Firewall users often nurse the misconception that they have all they need for better internet protection and security. That could not be farther from the truth. Don’t get us wrong. We love the way firewalls work – and they do a lot. It would, however, be wrong to let sentiments cloud our judgment here.
Digging deeper into the matter, we have put together this resource on what firewalls can and cannot do.
Fortunately, you are not left stranded in the areas where your firewall leaves you exposed. Follow through to the end, and we recommend some alternatives to get the job done. Used with your firewall, that is.
What Do Firewalls Protect You Against?
Identified below are threats you can be sure a firewall will nip in the bud before they ever become serious.
1 Disabling Source Routing
Data transmissions between a computer and a server are not linear. The data packet is routed through multiple servers before it gets to its destination.
Hackers know this too, so they can sometimes send a malicious data packet from a trusted source. That way, the computer thinks that such data can be trusted and admits it. Big mistake!
Firewalls will disable source routing for this purpose, preventing data packets that have been routed through multiple sources to access the network.
2 Email Attacks
Not all email attacks, though.
Firewalls can be built only to allow emails from dedicated servers. This is what most companies use to ensure that only emails from someone within the system get delivered. Otherwise, the firewall keeps it out.
This helps prevent many phishing attacks, keeps out threat actors, and reduces the chances of getting malware sent to someone on the inside of the firewall via email.
3 Backdoor Hijacking
Every OS in the world has a backdoor. No matter how secure the OS is, there are bugs, flaws, and vulnerabilities in the system that can be exploited by a sophisticated hacker.
Firewalls step in to provide an extra level of security in these cases.
This protection model is dicey because firewalls also leverage software to work. Thus, they could have bugs of their own while patching up the bugs in other systems, leaving them vulnerable to attacks.
What Firewalls Won’t Protect You Against
For all the good that they do, firewalls cannot save the day all by themselves. When you are about to think that they can, think of the following.
1 Malware Attacks
Malware can come in different forms, from keyloggers to virus and spyware of other kinds.
Firewalls will only kick against inbound attacks, not those created within the system itself.
Simple activities like surfing the web and downloading files can expose the user to malware. Thus, it is advised that you get an anti-malware (such as an antivirus) software to catch such malicious codes before they register on your computer.
2 Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
DDoS attacks are famed for how serious they can be when they happen. They can render an extensive network of computers unusable in a small amount of time – and such attacks can last long too.
An analysis of DDoS attacks shows that they are region-targeted. This means that they will usually affect a subset of users in an area and not everyone at the same time. The only way the attackers know who is in such regions is via their IP addresses.
Thus, having a VPN comes in handy and can save you from these attacks.
Connecting to your VPN and routing your internet traffic through a server in another location puts you out of reach. From there, it is business as usual.
3 Phishing Attacks
Phishing attacks are the most successful social engineering hacks, not for lack of knowledge about what they are. It is just that hackers are getting smarter in conning their unsuspecting victims by the day.
Even with the best firewall in the world, phishing scams will get the victim to bypass their security in favor of the hacker unknowingly. That is why user error remains one of the most severe cybersecurity problems globally.
Combating phishing attacks starts with learning all that you can about them. That way, you can identify them at the early stages, well enough to not fall victim.
Image: Joshua Leonard