In this post, we will show you all you need to know about network firewalls. But before we proceed, let's answer the fundamental question for the novice – what is a network firewall?
Table of Contents
What Is A Network Firewall?
A network firewall is a security framework/device that prevents unauthorized access to a private network (e.g., intranet) connected to the internet. It works with a set of security criteria. Traffic not defined by the firewall rules is not allowed to access the network. A data packet that fulfills all the conditions as outlined by the firewall policies passes uninterrupted.
Incoming traffic that fails to meet the defined standards is blocked. These standards are called firewall policies. The firewall serves as a gate. It opens when the incoming traffic satisfies all the conditions in the firewall security criteria. Firewalls work as configured. Every traffic to and from the private network must pass through it.
A network firewall is very useful. It secures a network and wards off unauthorized access and malicious programs.
How It Works
Firewalls work as a filter. It inspects data packets to determine if they fulfill the preset rules. The traffic is analyzed based on the source, destination IP address, ports, and protocols of data packets.
The packets that meet the firewall policies are allowed to enter the internal network.
This security framework wards off hackers, malware, and unauthorized traffic. It serves as a barrier between a private network/computers and the internet.
Traffic leaving the private network must satisfy the conditions set by the firewall configuration before it crosses to the internet. In the same way, traffic coming from the internet is not allowed in, unless it meets the firewall security criteria.
It's an endpoint protection technology. It shouldn't be used in isolation; a firewall is the first line of defense but isn't reliable as the only defense framework.
Simply put, a network firewall is a security device used to regulate both incoming and outgoing traffic to and from a private network. It works via secure Authentication certificates and logins.
Click here to learn more about how firewalls work.
Forms Of Network Firewall
A network firewall can be in the form of hardware or software. Originally, firewalls were hardware-based. Now, software-based firewalls have arrived on the scene.
Hardware firewalls are standalone devices or part of a network infrastructure. They have ports through which connection is made to the network systems.
Software firewalls are installed on a network and configured accordingly. They are part of an operating system. What users need to do is to configure it to give them the protection they want.
However, software-based firewalls are not strong enough to ward off a sophisticated attack. Some vendors argue that software-based firewalls are best suited for home users and personal devices. Meanwhile, hardware-based firewalls have what it takes to safeguard an entire network.
Today, it’s difficult to draw a thick line between software-based firewalls and its counterpart. This is due to the virtualization technology that both firewall camps utilize.
5 Types of Firewall
1. Packet-Filtering Firewalls
Packet-Filtering Firewall is one of the oldest types of firewalls. It works by examining incoming and outgoing packets. It inspects the characteristics against the preset policies of the organization. If the individual packet meets the preset standards, it will be allowed in or out. Some of these characteristics are the source and destination IP address, port, and protocol of individual packets.
2. Stateful Inspection Firewalls
This type has an additional capacity to classify packets into sections. In this way, packets that belong to a given section is allowed in. it combines both packet filtering technology and TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) verification.
It’s also called third generation firewall. It classifies packets into the destination port and packet tracking of every interaction between internal connections. With this technology, packets are not analyzed only based on port and protocol. Packet history is also examined.
3. Application Layer Firewall
This is a firewall technology used to form a security layer over applications. It determines the type of connection that is allowed with the application. It examines packet-level and application layer information such as the URL of the HTTP request.
4. Circuit-level Gateways
This is a simple network firewall. It approves or denies traffic without much-complicated computing processes. This leads to the conservation of computing resources.
It verifies the TCP handshake. This verification is done to authenticate the source of a data packet.
The advantage of this type of firewall is resource-efficiency. Meanwhile, it has a limitation. It only checks the source of a packet and not the packet itself. A packet marked as legitimate (based on the source of the packet session) by the TCP handshake might contain malware. This explains why Circuit-Level Gateways shouldn’t be used alone.
5. Next-Generation Firewall
This is the latest Firewall technology. It has many additional modes of security compared to traditional Firewall technology. They are a regular firewall that can do more than traffic filtering. It’s referred to as “Next-Generation” because of the additional features it comes with.
Some common features of this security framework are deep-packet inspection, TCP handshake checks, and surface-level packet inspection. It may include advanced technologies such as intrusion prevention systems (IPSs).
Essential Tips For Network Firewall Maintenance
After setting up a network firewall, the next thing is to come to terms with how to maintain the security system. Maintenance of a firewall is very important and it’s part of IT security that’s overlooked often.
It has been reported that most of the firewall breaches result from configuration errors. This shows how much human involvement determines the efficiency of a firewall.
- Check Your Firewall Settings Frequently
This ensures that you optimize and fine-tune your settings as soon as the need arises. This gives rise to the optimal functioning of the security system. It’s an approach that would help you get rid of potential errors in settings that could compromise the efficiency of the firewall.
- Update Firewall Settings Automatically
Using automation solutions for configuration updates removes mistakes in the setup processes. Breaches are mainly caused by human errors and not technology. So, using automation tools gets rid of configuration errors.
- Review Firewall Rules Regularly
As business needs change, it becomes necessary to review firewall rules to suit the changes. The changes may require you to create new rules or get rid of existing ones.
- Update Your Firewall System
Make sure you upgrade your software and firmware. Not installing the latest patches to your firewall make it vulnerable to attack.
- Talk to Experts
Involve experts when things get out of hands. You may get things complicated if you fail to contact your vendor on time.
Rounding Up: Do I Need A Firewall For My Home Network?
Yes, you need a network firewall for your home computer. A network firewall should be an integral part of every computer security system. It provides the endpoint security framework that would withstand the security challenges of this digital age.
Remember, the maintenance of a network firewall is very important. Don’t overlook it as many do. The efficiency of a firewall, to a reasonable extent, is dependent on post-setup management.
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