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Big corporations are not the only ones that have to worry about cybersecurity. Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are routinely targeted to steal passwords, payment information, email content, and more.

A good firewall is important not only to protect your information but also your reputation. After all, your customers trust you with their data, and losing it to bad actors is no way to keep their trust. Here at Cisco, we’ve developed industry-leading firewalls designed specifically for the needs of SMBs. Our Cisco Secure Firewalls for small businesses help simplify security, with streamlined implementation at a price point that is affordable. They are also highly customizable, allowing them to scale to your needs as your company grows.

Once you have a firewall that meets your needs, you should look at implementing and configuring your firewall like you’re building an army. Sure, that might sound daunting, but it’s much easier than you think. And Cisco is here to help!

Below, we’ll outline what you need to do to implement an impenetrable firewall easily.

First, What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a piece of physical hardware or installed software that checks for incoming traffic and decides whether to block it or allow it through into your network. Imagine it as a militarized checkpoint, with a guard stationed, ready to check the credentials of everyone asking to come through.

The type of firewall you choose depends on your specific SMB needs. Maybe you want the enhanced security and flexibility a physical hardware firewall can provide. Or perhaps you’re focused on cost-effectiveness and reducing the number of devices due to limited space, which is common with software firewalls. Whichever you choose one thing to look for is that your firewall is compatible with the bandwidth your business receives. You can find this in the product’s specs, but make sure you know the maximum bandwidth your business receives and choose a firewall that accommodates your needs. Beyond that, properly setting it up is paramount, which we’ll outline below.

Implementing A Firewall — Step-by-Step

Firewall implementation is not difficult, provided you follow the steps laid out below. It should take IT a few hours to complete the process, but you should see at most fifteen minutes to an hour of downtime. Cisco Meraki firewalls offer simplified setup and management, that make setting up your firewall a breeze.

If you don’t have a dedicated IT team, managed IT services can help provide the technical assistance you need to set up your firewall. For example, Cisco Meraki gives you access to Cisco Talos’ top security analysts, who can help set up your firewall to your exact needs and provide additional security recommendations.

Establish Your Defenses

First things first, you want to secure your firewall. This means ensuring your firewall recognizes who it should trust and blocking out all others. This will ensure hackers are turned away, and your employees and leadership have free access to communicate.

Following these simple steps below will get you there:

  • Update the firmware so your firewall is up to date.
  • Delete, disable, or rename default user accounts. Also, change any default passwords to more secure ones. It’ll be embarrassing if a hacker can breeze through your firewall as “admin” using the passcode YOURCOMPANYNAME.
  • Create a structured hierarchy of all the people you assign to manage your firewall. Limit their privileges based on their responsibilities within your company. You want to be sure who accessed what – and why.
  • Limit the areas where people can make changes to your firewall configuration.

Wall Off Your Resources

Next, you want to establish the important groups within your network that need the most protection. The best way to do this is to create structured network zones of assets based on their importance and level of risk. These can include things like data servers, email servers, client data, etc. These groups are often called demilitarized zones (DMZ). It’s best to create many network zones to offer the most protection throughout your network.

Keep in mind the more network zones you create, the more you’ll need to manage. Make sure to establish a well-defined IP address structure that correctly assigns these zones to your firewall interfaces and subinterfaces, which are either physical ports that connect to other devices or virtual representations that let you extend your network.

Cisco Secure Firewalls provide multi-layered defense across all networks, workloads, and applications protecting your company’s resources against cyber-attacks from all angles.

Assign Guard Stations

Access Control Lists (ACLs) grant access in and out of your network zones. These act as armed guards, checking the IDs and credentials of everyone who comes through and denying those you can’t show the goods. These ACLs are applied to each firewall interface and subinterface.

ACLs must be very specific in detail, including the exact source or destination IP addresses. They should also be equipped with a “deny all” rule, which ensures you filter out any unapproved traffic into your network. Specificity here is key. Each interface and subinterface should have inbound and outbound

ACLs applied to them to authorize only the traffic you want.
Finally, you should disable all firewall administration interfaces to restrict them from public access to protect your firewall configuration from prying eyes.

Set Up Additional Services

Yes, your firewall can do a bit more than just grant access. There are additional services you may want to set up depending on your network needs. Here are some common ones:

  • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP): Assigns and manages IP addresses to a specific network device.
  • Intrusion Prevention System (IPS): Monitors traffic and scans it for malicious activities, often taking preventive actions against potential threats.
  • Network Time Protocol (NTP): Synchs the time across all your network devices.
  • Cisco Secure Firewalls feature customizable security allowing you to tailor your security based on specific requirements and industry standards. Gain access to cloud-based management and logging, threat defense, and remote access VPN for remote workers and clients.

Test Your Defenses

Now that you’ve configured your ideal firewall, it’s time to test it to ensure everything is set up properly. You want to throw everything you have at it, including penetration testing and vulnerability scanning protocols, to see if you can find any holes in your defenses.
During this time, you want to make sure you have a secure backup of your firewall configuration, just in case something goes wrong (you don’t want to lose all that hard work).

Finally – Maintain, Maintain, Maintain

Maintaining a solid firewall means staying on top of it. You should ensure the firmware is up to date, check your firewall’s configuration rules every six months, and run vulnerability tests often to identify any weaknesses early and address them accordingly. This may seem like a time-consuming process, but it’s more about maintaining a routine schedule.

There’s also the issue of scalability. As your business grows, so will your security needs. Cisco has designed firewalls with security needs that adapt alongside your growing business. Stay safe across traditional, hybrid, and multicloud environments. With the help of Cisco Talos security analysts, you can always be on top of the latest security solutions, whatever your company’s size.

If you’re unsure which is the right firewall solution for you or need help boosting your cybersecurity, our team is here to help!

Get a free trial of Cisco Meraki’s industry-leading, cloud-first platform or
Contact a Cisco expert today, and we’ll help get you on the right track.



Authors

Ian Thompson

Leader, Americas SMB Marketing

Americas Growth Marketing