Configuring a Firewall for Business Network Protection

Written by Chuck Rutenberg

April 16, 2021

Every business with a network should have a properly configured firewall, regardless of the size of the company. An older firewall, especially one that has not maintained security updates, has limited or reduced security for businesses and is an area of vulnerability. A modern firewall protects network resources by monitoring traffic and blocking bad actors from acquiring unauthorized access to private client and organizational data. It also blocks malicious software that can infect individual computers or entire networks.

Ensuring Maximum Security and Usability

Because they typically have less network security in place, SMBs are the target of over half of cyberattacks. Sadly, over half of small businesses attacked don’t survive more than six months post-attack. As cyber criminals continually up their game and find new, sophisticated ways to penetrate your organization’s network, it’s critical to have the proper protections in place.

How Do Firewalls Work?

Firewalls can be hardware or software-based. Some businesses use a combination of both. They work to:

  • Prevent malicious software and unauthorized connections from entering your network.
  • Monitor incoming and outgoing traffic.
  • Decide what to block or allow based on predefined rules.

With the recent increase in remote workers, secure, updated firewalls have become even more crucial for businesses that want to prevent online illicit activities that occur without their knowledge.

Properly Configured Firewall Best Practices

About as far as you can get from a “set and forget” system, firewalls are only as good as their most recent update and rules. Not replacing outdated firewalls leaves your business vulnerable to risks like unwanted VPN tunnels and open ports. Many businesses fail to follow proper firewall protocols and put off updating their firewall, usually due to a lack of resources or understanding of how they work.

When configuring a network firewall, you need to strike the right balance between a need for your strong security and your end user’s need for fast performance. Since 99% of firewall breaches are due to misconfigurations, it’s a good idea to fine-tune and optimize your network’s firewall to ensure it’s providing the ideal ratio of speed and security.

Whether you’re using a software, hardware, or combination firewall solution, these best practices help you maximize its effectiveness.

  • Document firewall rules. Keep track of each rule, who added it, the date it was added, when it should expire, and the services, users, and devices it affects. Check to make sure default rules are truly needed.
  • Establish configuration change procedures. No matter how small your internal security team, a formal process should be in place for handling modifications. This helps prevent security lapses caused by poor firewall configuration.
  • Use automation for updates. Automation mitigates the chance of human error in configurations.
  • Regularly review firewall rules. Your business’s network is constantly changing. You gain new devices and users who are accessing new services and applications. A regular maintenance schedule encourages proactive changes instead of fixes after a breach has occurred.
  • Audit firewall logs. Built-in reporting tools let you track which firewall rules are being invoked most frequently and which ones aren’t being used at all. You can then optimize the firewall to cut down on things like false positives and improve end-user services. Today, advanced tools that use AI or machine learning to analyze firewall logs make it easier than ever to spot important details you might otherwise miss.

A firewall is one of your first layers of defense in cybersecurity. Many SMBs lack the internal resources to invest in next-generation firewalls and keep them updated. An IT managed service provider can ensure you have a strong layered defense against cybersecurity breaches and provide you with optimal protection with minimal disruption for your organization’s workflows.

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