Top 5 tools to use alongside a firewall for the best network protection in 2020

 As cyber threats become more sophisticated, it is incumbent upon us to beef up the traditional security tools we use such as firewalls

Most modern operating systems have in-built firewalls, and the chances are that most of us are using an updated version of an OS with a firewall, or an installed third-party firewall. 

A firewall is a shield that could be either hardware or software, that helps to protect your device or network

Uses of a firewall
A firewall protects you in several ways:

        Filtering your internet traffic and blocking unauthorized access to your private data

        Stops malicious software from getting into your computer

The firewalls act as a guard and monitor all attempts by malware or hackers to infiltrate your operating system. However, because of the evolution of malware, firewalls are no longer enough to protect your 

computer. You must use other tools alongside the firewall to beef up your security. Some of the risks that a firewall cannot defend you against include:

Even equipped with a firewall, there are still many risks to your network. The most common one is malware, which means malicious software, and includes Trojan horses, viruses, spyware, adware, etc. Malware mostly infects your computer by clicking on infected email links and attachments.

A firewall protects you against unauthorized access, from malicious traffic but cannot protect you when you give the malware programs access to your computer.

Social Engineering 
Social engineering attacks involve psychologically manipulating the victims into handing over sensitive and confidential data. Social engineering mostly involves using communication such as email in messages that invoke feelings of panic, fear, or urgency in the victims, prompting them into the action of revealing sensitive data, opening malicious files, or clicking on malicious links.

Examples of social engineering include phishing and ransomware. Phishing involves an email that seems to come from a legitimate source, asking you to click on a link or download an attachment. The link redirects you to a website, which proceeds to prompt you to enter your data such as name, password, bank details, etc.

DDoS attacks 
DDoS or Distributed-denial of- service attack is an attempt by malicious actors to disrupt the regular traffic of a network, or server by jamming it with a lot of internet traffic. DDoS attacks are useful because they use different compromised systems as their source of an attack. 

An exploited machine can be a computer and other connected devices such as the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. A DDoS attack can be likened to an unforeseen traffic snarl-up that clogs up a highway and prevents the regular traffic from getting to its intended destination.

Flaws in your operating system 
A firewall is as secure as the OS (Operating system) it is installed in. Operating systems have flaws that a firewall has no control over, which is why it is crucial that you secure your OS by updating it and applying security patches before the firewall installation, and regularly after that.

Configuration errors 
Even with a firewall in place, problems can still arise if the firewall’s configuration settings are off. For instance, a setting called dynamic routing was considered a bad idea since it resulted in a loss of control that reduced security. Some people still leave it on and create a weakness in their firewall’s protection.

A poorly configured firewall is like building an extra gate to your compound and leaving the key in plain sight, making it easier for an attacker while wasting your money, effort, and time on “beefing” up security.

Tools for mitigating risk

Other than using a firewall, it is essential to use different tools alongside it, such as:

1. Virtual Private Network (VPN) 
You can use a VPN for an extra layer of protection against many online threats. Using this tool provides you a secure tunnel between your device and the network you’re connected to along with masking your IP address and your location.

VPN prevents you from being affected by attacks such as DDoS. It also encrypts your data and locks out anybody with intentions of eavesdropping on your communication.

2. Data loss prevention software 
Data loss prevention (DLP) software is used to endure that none of your sensitive data is lost, accessed by unauthorized individuals, or misused. In DLP, you have to identify the sensitive information that needs protection, and then take measures to prevent its loss. This data may exist in several states:

        Data in use which is active data in the cache memory, CPU registers, and RAM

        Data in motion which is data in motion by transmission via networks, either internal or external over a public network

        Data at rest which is stored data in a file system, database, or backup storages

A DLP system prevents data leakage by determining the confidentiality level of the data detected in the traffic. It does this by analyzing unique document markers and analyzing document contents. 

The second option is more resistant to any changes made to the data before dispatch and allows you to expand the number of documents you can classify as confidential.

3. Email security gateways 
An email security gateway (ESG) is a server that protects your internal email server. This server works as a gateway via which all incoming or outgoing emails pass through. A secure SEG is software that monitors your sent and received emails, and prevents unwanted by delivering the proper emails.

Unwanted emails include phishing, spam, fraudulent or malware emails. Your outgoing emails are analyzed to ensure no sensitive data leaves your system and encrypts emails that contain sensitive data.

4. Antimalware and antivirus software 
Sometimes your network might be infected, and you will never know until it is too late. Antimalware and antivirus protection detects malware and viruses by scanning and preventing them from infecting your computer. The software also monitors your files and checks for anomalies and fixes any damages caused.

5. Security Information and event management 
Security Information and event management software or SIEM is crucial for your network security. These products vary, but they all collect the data you need to identify and immediately respond to threats.

The SIEM software collects and combines log data, identifies and categorizes events, and incidences and analyzes them. This enables you to tell when there is a security attempt or breach, and the frequency at which they occur.

As technological advancements allow hackers to use sophisticated weapons of attack, so does it offer us ways of countering the attacks. We have to work hard to stay ahead of these threats which keep evolving. Using a firewall may be one way of countering attacks, but there are attacks a firewall cannot mitigate. Use the above measures as well as a dose of common sense, especially when it comes to downloads and clicking on links.