops intent on stealing all they can.