The importance of managing your business firewall correctly for data protection

August 2nd, 2017 - Get new posts sent straight to your inbox, click here. Aaron O'Keeffe

Business leaders are generally aware that it’s important to secure their data. If hackers access customer data, it’s expensive, and embarrassing, for the business, and can indeed be a business-ending event in extreme circumstances. Increasingly, regulatory bodies have no patience for lost customer data, and can impose very heavy fines on organisations found to be behaving irresponsibly with the data.

At other times, ransomware and other malicious software is always a risk to the organisation’s IT infrastructure, and can force costly repair or replace projects onto the business.

It’s even more challenging to look after an IT environment now, because the proliferation of personal devices such as phones and tablets being used for work, as well as the increased use of cloud-based services, is giving hackers more ‘ins’ to the organisation than they ever had before.

For these reasons, having a robust, well-managed firewall is absolutely essential to all modern businesses.

Not just any firewall will do

Not every firewall is created equally. One of the most common mistakes that businesses make is to install a standard firewall, which monitors incoming traffic to the business and will block malicious traffic, but neglects the outgoing traffic; traffic that will often contain customer data or other sensitive information. Hackers are aware of this and will always investigate the firewall that a business is using to determine their strategy for gaining access to the company’s data. If they’re able to simply access the outgoing traffic, they won’t bother themselves with trying to figure out how to get around the firewall.

Your best bet is to get a cloud-based, constantly evolving firewall. The rate at which new threats are discovered is incredible, and all security systems need to be in a constant state of update in order to counter these. Cloud-based services are the best way to ensure the continuous flow of updates to your company’s protection.

Even if you don’t run with a cloud-based solution, newer firewalls have enhanced features that are designed around understanding the kind of application that is trying to access the network, and the risk profile associated with that application. Where older firewalls would look exclusively at traffic, newer models are able to tell the difference between a website and a VoIP system, for example. So it’s no longer just about the IP addresses and ports into the business. Now it’s that, and an understanding that some applications need to be specifically monitored.

In terms of tech speak, the modern firewall should include Integrated Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), as well as Data Loss Prevention (DLP), dual-stack IPv4 and IPv6 Support, and an Integrated Secure Wireless Controller. Without this feature set, at a minimum, the firewall will not be able to handle the more sophisticated attacks that a business might attract.

The discussion that you need to have around security

Building a secure solution that will safeguard critical data requires the business managers, IT team, and external service providers to sit down and agree on a holistic security system that will cover all bases. The firewall needs to be at the centre of these discussions, and yet it’s often ignored in modern security talk.

Why is that? The reality is that firewalls are increasingly challenging to maintain. Because they need that constant adjustment and management, even the best configured firewall won’t remain effective for very long before it needs a re-adjustment. And it only takes a short period of neglect before the hackers are able to get in and the firewall fails completely.

So firewalls get treated as a risk to the business, and alternative solutions are sought after. The problem is that there aren’t really any alternatives to what firewalls can offer. An organisation will deploy several layers of security now, but that simply makes the task of managing the firewall, sitting at the ‘base’ of the ‘stack’, even more difficult.

Rather than ignore the firewall, however, the discussion should be around finding the best practice management of it. For example, third party firewall management options are available to businesses of all sizes. There is also an emerging understanding that automation and machine learning is important for firewall management; it’s too expensive and time consuming to manually monitor and manage a firewall, but automated systems can can achieve the same results for a fraction of the cost.

Time to get on track

The reality is that your business needs a firewall. It’s mandatory for any business that runs a compliance chain, such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA and SOX. Even if your business isn’t beholden to those compliance rules, there’s government regulation that mandates a certain effort be put into protecting customer data and, even if you fall outside those government regulations (for example, you’re a really small business), it’s still basic good practice to look after your customers.

Rather than try and manage a firewall internally, which is expensive and unproductive, working with trusted partners and automation will be the future of this critical security measure. Request a free consultation with Aussie Broadband today to discuss your corporation’s firewall requirements.

As a service-orientated broadband provider, we understand the importance of a strong firewall and can help get you on the right track for your business.

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About the author

Aaron O'Keeffe

Aaron works from an office in the tropical Northern Territory, inciting intense jealousy from his Victorian workmates during winter. He’s an expert in IT solutions from the ground up. Aaron is National Sales Manager of Aussie Broadband, which specialises in bespoke telco solutions for corporate and government customers.