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NIST Data Security: Choosing a Firewall, Part 2

One of the most difficult aspects of choosing a firewall for your business, is deciding which features you need to include. First, you must consider a few things. What does each individual firewall feature mean for the security of your company, what is the level of protection you are looking for, and more importantly, what is the level of protection your company needs? The easiest way to put this into perspective, is to break down the different levels of protection to determine the level of security that meets the needs of your company.

Border Security

The first level of protection that should be considered is border security. This can also be called minimum, or baseline, protection. If you think about it, the firewall itself can be considered something similar to a “border security officer,” because it is constantly monitoring both inbound and outbound network traffic and allows only specific items to pass through. The primary role of a firewall is to protect computers and other devices on your network from intentional attacks coming from outside your network. Any firewall that you purchase will have this baseline type of protection.

Web Filtering

The next level of protection to evaluate would be web filtering. This is also considered a very basic type of protection, as this would define policies for allowing or preventing different types of web traffic on your network. These policies would establish specific websites, URLs and content that employees and network users on the network are permitted or denied access to. Web filtering policies are typically established and configured by a Network Administrator or other qualified personnel, in alignment with company policy and procedures. Moreover, most next-gen firewalls include default web filtering policies that reflect industry best practices.

Email Protection

The next type of protection that should be considered is email protection. This security feature provides the ability to scan attachments sent through email before an employee opens them, as well as filtering out spam emails so that employees do not click on anything potentially harmful to your network. This will help prevent malware and virus attacks, along with preventing the theft of sensitive information that may be requested in spam emails.

Endpoint Security

The final type of protection that you should consider implementing in your firewall, is endpoint security. This is the process of securing end-user devices on the network, such as mobile devices, laptops/desktops and servers. Endpoint security can automatically identify and stop threats from reaching end-user devices. Endpoint protection is extremely important, due to endpoint exploitation becoming increasingly popular as a point of attack for external threats.

If you find a firewall that includes those few essential features, you are on the right track to becoming more secure. Just to give you a tiny glimpse into our next segment, a few of the top firewalls we are going to be discussing are Sophos, Cisco, SonicWall, and WatchGuard. There are absolutely many more options to choose, but it definitely can get overwhelming, so we’re going to focus on vendors that provide industry leading products for small business. In the last segment of this three-part series, we will go into more detail about our firewall recommendations, and also include comparisons between the top few. Stay tuned!

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