Security Assessment > Firewall    

why you need a firewall

If you have a computer network, a properly configured firewall is an essential first step in securing your network. Yet according to a survey¹, even as late as 2004, although 93% of the 1000 UK businesses surveyed had access to the Internet, fully 36% of those businesses were failing to protect their web-sites with a firewall.

Firewalls are usually considered in the context of the Internet. The primary purpose of a firewall is to give controlled access to and from your network. It allows you to block external people from accessing internal systems, preventing disclosure or modification of information. It also allows you to exercise some measure of control over when, how and where your staff access the Internet, and allows you to monitor the traffic.

Without doubt, the Internet presents a rich resource that can support many of your business functions. It allows you to conduct competitive analysis, research marketing opportunities, keep abreast with changes and legislation affecting your business sector. Increasingly it is also the preferred medium for mainstream commerce, both with the public and in business-to-business transactions. Internet access is, however, a double-edged sword. The Internet also offers unlimited access to unregulated material which has no direct relevance to your business whatsoever. Over and above the time-wasting element, unrestricted access poses additional risks to your business. You may fall foul of staff downloading material infected with viruses, or copyright or illegal material. This presents both a potential risk to your business operations and a risk to your image. Ultimately, in terms of lost business, the damage to your image could cost you more.

defence in depth

Many organisations stop at a firewall, using it as the only means to defend their Internet gateways. The problem is that if the perimeter is breached, without additional layers of security and monitoring (such as intrusion detection systems) any would-be attacker is largely free to roam around the inside of your network.

Although an essential component, a firewall should therefore be viewed as only one weapon in your security arsenal, not the arsenal itself.

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(¹ Information Security Breaches Survey 2004)

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