Why Employing Strong Firewall Policies is Critical

So, you think your network is safe? I think a large store chain felt the same way until their network was compromised along with thousands of their customer’s credit card information. The truth is you can never be too safe when it comes to protecting one of the most valuable assets your company owns – its data!

Has your server or PC ever been compromised? If you answered no, how do you know? Has your home PC ever had a virus? Yea….how long do you think that virus was on there before you actually realized it?  Maybe someone snuck in, decided there was nothing important in there and then snuck out without you even knowing. Or perhaps they managed to get their hands on your Quicken file and you don’t even know it yet – but you will at some point.

There are many other examples of network and data compromise but you get the point. It’s critical to do all you can to keep the bad stuff away from your network. We had a situation once that our server was painfully slow and we simply did not see any bread crumbs to nail down the problem. We would reboot it and it would stabilize for a day or so then go right back to super slow mode. We finally found the culprit. Someone overseas (from what we could tell) compromised our server and loaded it up with foreign movie trailers and they were streaming them from our server.

Protection with Border Control

We use the term Border Control to characterize the role of a firewall. It’s important to follow best practices with configuration and even down to the type of appliance that you purchase. Sorry, but a $65 Netgear will not do the trick. You need a robust device that offers more than NAT routing and port forwarding. Protecting your network is a multilevel approach and Border Control is just part of it, so keep that in mind. But today we are focusing on the border…your firewall.

Below are some best practices to consider for controlling your border.A quality device from a reputable manufacturer is the best place to start. A business class router from Cisco, Meraki or SonicWall is what we recommend. They offer various models that will fit just about any small business budget as well as large corporations with huge budgets. Throughput, speed, number of users etc. all come into play and need to be considered when determining the proper firewall for your network. A quality sales rep from a reputable company should be your trusted advisor and can help you make that determination.

Options such as security services are very important features of quality firewalls. These security services include Antivirus, Content filtering, intrusion detection / prevention and more.  Remember my note about border control being part of a multilevel solution? Antivirus at the firewall is the first line of defense for viruses entering the work place. This does not replace AV on the desktop! AV at the border will help to mitigate virus and malware issues.

Content filtering is a very important component to protect your network from improper web habits of your employees. It also adds that peace of mind that you’re going to a safe site even though it looks like a legitimate business class website. This at times can be an unpopular policy among employees but unfortunately it is something that needs strong consideration.

We recommend putting a statement in your handbook that outlines company policies and expectations of use for company technology. Ask your employees if they would mind paying the hourly rate of the tech that has to clean their PC or the network from viruses at $100 plus per hour. That may open their eyes.

Finally, intrusion detection and prevention is something that should be considered. The preferred method is to use a service that does 24 hour monitoring for the absolute best protection. However that can be pricey. If that is not an option, the ID/PS on the firewall is an important component. It blocks and filters opportunistic bots and hackers and keeps them from entering your network. It’s important to monitor this and the reports to know who’s trying to get in.

So there you have it. This should give you some things to consider when protecting your network. Nothing can guarantee that you will not be compromised but we certainly don’t want to make it easy. The easy ones are the ones that the bad people are looking for!