Why Your Law Office Needs a Firewall
And why correctly configuring it matters.
It’s easy to overlook your law firm’s network security. When everything is working fine, you can continue with business as usual and not have to think about network security. A network firewall is typically something that your firm doesn’t need until you need it.
Law firms in particular need to have a reputation for confidentiality and security, given the sensitive data that they are entrusted with. Having a secure network is one of the unspoken things that clients expect. Most clients are not going to outright ask about your firewall setup; they are just going to trust that their information is highly protected.
However, clients will absolutely care if your system is breached by hackers.
System breaches can lead to lawsuits and misuse of information which can be highly damaging to a firm’s image and notoriety.
Because many individuals and nearly all businesses work with an attorney in some capacity, firms can be a prime target for hackers. Even so, there are still many law firms that use ill-equipped networks and poorly configured, or non-existent, firewalls.
What’s a firewall?
A firewall is a network security system that is dedicated to preventing any unauthorized user or program from running on your computer system or server. You can think of it like a gatekeeper to your network and devices.
Because most businesses now manage their transactions, workflow, and data storage digitally, firewalls have become a standard piece of software or equipment needed for secure business operation. It is more important than ever before to have properly installed security measures in place.
“Protect your network from dangerous cyber clutter.“
How does a firewall work?
A firewall is software or hardware that looks at the information going to your computer or network from the internet, and decides if it is safe or not. If the firewall filters detect unsafe information, it is not allowed through. Here are some of the methods that firewalls use:
- Packet filtering – This is a technique that focuses on filtering the network based on the packets of information that are sent and received whenever a computer tries to connect to the internet, and access a website.
- Proxy Server – A proxy server is a virtual server which hides the real IP address of your computer. Proxy servers can be useful for security and user privacy.
- Application Gateway – An application gateway allows the firewall to block certain applications from accessing the internet. This allows a business to easily check and control what they are using their network for.
Block unwanted information
If configured correctly, firewalls do a great deal in protecting your network from ads, pop-ups, spam, and other information that is just dangerous cyber clutter. You can compare it to blocking messages from unwanted people on your phone, but instead of people, these are unwanted scripts and other packets of information that can be harmful for your network to process.
Although you may be able to initially install the software, and/or hardware for your firewall, a professional can make sure that the security settings are appropriate for your setup, and being used at their full capacity. If you are unsure how to effectively configure a firewall, reaching out to an IT professional for help is highly recommended.
Types of Firewalls
Software firewalls are a less substantial type of firewall that only protects the computer or device in which it is installed. Newer Windows and Mac computers do come installed with firewall software, but they can be lacking in advanced features needed for a larger network. Aftermarket programs can be used to supplement the standard firewalls.
The advantage to using a software firewall is that it can block not only website names but also specific types of content using keywords. Software firewalls also have excellent reporting, monitoring, and alerts.
The obvious disadvantage of a software firewall for a law firm is that it does not provide protection for each member of the practice seamlessly and simultaneously. Each person would have to install their own firewall software, and each individual firewall might not work in conjunction with the others. This can make installing and maintaining a huge headache.
Another downside to software firewalls is that they can take a toll on the performance of devices, noticeably slowing them down.
There is software that is included on some routers to act like firewalls, though it may only be available on the recent models. Check the specs on your router to see what safety features are included.
The easiest way to set up a firewall on a larger scale is to use a hardware firewall. You can eliminate issues related to protecting multiple devices that run different operating systems. Hardware firewalls come with a minimum of four network ports but can be increased depending on your needs.
Hardware firewalls are much more secure than software firewalls because they directly communicate with the router, rather than communicating with the router through an operating system. With a hardware firewall you are in control of 100% of your network traffic, you will not lose performance speed on any of your devices, and the installation is a breeze.
The downside of a hardware firewall is that you can tend to set it and forget it. Occasionally you will need to update settings to make sure your firewall is optimally protecting your network.
Hardware firewalls also offer very limited reporting and alerts, and they are not able to police network traffic by user, only by device.
Both types of firewalls serve a purpose, and for a home setup, one or the other might be sufficient. For a law practice, a combination of both software and hardware firewalls is going to offer maximum security. Though it might cost more upfront, complete protection of your firm’s data will save time and money in the long run. Studies show that more than half of small businesses that are victims of hackers go out of business in less than 6 months! Avoid being a statistic and get your network secured.
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