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Firewalls, a crucial network security tool, protect your private network against external cyberattacks. They monitor incoming and outgoing data packets and allow or block them based on a set of pre-established security rules.

A firewall can be software, hardware or cloud-based.

The best firewall for your enterprise depends on a variety of factors, including what you need to secure and how you’re architected. This is why it’s important to understand how different types of firewalls work and what features they provide.

Packet-filtering firewalls examine traffic by looking at the header information of data packets. Each packet contains a source address, destination address, protocol and port number.

Stateful inspection firewalls use additional checks, like examining the source and destination IP addresses, to determine which data packets are legitimate. This is a more powerful security feature but can be resource-consuming and slow down traffic.

Next-generation firewalls (NGFW) offer more advanced capabilities, such as network address translation, application gateways and SSL encryption, in a single solution. They’re ideal for companies that have regulatory compliance requirements or want a more comprehensive cybersecurity solution.

A firewall can also implement service access policies. This policy determines which internet services are allowed on the firewall and how those services should be implemented.

The primary goal of a firewall is to identify and block malicious traffic from entering your private network, while allowing legitimate traffic to flow. The key to a successful firewall is knowing how to choose the right type of firewall for your business’s needs and how to implement it properly.