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Firewall Protection – Can’t I Just Get It at The Local Computer Store?

With the economy being tight and everyone still trying to shed unnecessary expenses I often get the question from customers of why they should spend money on a firewall. The question is unfortunately not a very simple one. In the current state of our economy utilizing the protection of a firewall appliance is more important now more than ever. To understand why you should or shouldn’t spend the money on a firewall is better answered by understanding what they do and how they work.

What does a firewall do? Basically it is a layer of protection between your business and the rest of the world. Most people ask the same question though. Why would anyone be after my information? I don’t have anything. The short answer is that you probably have a lot more information stored on your computer or network than you realize.

Today’s hackers are not just the little geek in his basement that is bored and curious to see if he can get into some TV station and create chaos to brag to his friends about. Hackers today are financed by organized crime organizations and their focus is identity theft. The banks and financial institutions spend millions of dollars trying to keep their security systems in top shape due to stiff regulations by the government. Hackers know that a bank is a dangerous target that has really strong security that they may not be able to access so naturally they are seeking an easier target that will be easier to access and not get caught. The risk analysis is fairly simple, the hacker figures that a small company will not be able to afford the expense of having a good firewall and although the payoff is not as big there is still a good payoff. They also know that if they steal 100 identities and keep the total theft small and random then the chances that the police are going to be able to track them down are slim. Considering that most hackers are not on American soil it also reduces the risk because they know that the only agencies that have any authority to chase them are the FBI or secret service and the local police will be helpless. If you were a victim of identity theft and lost $25,000 would you be more focused on trying to catch the person or worried about how to recover? Reality is that identity theft is a nightmare that could take years to resolve.

Now that we have why they are important I am going to explain a little about the differences. There are several options when it comes to firewalls and unless you were to spend hundreds of hours researching the differences and why one is better than the other you might believe that they are all the same and do the same thing. All firewalls are not created equal and when it comes down to it there are a few things that are extremely important and you absolutely should never neglect.

There are 2 types of firewalls and 2 different classes. The first type is the most commonly known. A software firewall, it comes in virtually every operating system out there or you can download them as an add on from the internet or purchase them with various antivirus programs like Trend Micro, McAffee, Symantec, and Kaspersky just to name a few. These offer a very basic level of protection and are the easiest target for a hacker because they are very readily available. The hacker can simply go to any computer store and buy the program off the shelf, take it home, and start figuring out how it works and how they can bypass it. The second type is a hardware firewall (a physical device that is between your computer systems and the outside world).

The hardware firewall comes in 2 different classes. The first class is a “Staplet level” firewall which basically looks at the information transmitted to you from an outside source and only looks at the source, destination, and verifies that it was actually requested. These are a step above a software firewall, but they are very easily beaten by hackers because like the software firewall they are very readily available at any computer store and the firmware (firewall operating system) does not ever change or get updated unless you purchase a new firewall. These types of firewalls are great for the home user because the reality is that if a hacker were to hit one of these they are not going to spend the time to try to get through it for 1 or 2 peoples identity. These types of firewalls are manufactured by companies like Linksys and Netgear just to name a few.

The second class of firewall is an “application level” firewall which is the type of firewall that you would see in a bank or government office. These firewalls are not readily available and only purchased through authorized resellers. These firewalls are significantly different is the aspect that they offer several different layers of protection and when the information is scanned the firewall looks at the entire data packet from start to finish including the information being transferred. This class of firewall usually comes with options like: “anti-spam” (verify the sender in real time against a current database of known spammers in the manufacturer’s database); “Antivirus” (with real time updates from the manufacturer); and “Intrusion Detection System” (real time updates against hackers kept current by the manufacturer). These firewalls are manufactured by a few companies like SonicWall and Zyxel and are more expensive than others, but they offer the highest level of protection for your business. The only downside is that you do have to pay a yearly fee to keep the firmware and scanning subscriptions current. If you do not keep them current then you are at risk.

At this point you are probably thinking this is a lot of technical garble and why do I need to know this stuff or why is this important to me. The reality is that a firewall is like an insurance policy. I am a safe driver – why do I need to spend a lot of money on insurance when I can get this cheaper policy that will protect me? Well, what about the innocent bystander that was injured and had nothing to do with either driver? What if they were injured and decided to sue me? Would my attorney’s fees be covered? A firewall is the same thing. Your computer network is only as protected as the insurance policy that covers it.

Tom Marick, IT Services Director

Wilson Technology Group

To find out what solution is best for you and your budget contact a Wilson Technology Group representative at: 352-796-9891 (www.wilsontechgroup.com).

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Wilson Technology Group, Inc.
24332 Dorsey Smith Rd.
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Phone: 352-796-9891
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We provide sales and repair of computers, networks, phones, and security cameras in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Marion, Pasco, Pinnelas, Polk, and Sumter Counties