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A firewall acts like a protective wall between your computer and the internet, constantly monitoring and filtering data based on a set of rules. Without a firewall, your computers and network are vulnerable to hackers and cyber attacks that can be carried out from outside or even inside your system.

Essentially, a firewall acts as a guard at a doorway – if traffic has a ticket and passes security checks, it’s allowed in. Firewalls have many different functions – such as gathering threat reports and providing load balancing to regulate network connections – but they all have one core ability: identifying threats from suspicious data.

For example, a hacker might infect your office computers with malware that enables them to send commands to other systems. These infected systems are referred to as a botnet and can be used for malicious purposes, including sending spam emails or stealing personal information. Firewalls can identify these types of botnets by examining the data sent between infected systems, which are often hidden behind public IP addresses.

To detect these kinds of threats, a firewall analyzes the incoming and outgoing data of your networks using packet filters. These filter the data in small units called packets, comparing them against a set of criteria to identify potential threats. These filters may include keywords or patterns, such as certain URLs, that could indicate a malicious site. Some firewalls also use content filtering, which can block certain categories of websites to protect your employees’ work and privacy.