When you park your car to go grocery shopping or dine out, do you lock your doors? Of course! Doing so “keeps honest people honest” as my dad used to say. With a locked door, nobody can accidentally sit down in the wrong car and more importantly, your property won't be an easy target for thieves.
This same strategy is necessary for your computer. If your computer is connected to the internet, you are vulnerable to an array of cyber threats, such as hackers, keyloggers, and viruses that attack via unpatched security gaps. If like most people, you shop and bank online, your personal and financial information is vulnerable to identity thieves and other malicious attacks. Some hackers may also want to hijack your high-speed connection and enslave your computer in a botnet (a “robot network” composed of tens, hundreds, or thousands of other unprotected computers.) Botnets are used to send spam and phishing emails, deliver viruses and other malware, and carry out massive attacks on a national (or even international scale,) all without the knowledge of the device owners. Other cyber criminals have the power to destroy your operating system and files with a few keystrokes. So how do you protect your internal business network against external cyber-attacks? With a firewall of course!
What Is a Firewall?
A firewall is like a shield. It creates a barrier between cyber criminals and your PC, tablet, or phone. When you are connected to the internet, data is continually exchanged between your computer and servers and routers in cyberspace in small units called packets. Firewalls monitor these packets to see if they meet specific criteria set by a series of rules. Based on these rules, packets of data are accepted or rejected. This way, hackers cannot get inside and steal information from you such as bank account numbers and passwords.
A Firewall Protects Your Computer From Unauthorized Remote Access
One of the worst things that computer owners may experience is someone attempting to take control of their computer remotely. Seeing the mouse move around on your monitor as an intruder paws through your system and assumes control of your data is horrifying to say the least. A firewall will help stop remote intruders from accessing your system.
A good firewall is like a two-way mirror. You keep your internet access to the outside world but the outside world can't see your computer unless you want them to. You firewall will still permit certain things like email access but will block access by other apps from unauthorized internet access. If software that you trust is getting blocked, it should only take one or two clicks to authorize the data transfers. A firewall is powerful but unobtrusive, just like the lock inside your car door.
Basic firewalls such as the one included with Windows only monitors incoming traffic, giving users a false sense of security. Unfortunately outgoing traffic is likely to contain unprotected sensitive information such as bank accounts, credit cards, and social security numbers. A good firewall monitors incoming traffic. A great firewall monitors traffic in both directions, keeping your private information safe. In addition to preventing unauthorized access to your PC, a firewall makes your PC invisible when you're online, helping prevent attempted intrusions in the first place. The most sophisticated firewalls will also continuously update the list of known good and known malicious applications.
Beyond the Computer
You may think that you don’t need a firewall because every computer on your network has a built-in firewall. This may be true but, ask yourself, how many other devices do you really have on your network? Beyond the desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones are the Internet of Things (IoT). If you’re not familiar with IoT, think along the lines of smart bulbs, thermostats, cameras and even that new smart fridge in the break room that helps make life so much easier.
As the popularity of IoT grows, so does the security threat. These devices are quickly becoming the targets of choice for hackers. They usually don’t have regular security updates and are practically never checked on the back end. This is a red carpet invitation to intruders.
Having a strong firewall in place will help protect your entire network, computers, tablets, phones and yes your IoT devices as well. Don’t leave yourself open to attack from within from a device designed to make your life easier.
From an IT point of there are many reasons why your company should have a firewall installed on every computer, whether you have internet security software installed or not. Although a firewall provides a first line defence to keep your PC safe from unauthorized access, there’s nothing it can do to remove malware from an infected system, so a firewall should be used alongside other proactive measures, such as anti-malware software.
It’s a dangerous world but with a properly configured firewall, a lot of these vulnerabilities can be closed and locked out just like the door of your car. In this way you get security and peace of mind without compromising your ability to do business online. Even if your company has never been affected by cybercrime (yet) with an explosion of ransomware attacks in 2017 and 2018, and with cybercrime damages predicted to cost $6 trillion annually by 2021, you must ask yourself: is it worth the risk?
To discover what Shenandoah Valley IT can do to improve your business, contact us by phone (540) 346-4250 or email.