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A firewall acts like a security guard for the data you send and receive on your computer or network, constantly monitoring traffic based on predetermined rules to protect against cybercriminals. Without a firewall, your personal and work information could be exposed to anyone who has access to your network or internet connection.

Firewalls can be either hardware or software and come in many types and sizes. Each type works at a different level of your network (OSI layers 3 and 4) by checking the content of data packets. For example, a circuit-level gateway firewall checks the TCP handshake protocol between trusted hosts to verify that the connections are legitimate. By keeping a record of previous activity, this type of firewall can also identify patterns that may be indicative of malicious intent.

Alternatively, a proxy firewall serves as an intermediary between internal and external systems by fetching data from the internet and relaying it back to your devices. This offers an extra layer of separation between the device where data originates and the devices on your network, but can create a slowdown in your data transfer speeds.

A firewall’s ability to safeguard your data can only be as strong as the rules it follows. For this reason, it is critical to have rules that are comprehensive and accurate. The rules you create should be based on the information your business gathers, including the types of threats and risks that you’re aware of.