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What is a Firewall? (With Analogies and Pictures!)

April 20, 2017 in Hardware and Software

While a firewall is a specific appliance, most of what any SMB has is more like a swiss army knife. Because it has the ability to perform several important security functions, it doesn’t make sense to buy separate devices. These main components are a Router, and VPN, a Content Filter, and an Intrusion Detection System (IDS).

What is a router?

What is a router.jpgA router is like the postal service. Your computer sends data with a stamp for an IP address of where it’s going. The router then figures out where that address is located and forwards it there. It also keeps track of what addresses are on your local network so it doesn’t have to spend time looking it up the next time.

Another important function of a router is something called Network Address Translation, or NAT. NAT is like a receptionist. Everything from the outside world goes to your router’s address, and then from there the router decides to forward it or not to your local address, which only it and others inside your network know.


What is a VPN?

What is a VPN.jpgA VPN is like a hose from your computer to your company’s internal network. It uses encryption so that if anyone tries to look at your traffic, they just see encrypted nothing-ness outside of the hose, while your data flows through unseen and secure. It is a must while working in public wifi such as at Starbucks or a hotel but generally recommended whenever you are out of the office, even at home.





What is a content filter?

What is content filtering.jpgA content filter is like A parent who inspects all mail before they give it to their children. If there are pieces of mail they do not want their child to receive, it never gets delivered. The child could petition the denied content, aad the same is for computer users. To combat a blocked site, or content, a user must contact their network administrator. The content filter element of the firewall looks at web pages and compares them to a block list to decide whether it will show it to you or not. Filters can be set to block social media, inappropriate websites, job hunting sites, or other specific sites.



What is an IDS?

What is IDS.jpgAn Intrusion Detection System, or IDS, is like a house alarm. If it detects suspicious activity or attacks, it will notify you right away so the correct actions can be taken. A more advanced version of this is an Intrusion Prevention System, which is more like a guard dog. It will actively detect attacks and go through a set of actions to stop it without any human interactions.





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Jake Welch

Jake Welch

Jake joined the LIVE Consulting team after relocating from Ohio. He works as an admin for LIVE Consulting. He got his start in the tech industry by working at a small family owned shop where he grew to love the unexpected of the industry. In his free time, Jake enjoys fishing and hiking.