You may not be storing military secrets or running a billion-dollar empire, but your business is still an attractive target for hackers. You need a firewall – a guard standing at the door of your network to stop the bad guys from getting in while still letting your staff come and go without interruption.
A surprising number of businesses are operating without a firewall, or with one unsuitable to the requirements of a business network. For most, it’s a risk they don’t know they’re taking because they assume all systems have built-in protections. Unfortunately, by the time the lack is discovered, it’s far too late.
A firewall is actually a special type of hardware or software that acts as a protective shield between the computers on your network and assorted cyber dangers. Data is constantly passed through at lightning fast speeds, invisible to the user experience.
Why Your Business Needs a Strong Firewall
A strong firewall actively looks for known viruses, phishing emails and spam, and then blocks them before they can get in the door. Its internal knowledge of threats is updated regularly and search patterns quickly adjusted. Business firewalls also monitor data in both directions. When a computer goes online, all the data coming in and out is inspected to see whether it’s safe or not. If it doesn’t pass the test, the firewall instantly blocks it and records the details in a log.
Business firewalls allow you to see who’s doing what and when over your network. You can create rules for specific users, devices and times. For example, you might allow your employees to access Facebook during lunch breaks only, while at the same time keeping it completely unblocked for you or your marketing team. Thorough logs are kept automatically and can be used to troubleshoot problems. For example, your firewall logs might show that a computer inside your network connects to a third world country at 3am each night, which would certainly be worth investigating.
You can use your firewall to set network traffic priorities. For example, it can make sure a Skype call gets all the resources it needs to allow for flawless video and voice quality, while someone watching YouTube videos at the same time will receive reduced resources. Rules can be set to allow certain applications to be treated as a higher priority than others, certain departments or even users. You can tailor your network performance to meet your unique business needs.
A strong firewall allows your remote workforce to access your servers with ease and security, while at the same time keeping cyberattacks out. Remote work arrangements are growing in popularity and necessity, often requiring server access at a moment’s notice. You can set your firewall to authenticate the identity of users before allowing access, and create a virtual private network (VPN) that keeps any transferred data safe from interception.
Working from anywhere is now as simple as accessing the internet on your device. Managers, owners, and employees are all embracing the flexibility of working while traveling, making it the new global norm. But while you were in the office, you were protected by professionally designed firewalls, security infrastructure, and robust software. As soon as you step away from the building, those protections disappear, leaving your device and the data inside at great risk.
Cyber attackers love to collect any data they can obtain, often preferring to hack first, assess value later. It doesn’t help that almost all data can be sold, including your personal details, those of your clients and suppliers, as well as your proprietary business data. These days, the information stored on your device is usually worth much more than the device itself.
Here are 3 ways a hacker will attack:
Flaunting Opportunity: Whether your employee left their laptop at a café or a thief stole the phone from their pocket, the outcome is the same – that device is gone. Hackers will take advantage of any opportunity to gain access to a device, including taking them from hotel rooms and even asking to ‘borrow’ them for a few minutes to install spyware, before handing it back.
Spoofing a Wi-Fi Hotspot: We’ve all come to expect free Wi-Fi networks wherever we go. Hackers will take advantage of this trust to create their own free, unsecure network, just waiting for a traveler to check a quick email.
Intercepting an Unsecure Network: Hackers don’t need to own the Wi-Fi network to steal content from it. Data traveling across an unsecure network is visible and available to anyone with the right software.
It’s okay, you don’t need to lock all employees inside the building or cancel all travel plans. Taking these four precautions will increase cyber safety and help protect your business data while on the go.
- Make a backup before you travel: In the event your device is lost or damaged, you’ll be able to replace the device with a new one and quickly restore all the data from a backup, all with minimal downtime.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi: Wait until you have access to a secure network before going online – even just to check email.
- Use passwords and encryption: At a minimum, make sure you have a password on your device, or even better, have full drive encryption. That way, even if your data storage is removed from the device, the contents are inaccessible.
- Act fast after loss: If your device is lost or stolen, immediately notify the appropriate people. This might include your IT provider so they can change passwords, your bank so they can lock down accounts, and any staff who need to be aware of the breach so they aren’t tricked into allowing further breaches.