- What is a firewall?
- Why are small business firewalls so important?
- Why small business firewalls aren’t enough
- Small business firewalls and other digital tools
Q: Do you need a firewall for your small business?
A: While you might assume that small business firewalls are unnecessary, there are several reasons to consider this cybersecurity tool. First, your small business may depend on its intellectual property – a new idea that sets you apart from the crowd. Hackers can steal these ideas through data breaches, making your company worthless. Second, hackers can force you to hand over considerable sums via ransomware attacks.
As a small business owner, you might think that you’re safe from hackers.
Perhaps you believe that you’re not worth their effort.
The statistics tell a different story.
In 2021, 42% of small businesses reported that they had experienced a major cybersecurity attack in the past year.
In 2020 alone, small businesses suffered a total of $2.8 billion in damages, with 40% of these companies reporting that they had lost “crucial data” as a result of these attacks.
According to one Canadian study, 40% of small business owners reported at least $100,000 in losses from a single cyberattack.
High-profile cyber attacks are continuing well into 2023 and beyond.
On November 24th of 2022, the European Parliament was hit by a sophisticated cyberattack – compromising sensitive security data and the personal information of various members.
In July of 2022, the FBI and MI5 warned that China’s spies and hackers planned to “ransack” the intellectual property of companies around the world.
And of course, the cryptocurrency industry is plagued by hackers that regularly steal millions from entrepreneurs.
Even space is not safe, as a recent cyberattack on an observatory in Chile put a radio telescope worth billions out of commission.
If hackers can break into the highest levels of government and even objects orbiting our planet in space, your small business network is likely a complete cakewalk.
You need to ask yourself one very simple question:
Can you afford to dismiss the potential threat of a cyberattack?
If the answer is no, then you might want to consider a firewall.
Most of you already have a general understanding of this technology – an understanding influenced by films like Swordfish or The Matrix.
But like hackers themselves, real firewalls are not quite as theatrical as their big-screen equivalents. For one thing, they’re much more accessible than you might imagine. You don’t need to be a computer expert to get a small business firewall up and running.
But what exactly is a firewall, anyway? How do they work?
And perhaps most importantly:
Do you need a firewall for your small business?
Let’s find out.
- What is a firewall?
- Why is a small business firewall so important?
- Why small business firewalls aren’t enough
- Small business firewalls and other digital tools
What is a firewall?
The Basic Technology Behind Firewalls
A firewall safeguards your network against external attacks. It’s your first line of defense against incoming data communications – blocking malicious data while allowing normal data to flow into your network.
The phrase “firewall” actually comes from the construction industry. Many years before the rise of the internet, firewalls were used to prevent the spread of fires in closely-packed buildings. Usually made from concrete, these walls were designed to withstand temperatures of up to 400 degrees Celsius.
Just like firewalls in the construction industry, cybersecurity firewalls provide a barrier against incoming threats – containing them and preventing them from spreading to your digital real estate.
But there’s one key similarity between these two concepts:
Both construction firewalls and cybersecurity firewalls are designed to withstand hours of attacks.
The Four Main Components of a Firewall
Firewalls are built around four main components that form their overall architecture:
- Network Policy: Network policy itself can be divided into two smaller components – also referred to as higher-level policies and lower-level policies:
- Service access policy: The service access policy includes all outside network accesses, such as dial-in policies, SLIP connections, and PPP connections. The service access policy must allow legitimate users to access the network easily while filtering out known risks.
- Firewall design policy: The firewall design policy changes depending on the unique firewall you have purchased. This design policy revolves around denying and permitting various services based on predetermined rules.
- Advanced Authentication: Advanced authentication includes things like smartcards, authentication tokens, biometrics, and software-based mechanisms. The most important thing about advanced authentication is that passwords cannot be reused by a hacker who is monitoring the network. Even if they get your password, they cannot pass additional layers of security. All modern firewalls must use advanced authentication to be effective against today’s cybersecurity threats.
- Packet Filtering: Packet filtering allows you to monitor network data to ensure authenticity and compliance. This feature also keeps your network running smoothly while protecting your data.
- Application Gateways: Application gateways provide a range of benefits, including hiding the source IP address of a client, advanced logging and authentication features, simple filtering rules, and much more. Firewalls that use this technology are very secure but can be a little slower.
Types of Firewalls
There are two main types of firewalls:
- Host-Based Firewalls: Host-based firewalls are installed on each network node, allowing them to control incoming and outgoing data packets. A host-based firewall is operated on a single computer. This might be sufficient for a solopreneur working from home, but it will not be enough if you have an entire office network with multiple computers and numerous employees.
- Network-Based Firewall: A network-based firewall is installed across an entire network with two or more network interface cards (NICs). In addition to packet-filtering and application gateway firewalls, there are a few other types of firewalls that fall under this general category:
- Circuit-level gateways: This small business firewall monitors TCP handshakes and other network protocols to authenticate sessions and remote systems. While fast, they do not inspect the data packets themselves.
