Firewall – the front line protection

Firewalls are the first line of protection from the internet threats. A firewall is a device or software that protects machines and networks from unauthorized access. There are two types of firewalls today, Hardware firewalls and Software firewalls. Hardware firewalls are actual devices that stand alone protecting the entrance to the palace much like a bouncer at a bar. Hardware firewalls usually have a secure operating system embedded into them and are complicated to configure. Software firewalls are found in the computers themselves like Zone Alarm and Black Ice. The software firewall usually comes as a CD product you load onto your machine and configuration can be easier. A firewall basically inspects incoming information from the internet and only lets through what is configured to come through. Firewalls are very effective when configured correctly and you can maintain much control of who is allowed to enter and who is not allowed.

There are two types of networks that the firewall understands. The “trusted network” and the “Untrusted Network”. The trusted network obviously is your internal network which the firewall protects. The untrusted network is the outside network or commonly called the Internet. One good thing a firewall does is it logs all of the attempted attacks in a log file that can be viewed to see who the intruder was. Firewalls also make it hard for an attacker to see your machine. Stealth capabilities that some firewalls like check point (Zone Labs) have make your computers almost invisible to the outside. It is well to note that stand alone Firewalls are not really effective against viruses and trojan horses or encrypted codes. One of the techniques that hackers have used for years is the “social engineering” tactic to gain access by verbaly gaining passwords and information just by asking! This of course is not something that cannot be defended against by the firewall. Therefore strict security policies have to be enforced. Firewalls are best when used and coupled with an intrusion detection system and anti virus software.

Firewall news:

The recent surge in network security has prompted the major manufacturers of antivirus and firewall software to build devices that have a hybrid capability to protect networks. Companies such as Symantec who has developed the Symantec gateway security appliances, and McAfee who has the intrushield 4000 series appliance and of course Trend Micro the leader in gateway security has introduced the VirusWall appliance. These appliances are capable of Firewall protection, intrusion protection and antivirus protection all in one device. The companies are recognizing the need for appliances that can combine the protection of all blended threats. One such company who practically invented much of the protocols used in security today is of course Cisco Systems who for years has had a complete line of corporate appliances such as the PIX firewall and Cisco IOS firewalls have also introduced small business and home use products to be competitive in that market. Of course we cant wait to see what these companies will come up with next as security threats become more complex.