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Firewall protects your network and devices by monitoring data coming in and out of your system. Using pre-established rules and filters, firewalls prevent malicious attacks from exploiting your system’s vulnerabilities. Firewalls can be installed as hardware appliances, software running on your device or in the cloud.

The four primary types of firewalls are network policy, advanced authentication, packet filtering and application gateways. Network firewalls control the flow of traffic for an entire network, while host-based firewalls monitor and control inbound and outbound network activity on a per device basis.

Packet-based firewalls analyze the data packets (pieces of information for Internet transfer) that enter and leave a guarded network. The firewall looks at the specific criteria of each incoming and outgoing data packet and determines whether it matches any of the established rules. For example, a rule may indicate that incoming packets with destination port 22 — used for logging into computers remotely via secure shell (SSH) — should be dropped. If the incoming packet does not match this criteria, the firewall rejects it.

Another type of firewall is a stateful inspection firewall that analyzes the state and history of each data packet and checks for malicious activities. However, stateful inspection firewalls require more processing power than other types of firewalls and can bottleneck network performance.

While firewalls can protect your business against various cyber threats, they aren’t a foolproof way to keep your systems safe. If a firewall isn’t configured properly, or if it isn’t updated regularly with new cybersecurity threat detection and resolution capabilities, your systems can be vulnerable to attackers.