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By 2021, there’ll be an estimate of $6 trillion spent on cyber security breaches, per Forbes. Moreover, half of these attacks target small businesses. Clearly, halting cyber threats should be a top priority for everyone, and ignorant or stubborn companies surely will pay the price. An effective start for quality protection is to begin implementing firewalls, which originated as devices that filtered packets traveling between networks and users. Firewalls allow certain packets through based on a set of rules, including accepted IP addresses and other characteristics the packets possess. As security breaches have increased in recent years, firewalls have been massively upgraded, and are now commonly used to protect entire data centers from untrustworthy users. Both software and hardware firewalls can be effective, but there’s a clear distinction between the two. Software firewalls can be built into single servers or PC’s, while a hardware firewall can serve as protection for an entire network of servers. Here are the common firewalls used by companies everywhere. 

Proxy Firewalls

Proxy firewalls are the most secure of the bunch, although they contain some negative aspects as well. The process goes as follows: an entity requests data accessibility to a certain network, but the firewall intercepts it first, and sends a separate request to the host network. After the request is granted, the firewall once again filters the packets of data and hides the devices location, and only then sends the data to the entity. Since they were never directly connected, the entity has very limited information about the network. Consequently, the network will be far more safe from cyber attacks. On the other hand, going through the whole process of a proxy firewall can downgrade the total performance of the network, as the barrier may be too powerful for proper usage. Transactions can become too slow, and some applications may be unavailable through the firewall. 

Stateful Firewalls

These firewalls operate in a different manner than the proxy type. Instead of inspecting every single packet and delaying transactions, this firewall inspects the characteristics of the connecting user. Once the connection is deemed safe, packets can flow through the firewall without the need to inspect them all. Although it’s security isn’t on the level of a proxy firewall, stateful firewalls allow for easier communication and transactions. 

Web Application Firewalls

These firewalls serve as barriers between users and their accessibility when using web applications. This helps prevent attacks such as HTML injection, an extremely dangerous attack. For example, a hacker finds a vulnerability on the website, crafts a malicious link that appears to be legitimate, and sends an email to a user. The user can be fooled, and potentially will send over his username and password to a hacker with malicious intentions. These web application firewalls effectively limit vulnerabilities that lead to these stratagems. 

Next Generation Firewalls

Upgrades to this technology have included new ways to distinguish between safe and malicious packets. Instead of using the IP addresses and destinations, NG firewalls build a set of rules for 

what sort of activity is allowed, limiting the capability for potential attackers to gather information and find vulnerabilities. Through the collection of data, the firewall’s knowledge grows and its ability to distinguish between safe and unsafe traffic improves. Moreover, some firewalls now possess deep packet inspection. Not only does the firewall inspect its location and characteristics, but also the content within the packet itself. With potential like this, firewalls continue to be reliable defenses for cybercrime. 

To conclude, firewalls are an absolute necessity for all networks, but they also can’t be entirely relied on. While artificial intelligence assists us in a multitude of ways, intelligent people with experience are still required to keep a network secure. With capable experts and artificial defenses like firewalls, we have the potential to begin dropping cyber attack numbers in the coming years. 

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