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Frequently Asked Questions About Firewalls

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Firewalls.com is all about--you guessed it--firewalls and network security. Our team spends countless hours studying firewalls, learning about malicious threats, & learning the ins & outs of cybersecurity. Check below to see quick, concise answers to the Internet's most commonly asked firewall questions!

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What is a firewall?

A firewall is a physical or virtual network security appliance that monitors both incoming & outgoing network traffic, acting as a secure “gate” between the network & public Internet. Next Generation Firewalls (NGFW) include security software services that work in tandem to stop a variety of modern cyber threats, providing a Unified Threat Management (UTM) platform.

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What is a firewall used for?

A firewall is used to monitor & manage both inbound & outbound traffic between a private network & the public Internet. Firewalls are security devices that unify security services & software to detect cyber threats & prevent malicious actors from accessing private data.

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How do firewalls work?

Firewalls work by employing a variety of security services such as Anti-Virus, Intrusion Prevention, Content Filtering, stateful packet inspection, & more to holistically protect users & data on a private network. A firewall acts as a secure gateway, analyzing incoming & outgoing data packets to determine whether they are safe to pass through the gate.

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Who needs a firewall?

Any organization gains major data security benefits with a firewall. Firewalls are a necessity for not only large enterprises employing hundreds of users, but also small businesses, retail locations, clinics, classrooms, & even cafes. Firewalls protect the data of an organization, its internal users, & its customers.

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What does a “user” mean”?

A network “user” is any device that connects to a network-wired or wireless--for Internet, data, or communication access. A user can include PCs, laptops, mobile devices, printers, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, tablets, & more.

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What is throughput speed?

Firewall throughput describes the volume of data an appliance can pass per second. Manufacturers use a number of different throughout classifications based on the types of traffic mix tested, security services enabled, VPN throughputs, & more.

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Can a firewall slow down my network speeds?

Yes, a firewall can slow down network speeds, but this is for an important purpose. Bandwidth must be dedicated to allow critical security services to process data packets traversing into the network - scanning, analyzing, & filtering data in real time.

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How many firewalls do I need?

In most scenarios, a single office or home office location requires only one firewall if the appliance is appropriately sized for the demands of the network. A larger organization may require multiple firewalls depending on network size, and also to secure branch offices, remote outposts, or even home users.

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Is a firewall hard to setup?

Firewalls require expertise to configure for each specific network’s security needs. While many firewall manufacturers offer “zero touch” deployments & similar strategies to make firewalls more novice-friendly, professional configurations are highly recommended to optimize performance and protection.

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What can firewalls protect against?

Firewalls play a key role in protecting networks from a variety of Internet-borne threats such as viruses, spam, intrusion attempts, ransomware, & malware. Depending on the firewall’s security services, the appliance can act as a content filter, a sandbox environment, a network management platform, & much more.

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Do firewalls stop hackers?

Firewalls close off many of the potential backdoors & security vulnerabilities that hackers use to breach networks. However, firewalls cannot stop users from clicking malicious links, prevent physical network breaches, or stop insider attacks. Firewall appliances play a major role in thwarting hackers, but should be part of a layered network security posture.

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How long does a firewall last?

The lifespan of a firewall is largely determined by how long the firewall’s manufacturer provides firmware updates & support for that model. Firewalls are constantly updated with new threat intelligence, virus signatures, & software to guard against emerging threats. While an End-of-Support firewall will continue to function properly, the device will be “frozen in time” with its final firmware update.

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How do firewalls block traffic?

Firewalls rely on either Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) or Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to analyze whether data packets passing through a network contain benign or malicious content. Traditional firewalls relied on a database of known threat signatures to spot potential threats, but modern firewalls use machine learning & AI to determine if a data packet’s behavior is consistent with the behavior of known cyber threats - allowing them to catch never before seen exploits.

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Do firewalls stop viruses?

Firewalls go a long way towards preventing viruses from infecting a network. While a firewall is not a surefire way to stop all threats (careless users can still create backdoors for attackers), firewalls are a primary defense for preventing malicious data from breaching a network.

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Is a firewall necessary?

While firewalls are not typically required by law, there is almost never a good reason why an organization with a private network should forego using firewall appliances. Protecting a network with a firewall is a signal to employees, customers, & third-party vendors that an organization values data security.

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What happens if I don't use a firewall?

Disabling a firewall or not using a firewall altogether means all inbound & outbound data packets can traverse a network freely. In addition to everyday Internet traffic, the network is fully exposed to malicious data & intrusion attempts. Similar to leaving all a home’s doors unlocked, an unsecured network would rely solely on the hope that an attack never occurs.

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How much do firewalls cost?

The price of a firewall varies greatly depending on the number of users the appliance secures, the throughput speed the appliance can achieve, the types of security services bundled on the appliance, the brand, & more. A simple desktop firewall fit for a small office setting can cost as low as a couple hundred dollars while the cost of more advanced enterprise firewalls can exceed hundreds of thousands.

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Is VPN a firewall?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) acts as a secure tunnel linking a user to a specific device across the Internet. Most firewalls include built-in VPN clients that allow remote users to access the network guarded by that firewall, but a VPN and a firewall are not one in the same.

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What is a virtual firewall?

Virtual firewalls monitor inbound & outbound traffic transferred between the public Internet & a network with all security operations taking place in the cloud. They act the same as a physical firewall, but with no actual hardware necessary on-premise to secure data on the network.

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How do I change the settings in my firewall?

Each firewall manufacturer offers a browser-based portal through which firewall owners can control its settings. Here, firewall administrators can create & edit rules, segment user groups, restrict access to individual resources, & much more.

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