- Stateful inspection firewalls: These firewalls examine each packet for greater security than packet filtering or circuit monitoring, but they can slow down your network.
- Next-generation firewalls (NGFW): With a combination of packet inspection and stateful inspection, these firewalls closely examine the actual data within each packet and track browsing sessions.
Additional Firewall Technology
Firewalls can use additional technology, and there is a wide range of other types available. These include:
- Proxy firewalls: Proxy firewalls represent an early cybersecurity technology, providing gateways through networks only for specific applications. They can also offer content caching.
- Unified threat management (UTM): UTM devices combine stateful inspection technology with intrusion prevention and antivirus capabilities. It can also offer cloud management functions. UTMs are famous for their simplicity and ease of use.
- Threat-focused NGFW: Threat-focused add to next-generation firewalls with extra threat detection and remediation. This allows you to identify at-risk assets, quickly respond to attacks, detect suspicious activity, and reduce complexity.
- Virtual firewalls: Virtual firewalls exist in private or public clouds. They can monitor and secure traffic, and they are popular in software-defined networks.
- Cloud-native firewalls: Cloud-native firewalls represent one of the most modern ways to secure applications – especially at a larger scale. With automation, smart load balancing, and high-speed operation, cloud-native firewalls are quickly becoming a favorite among businesses of all types.
Why are small business firewalls so important?
There are many reasons you should consider a small business firewall.
The Extent of Cybersecurity Threats Today
First, you have to realize that cybersecurity threats have become much more serious over the past few years.
According to INTERPOL, hackers are shifting their focus away from individuals and small businesses in favor of major corporations. But that doesn’t mean that you’re safe, especially when you consider some of the lesser-known threats faced by small businesses today:
- Cryptojacking: This is one of the newest cybersecurity threats. Cryptojacking involves taking control of computers and using them to mine cryptocurrency without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Fortunately, this doesn’t threaten your data – but it can seriously slow down your operating speeds. On December 3rd of 2022, it was reported that over ten percent of corporate crypto miners in the UAE fell victim to this type of cybercrime.
- Drive-By Downloads: This occurs when cybercriminals download hacking programs onto your device without your knowledge or consent. These downloads can begin after the target visits certain websites. From there, they can disable devices, steal personal data, create botnets, and much more. In September of 2022, Cyber Security News reported that hackers were using social engineering toolkits (SOC) masquerading as software updates to deploy the NetSupport RAT malware via drive-by download.
- Cross-Site Scripting: Sometimes, legitimate websites are injected with malicious code without the owners’ knowledge or consent. Unsuspecting visitors are then targeted to steal their data via cookies or tokens. If your website is hacked in this manner, your customers might have their data stolen whenever they try to buy something. Also known as “XSS,” this type of attack can be very difficult to address. In November of 2022, it was reported that Cisco’s Identity Services Engine (ISE) had five serious vulnerabilities. One of these vulnerabilities could potentially allow hackers to conduct XSS attacks against users.
- Zero-Day Attacks: If you’re creating a new app or piece of software, it will probably be launched with a few small business security vulnerabilities. Hackers take advantage of this with “zero-day attacks.” These attacks attempt to take advantage of small mistakes that haven’t yet been ironed out due to testing. Alternatively, you might adopt a new form of software from day one, exposing you to the same zero-day attacks. In December of 2022, a Spanish company called Variston IT was accused of taking advantage of zero-day flaws in Chrome, Firefox, and Windows to plant spyware on targeted devices.
Of course, multiple cyber threats have been around for several years, including:
- Phishing: Generally speaking, phishing attacks are the most dangerous cyber threats that a small business will face. 90% of all information breach attacks are caused by phishing, and the number of attacks per year continues to rise. Phishing relies more on manipulation and trickery than technological knowledge. The goal is to convince the target to click a link and or hand over sensitive data willingly. Often, the cybercriminal poses as a reliable source – such as a service provider asking you to “re-enter” your password. In December of 2022, it was reported that a Carousell phishing scam had resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses within just one month.
- Malware: Malware also poses a serious threat to businesses of all levels. These include Trojan horses, viruses, and many others. The goal is to gain access to a network and steal or destroy data. Not only does this result in the loss of critical data, but it also requires considerable resources to fix the damage. In December of 2022, it was reported that thousands of TikTok users had been tricked into downloading malware.
- Ransomware: Ransomware has quickly become one of the most common cyberattacks. The goal is to encrypt a company’s data so that it cannot be used or accessed unless the cybercriminal agrees to unlock it. This gives hackers the leverage they need to demand large sums of money – usually in untraceable cryptocurrency. Businesses can either choose to accept the loss of their data – potentially losing millions of customers and dollars – or pay the ransom and continue to provide services. It’s a tough choice, as the company loses either way. Recent data shows that 71% of all ransomware attacks specifically target small businesses. Why? Because hackers know that small businesses are less likely to have cybersecurity systems, and they’re less likely to have their data backed up securely. In December of 2022, a Russian-Canadian hacker faced extradition to the United States after targeting companies around the world with ransomware attacks.
