Building a Robust Firewall Strategy: Top Tips and Tricks

In a world full of threats, security is the most crucial element. This mantra applies to all areas of life, especially work and business. Enterprises store, share, and use sensitive information throughout all their processes.  When it comes to handling valuable data, cybersecurity must be the top priority for businesses of all sizes. That’s because cybersecurity threats continue to grow exponentially both in size and complexity. Cybercriminals exploit any vulnerability existing in applications, websites, software, etc. to infiltrate business networks by advancing their attacks. That’s why enterprises must establish robust cybersecurity systems.  

Firewalls are one of the most frequently used frameworks that businesses implement to combat the risks of cybersecurity threats. As we mentioned earlier, businesses must have solid firewall implementation and strategies to avoid configuration mistakes and mitigate vulnerabilities within the system. Today, we will provide the top tips and tricks for businesses to build a robust firewall strategy. 

Introduction: The Importance of a Solid Firewall Strategy

Firewalls are considered the first line of defense in cybersecurity since they separate the internal network of businesses from the rest of the internet by blocking unauthorized access from external users. So, effectively preventing malicious codes or outsiders from accessing business networks is crucial. 

Firewalls allow companies to monitor all data, log incoming and outgoing traffic, and detect unusual activities. Also, businesses can configure their firewalls to protect them against malicious codes and attacks. Firewalls shield company assets by also detecting and alerting illicit incoming traffic so that attacks such as DDoS and social engineering can be blocked. In return, the cybersecurity of business networks can be enhanced. 

As they act as a wall between the Internet and internal networks, firewalls can block users from accessing unapproved websites as well.  So, companies can minimize network exposure to suspicious or inappropriate websites and control their employees’ activity. With firewalls, companies can track what their employees doing during work. 

However, misconfigurations can take a toll on a firewall’s effectiveness in protection. The mistakes in firewall configurations can result in weaker security and create more vulnerabilities. The risks of new vulnerabilities can outweigh the firewall benefits we mentioned above and businesses may need more cybersecurity solutions to protect their network in return. That’s why proper configuration is crucial when building a robust firewall strategy. Now that we introduced the importance of having a strong firewall, let’s explain where and how to start building one. 

Defining Your Firewall Objectives: The Starting Point

The first step in establishing any strategy involves defining your objectives and planning the resources you need and actions to take. The same goes for building a proper system in firewall implementation. For getting the most effective outcome, you need to start by defining what it is that your company aims to accomplish and protect to take necessary actions. 

So, businesses need to assess their needs first while defining the goals of their firewall strategy. Additionally, companies need to know “what is network firewall?”, “how do firewalls work?” and “what does it offer?” as well to accurately define their objectives. This way, your company can find the right solution to protect your network assets against cybersecurity risks efficiently. Also, a solid firewall strategy will allow your company to avoid any misconfigurations in the implementation, focus on maintaining the integrity of the system, and monitor and audit your firewall. 

Choosing The Right Type of Firewall: Key Considerations

There are various kinds of firewalls available on the market such as packet filtering, proxy service, stateful inspection, next-generation firewall (NGFW), circuit-layer gateway firewalls, virtual firewalls, and cloud-native firewalls. Selecting the right type of firewall is essential for businesses since they focus on different functions and cater to certain needs. Also, keep in mind that the selected firewall will support a broader security system. By considering these, businesses can determine which type of firewalls are suitable for their network. In this regard, you must consider these key elements for choosing a proper firewall with exclusive security capabilities as a business:

  • Does the firewall match your specific needs?
  • Is the firewall suitable for your business size? Does it offer scalability as your organization grows in the future?
  • Business distribution
  • What type of inspection does your business require from the firewall?
  • Multi-vendor solution or a single-vendor solution?
  • Does your company have in-house management or require a managed firewall?
  • Threat visibility and usability
  • Protected devices

Other than these factors, firewalls should provide no fewer functions than decryption, content filtering, endpoint integration, advanced threat protection, sandboxing, IoT visibility and control, secure SD-WAN, and remote access. 

Configuring Your Firewall: Mistakes to Avoid

Misconfigurations can be a pain-inducing element, leave many vulnerabilities, and lead to improper security for your business network which can cause irreversible damage from various cyber-attacks. So, companies must avoid making critical mistakes when configuring their firewall. 

Leaving default settings as it is: Failing the change default settings is the biggest mistake that will cause many vulnerabilities. For instance, leaving default passwords will provide ease for cybercriminals to break into the interface.

Visible firewall management interface: If your firewall management isn’t isolated from the network, it could be visible to the Internet and cybercriminals can infiltrate your network through unsecured zones. 

Intrusion prevention system – OFF: Switching the IDS setting to ON is extremely vital since intrusion prevention systems can detect DoS/DDoS attacks and other malicious codes, and stop incoming traffic in real time. 

Misapplying port forwarding rules: Misapplying port forward rules for remote access can leave an open door to cybercriminals. Companies must ensure traffic restrictions in specific ports or source IP addresses to prevent cyber attacks.

Failing to configure the firewall for outgoing traffic: Hackers need a way to exfiltrate the data they are stealing. So, only allowing outgoing traffic to approved websites and services will safeguard your data.

Regular Firewall Maintenance: The Key to Security

Besides implementation and configuration, maintaining the integrity of the firewall is also essential to ensure longevity and effectiveness of use. Maintenance involves regular updates, patching, and establishing necessary changes in the configuration plan periodically. Outdated applications and interfaces can be a target for zero-day attacks and many other cybersecurity risks. So, the key to security goes through the ongoing maintenance of firewalls. 

Monitoring and Auditing Your Firewall: An Ongoing Necessity

Another step in building a robust firewall includes monitoring and auditing your system continuously. Monitoring for any unusual activities in incoming and outgoing traffic is crucial to detect unauthorized access and prevent cyber attacks. Also, conducting regular firewall security audits will update companies on necessary changes while ensuring compliance with regulations and rules.

Training and Awareness: Ensuring Proper Firewall Use

The human factor is undeniable in firewall effectiveness. Improper use of firewall systems will hinder its overall performance and the cybersecurity of business networks. So, employees and IT teams must be trained on how to accurately operate firewalls. 

Conclusion: Fostering a Secure Network with a Strong Firewall Strategy

A strong firewall strategy will enable your company to safeguard sensitive data and valuable information by regulating all incoming and outgoing traffic, blocking unauthorized access, and preventing cybersecurity attacks. With clear objectives in mind and best practices in action, companies can achieve the full benefits of firewalls. Overall, it will grant your company a secure network.