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Can a Basic Firewall Afford Your Business Sufficient Cybersecurity?

Most small business owners are at least somewhat aware that cybercrime is a major threat. It’s estimated that the total cost of cybercrime in the United States alone is $600 billion a year or more. Digital threats can come in a variety of forms, including overt attempts to hack into your systems and subtler, more human plays to obtain your employees’ login credentials.

To guard against these threats, many business owners turn to a firewall, or more specifically, a traditional web application firewall (WAF) to protect their business’s digital assets and networks. But a traditional WAF, while strong, may not be enough by itself protect you against potential threats. That’s why some web asset security providers are working to incorporate more sophisticated tools and features in the next generation of web application firewall solutions.

So why is it that a basic WAF is no longer enough to provide comprehensive security to your business?

How a Firewall Works

Let’s start the discussion by analyzing how a typical firewall works. A firewall can be a piece of hardware or a piece of software, but either way, it’s designed to prevent malicious attacks from getting through your network and affecting your business’s devices.

With a firewall, you can use default settings or customize your own. If you customize your own, you’ll have full control over which types of sources and which types of data can affect your network. For example, you might block incoming data from sources you don’t trust.

Firewalls are excellent security measures for blocking known threats, since they can readily identify the nature of incoming data packets and block them if they look suspicious. However, they also come with some inherent limitations.

The Limitations

These are some of the features and weaknesses that keep firewalls from being a one-size-fits-all way to protect your business from virtual threats.

  • Performance issues. Depending on the settings you’re using, firewalls can interfere with the performance of your individual devices. If each of your employees is running firewall software, it may slow down their machines to the point where they can’t be fully productive.
  • Prohibitive restrictions. Firewalls are designed to block certain websites, certain apps, and other sources of web data. While the majority of these settings will protect your business, some of them may interfere with operations. For example, you may unintentionally block safe websites and sources, making it harder for your employees to do their jobs.
  • Viruses and malware. Firewalls can identify and block data that appears similar to known virus and malware threats. However, they aren’t implemented to block any and all threats in this area. New threats will be difficult (or impossible) to detect, and stealthy infiltrations may still be able to get through. Plus, not all virus and malware threats will arrive in a route that your firewall will block; for example, someone could use a USB drive to infect one of your team member’s computers with a piece of infectious software.
  • Internal attacks. Internal attacks are also possible with a firewall turned on. Existing employees may use their login credentials and administrative access for nefarious purposes. They may also be able to manipulate firewall permissions to allow certain types of attacks through. If your employees internally bypass the firewall (which isn’t particularly hard), they may end up downloading a file that ends up infecting your entire system.
  • Implementation costs. Firewalls can be expensive to install, create, and/or maintain. If you utilize both a hardware and a software firewall, your costs will increase further, and of course, you’ll need to hire someone to maintain and monitor the firewall. While all security measures you enact will have a baseline implementation and management cost, firewalls can be excessive, compared to the benefits you’ll get from using one.
  • New threats and updates. Firewalls need to be updated on a regular basis if they’re going to be successful in defending your business from new threats. While many software-based firewalls now feature automatic updates (or at the very least, prompts to encourage users to update), this can still be a time-intensive process. Also, firewalls are always going to be a step behind the latest advancements in cybercrime, since the biggest threats are the ones that are hardest to predict.
  • Many firewalls simply aren’t scalable. They may work adequately for a small business with a single network and a limited team of employees, but for businesses with remote employees, multiple locations, and a massive national presence, it’s hard to find a single solution that will cover all your needs.

If you want your business to be protected from all manner of cyberthreats, no single installation or practice is enough. There are too many types of cyberthreats and too many vulnerabilities for any one solution to guard you against everything. Instead, you’ll need to come up with a multifaceted strategy to protect your business from multiple angles of attack, and stay up-to-date on the latest threats so your technological standards never fall too far behind.