Benefits of a Small Business Firewall
All of this technical jargon can get a little confusing, so let’s break down the key benefits of a small business firewall in terms that anyone can understand:
- Blocking Spyware: The first major benefit of a small business firewall router with a VPN is that it can block spyware. This is one of the most common methods used by hackers to steal sensitive data.
- Stopping Viruses: Another obvious benefit of a firewall is its ability to stop viruses from entering your network in the first place. These viruses could cost your company time and money if they manage to infiltrate your network.
- Keep Sensitive Data Secure: Another key benefit of a small business firewall with wifi is the ability to keep sensitive data away from prying eyes. This is especially important when you consider the fact that small businesses often rely on intellectual property to establish an edge over the competition. Small businesses might also lose their customers’ trust if they allow personal information to be stolen. Imagine if your customers suddenly had all their credit card information stolen by hackers due to your cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Imagine how hard it would be to send an email to all of your customers, explaining that their information has just been hacked. Not only can this destroy your reputation, but it may also open you up to potential lawsuits.
- Monitor Your Network: A firewall does more than just prevent viruses. It can also help you monitor users and network traffic. This allows you to identify and address suspicious activity before it has a chance to become a more serious problem.
- Deter Hackers: When burglars see signs outside someone’s house for a home security system, this is often enough to deter them. The same logic applies to hackers and firewalls. When these cybercriminals see that you’ve employed a firewall, they might move on to a more vulnerable target that is easier to hack. This means that your firewall can deter hackers without even engaging in any specific threat mitigation procedures.
Why small business firewalls aren’t enough
But for all their benefits, firewalls might not be enough to protect your business from malicious criminals. Here’s why:
About 25% of all data breaches are facilitated by people who are employees of target organizations. These are known as “insider threats” in the cybersecurity world.
Even the best firewall in the world won’t matter much if your employees are intent on betraying you. Employees may give out their passwords to hackers in exchange for payment.
They might also steal sensitive data and blueprints straight from the office before delivering them into the hands of your competitors. Even former employees can use their knowledge of your network to “get revenge” after being fired.
This is even more of an issue in smaller companies, as entrepreneurs are more likely to put enormous levels of trust in their team members. These “tight-knit” groups may have access to extremely sensitive data.
A firewall can’t help you prevent this type of attack.
The only way to deal with this situation is to promote a culture of cybersecurity awareness in your company. This will help employees recognize when other team members are engaging in suspicious activity that should be reported.
You might also consider switching to a Virtual Office, as this will keep remote workers away from physical documents or blueprints that could be vital to your business.
With everyone working from home, you can avoid corporate espionage and insider threats that are typically associated with an in-person office environment.
Speaking of physical documents, hackers and criminals can easily get access to sensitive information the old-fashioned way by intercepting your mail.
This mail might contain SINs, EINs, banking information, trade secrets, and a host of other valuable data.
The truth is that it isn’t that difficult to steal mail. First, criminals simply need to look up your corporation on the public record and determine your business address.
From there, they can wait around for the mail carrier and steal your mail right out of your mailbox before you can react.
Criminals can then apply for credit cards under your company’s name, sell your intellectual property to the highest bidder, and much more.
With so many entrepreneurs and small business owners switching to a remote work structure, important business mail is being sent straight to people’s homes.
If you’re running your corporation or LLC from the comfort of your home, this is a threat that you need to be aware of. Choosing your home address when registering your LLC might seem like a convenient choice, but it can lead to serious security risks.
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to this problem.
First, you can use Alliance Virtual Offices to choose a virtual business address for your LLC or corporation. The cool thing about this is that you can choose virtually any address you like – even if it’s outside of your home state.
But these virtual addresses aren’t just random PO boxes – they’re real, secure offices that you can visit yourself.
This means that when your sensitive business mail is sent to your virtual address, it will be securely collected and stored.
Next, you can either pick up your mail personally or have it forwarded to you. This gives you much more control over the security of your mail – allowing you to keep sensitive documents safe and protect your business.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of a Virtual Office, be sure to reach out to Alliance Virtual Offices today.
Check out small business firewalls and other digital tools today
When you consider the many serious cybersecurity threats facing small businesses today, a small business firewall is a no-brainer.
For a relatively low investment, you can put your mind at ease while protecting your intellectual data and preventing a wide range of cyberattacks.
Remember, many other small business owners have already learned how serious cyberattacks can be. Many of these attacks have led to bankruptcies.
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Don’t become just another statistic – give your small business the protection it needs.
And while you’re at it, consider some of the security risks that a firewall can’t protect against, such as insider threats and mail fraud.
Both of these issues can be addressed with a Virtual Office, so contact Alliance Virtual Offices today to learn more.