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4 Firewall Monitoring Best Practices Worth Implementing

Almost all of today's businesses are online in one way or another. That means there's a lot of data and digital infrastructure to think about-and many smaller businesses lack comprehensive security. Firewalls allow businesses to use each of these without fear of them being compromised-if they take steps to monitor their workings.

This guide shares some firewall monitoring best practices, keeping your business running as smoothly as possible.

What is a firewall?

To start, it may be worth clarifying what a firewall does for you. In simple terms, a firewall is a filter for a computer network. It intercepts data that's trying to enter your network, and scans it to see if it's dangerous. If the firewall discovers a threat, it'll stop the data from entering your network and doing harm to it.

Firewalls can protect you from a variety of specific dangers. For example, they can stop spam emails from appearing in your inbox, or stop you from visiting a dangerous website, or protect you from phishing trends. They can even (in some cases) prevent the leakage of sensitive data. This is why firewalls are required in certain sectors, such as healthcare.

What is firewall monitoring?

Firewall monitoring is the act of checking your firewall is working as it's supposed to. We might think of a firewall as something that runs purely on its own, with little to no oversight once it's set up.

This is true up to a point. Like automated functional testing services, some aspects of firewall monitoring do run on their own. At the same time, a firewall works best when we take an active interest in how it works.

chart-what-to-automate-in-2022 

Image Sourced from indeni.com

We monitor a firewall using a tool that's designed for the job. This tool allows us to see what actions are allowed (and which aren't), as well as when network threats are spotted. Other crucial features of a firewall monitoring tool include locating all the firewalls we're using,  accessing an overview of firewall status, and viewing a detailed log of the firewall's threat management.

Is firewall monitoring important?

Yes, in many cases. That's because every business is a little different, and will need to configure their firewall to suit their unique requirements.

Concepts like product-market fit reflect this fact: you need to understand what niche is filled by the products you sell. Similarly, you need to understand what assets your firewall will protect-and modify a standard product in order to do so.

This is something firewall monitoring often includes as a task-particularly as new threats may emerge after your firewall is first installed.

In some cases, it may not even be threats you need to worry about. If you have remote workers, for instance, you need to make sure your firewall allows them to access your network offsite.

A more compelling argument may be that firewall monitoring ensures you're getting your money's worth. Implementing a firewall (which, realistically, most businesses should nowadays) can be an expensive undertaking. If your firewall isn't monitored or modified it could allow a major threat to affect your network. As such, it effectively means you've wasted your money.

Microsoft 365 is the standard for cloud-based email and collaboration platforms among organizations and has only been magnified due to an increase in remote work environments brought on by the pandemic. Microsoft 365 offers a selection of native security controls, but built-in email is ineffective and proper protection should work to close critical Microsoft 365 email security gaps.

Monitoring your firewall (and adapting it to new dangers) ensures your business is properly protected from preventable threats.

What's the best way to monitor my firewall?

This is a question that has a different answer for each business. However, there are some best practices that every business can follow to keep themselves safe.

1.    Have a plan for deploying it

Data-Breach-Statistics 

Image Sourced from blog.netwrix

Let's begin with an obvious starting point: thinking about how you deploy a firewall in the first place. Activating a firewall without a clear idea of its purpose can be costly and disruptive to your wider business. Crucially, it may have holes in its security that you haven't anticipated.

Much like setting up affiliate marketing on Shopify, a firewall plan is a multi-step process that requires some planning ahead.

Start by looking at where your firewall needs to go, and whether it interferes with regular network traffic. If it does, you may want to test its operation before you use it properly. It's also a good idea to have a rollback plan, so you can deactivate the firewall in case of some serious, unforeseen issue.

Think about how your firewall is actually going to be managed. Firewalls often benefit from some kind of dedicated management interface, which can have its own security concerns.

If you're setting up more than one firewall, you can think about which assets are going to be protected. Different firewalls cost different amounts of money, and have different capabilities.

As such, you may want to use your most capable firewalls to protect your most sensitive assets. If you've ever had to buy an OMS order management system, you know the importance of comparing different system types within a business.

You can also think about when the firewall will actually be deployed. If you think there's going to be some kind of disruption or teething troubles, you might want to deploy it outside of office hours. This ensures the business' other employees aren't inconvenienced.

2.    Block traffic as standard

This sounds like an odd strategy, but it may pay off for your business. The more traffic you block, the fewer threats you must contend with.

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Image Sourced from stefanini.com

If a hacker does manage to breach your defenses, they'll have to work harder to get through your network-minimizing damage to your business in the process. Using a tool to connect the dots between suspicious activities during a cyber attack can come in handy here.

When you do need people to access your network, only let them into the areas they need to be in. You should also limit access to the firewall's controls, by creating user profiles and unique logins. This prevents a firewall's functions from being altered, which can sometimes happen by accident.

3.    Secure the firewall (and access to it)

Blocking firewall access can form part of a wider security policy. Indeed, a firewall's user accounts are a common weak point for bad actors to exploit. Fortunately, these accounts are relatively easy to protect.

Start by changing the default password used to access a firewall's configuration settings. Use a password that's sufficiently complex, and pair it with multi-factor authentication for an added layer of security.

You can also think about the privileges associated with each account. If an employee is auditing your firewall, for example, they may only need read-only access to a firewall's functions.

When it comes to the firewall itself, make sure that you update any patches to the firewall's software and firmware. This ensures there are no serious vulnerabilities. It's also a good idea to speak to the manufacturer to see if there are any vulnerabilities you might have overlooked. The approach of an automated QA testing tool won't work here; you need to take an active role in its updates.

Finally, it's a good idea to backup the firewall's configurations and database on a regular basis. This ensures you have complete records of the firewall's operations.

4.    Audit your firewall

Regular audits ensure your firewall remains effective throughout its lifespan. Conducting an audit involves a few different tasks.

For example, you might want to review the firewall's access policies-and check employees are following them. You should also review who's monitoring the firewall's logs, whether its rules and access controls are still relevant, and if any recently-introduced firewalls are working as intended. If you undertake testing in IT, you should take a similarly rigorous approach to your firewall audit.

top-reasons-for-visitor-to-leave-website 

Image Sourced from goodfirms.co

Make sure that your security activities aren't being overzealous, though. A sizable number of businesses prioritize security over user experience. Make sure this isn't the case during your own firewall audit.

Wrapping up

A firewall is an essential consideration for a modern-day business, protecting it from data theft and other security compromises. However, it's also important to treat it as an ongoing concern. You need to tweak and monitor your firewall to ensure it performs its intended tasks properly.

In practice, firewall monitoring involves understanding where you want to use it-and what specific function you want it to serve. Limit access to its inner workings, and regularly investigate how it's being used. By sticking to these firewall monitoring best practices, your business will be as safe as possible from digital security threats.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Cooper - Marketing Automation & Operations Manager, Global App Testing 

matthew-cooper 

Matthew Cooper is the Marketing Automation & Operations Manager at Global App Testing, a best-in-class software testing company that has helped speed up phone app and other top apps such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Craigslist deliver high-quality software at speed all over the world. Matthew has over 14 years of experience in the I.T Networking, Software & Services Industries. He is highly skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Marketing, Digital Advertising, Social Media Management, WordPress, Email Marketing, Marketing Automation, CRM, and People Management. Matthew Cooper also published articles for domains such as Custify and BigCommerce.  You can find him on LinkedIn.

Published Wednesday, August 17, 2022 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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