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Firewalls protect your network from attacks that would otherwise penetrate the corporate perimeter and gain access to sensitive data. They filter and monitor network traffic, ensuring that only authorized data flows into the company. Originally, firewalls were physical hardware appliances that plugged into the network infrastructure, but they can now run in software or cloud environments and be accessed from anywhere on the world.

Firewall capabilities have evolved from simple packet filtering to stateful inspection, application awareness and an integrated IPS. Combined with threat intelligence, these capabilities offer an effective defense against modern network threats.

The most basic types of firewalls allow or block services based on rules that evaluate source and destination IP addresses, packet protocol header information, port numbers and other factors. They inspect each packet individually, and if a rule is violated, the packet is flagged or blocked. For example, many hackers include executable code in HTTP headers to initiate a denial-of-service attack, so it’s important for a firewall to detect this type of traffic and reject it.

Firewall logging captures and records all firewall activities, enabling security administrators to monitor the system and detect anomalies. Regularly analyzing firewall logs improves threat detection, troubleshooting and overall security by providing insight into past traffic and pinpointing places for improvement. This approach reduces risk of security breaches by eliminating the need for manual inspection and speeding up response times. Streamlining firewall rules to eliminate redundancies and duplicates is also critical to improving firewall performance.