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Firewall is a network security tool that keeps out unauthorized data communications and lets in the ones deemed safe, using rules that you or your network administrator set up. They can be hardware, software or a combination. They can be built into a device like a router or installed on individual computers and devices such as smart phones and tablets.

Firewalls are a critical component of cybersecurity for any organization. They help prevent hackers from entering a business network or stealing sensitive information and they keep out malicious software from leaving a business network. They are also important for organizations that have multiple locations or employees working remotely.

The firewall analyzes every attempt to access the operating system and blocks traffic from unwanted or non-recognized sources. It does this by analyzing each packet of data and comparing it to pre-defined security rules. For example, if an employee attempts to upload credit card information to Dropbox, the firewall might have a rule that says any traffic containing this kind of information will be blocked by the company’s information security team.

There are many different kinds of firewalls, but next-generation firewalls (NGFW) offer the most advanced protection. They combine standard firewall capabilities with application awareness and integrated intrusion detection/prevention systems. They are the most commonly used type of firewalls today.

A breach of a company’s firewall can result in deep financial losses (lost business, regulatory penalties, etc.), damage to a brand reputation and a lack of trust among customers. This is why it’s vital to make sure the firewall configuration is current and that the most advanced features are enabled.