Erickson Dental Technologies

What Is a Firewall, and Why Does Your Dental Practice Need One?

Firewall Network Security System

Cyber attacks on healthcare providers are rising, with hackers increasingly seeking sensitive medical information to use maliciously. The consequences of an attack can be significant, especially since it’s not always easy to detect a breach in your system until it’s too late.

However, with the proper safeguards in place, you can be protected if it does happen to you. Firewalls are one of the most critical elements to securing your business’s computer network from outside attacks.

Let’s look at what a firewall is and why it’s vital to an effective cybersecurity strategy for your dental practice software.

What Is a Firewall?

A firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls the incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. Firewalls can be software-based or hardware-based, and you can install them into other systems such as routers.

The goal of the firewall is to protect the dental practice data on your network from unauthorized access. You can use a firewall with other security measures, such as antivirus software.

Types of Firewalls

Your business may require different network security protection from various attacks and threats. Therefore, choosing the right type of firewall for your unique needs is essential. Here’s a quick rundown of the five primary types of firewalls and how they keep you safe.

#1. Packet Filtering Firewall

Information that transits through a network such as the internet is divided into packets. Each packet contains a small amount of data as well as origin and destination. A packet-filtering firewall looks at each incoming and outgoing packet and decides whether to allow it through or not based on a set of network security rules. Such rules include IP address, port number, connection type, and time-of-day restrictions.

Packet filtering is usually faster and more efficient than other types of firewalls. However, it can’t protect against more sophisticated attacks.

#2. Circuit-Level Gateway

A circuit-level gateway monitors network protocols and connections to ensure packet exchange between suitable hosts. The firewall does not block anything by default but allows or denies specific types of traffic per-connection basis.

#3. Application-Level Gateway

An application-level gateway, also known as a proxy firewall, filters traffic at the application layer. That means it can inspect each packet and ensure it is safe before allowing it to pass through to the network.

Application-level gateways are very effective at blocking malicious traffic. But, they can also slow down your internet speed if configured incorrectly.

#4. Stateful Inspection Firewall

A stateful inspection firewall is a type of firewall that tracks the state of each connection passing through it. That means it can keep track of which packets belong to which accord and whether or not they’re part of a legitimate conversation.

Stateful inspection firewalls are more effective than their predecessors. However, they’re also more complex and require more processing power.

#5. Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW)

A next-generation firewall (NGFW) is a type of firewall that offers advanced features and capabilities beyond those of a traditional firewall. You can deploy it as hardware, software, or cloud-based solutions. NGFWs

NGFWs offer added and upgraded protection against many threats, including viruses and malware. Traditional firewalls monitor connections and packets, but NGFWs do so in context and in depth. These firewalls are able to identify specific applications and allow the user to set rules for those applications, and they can see every packet in full to understand whether it poses a threat to your system.

If the NGFW does find a threat, it can not only block the packet but also identify where it came from – both the application and the IP address. That way, it provides context and allows for better decisions in regards to protecting your system.

5 Reasons Why Your Dental Practice Needs a Firewall

Dental Practice Needs a Firewall

Protecting yourself and your business from cybersecurity threats is vital for dental practices of all sizes. If you’re wondering why your dental practice needs a firewall, here are five important reasons to consider.

#1. Prevent Unauthorized Access

A firewall can prevent unauthorized access to your dental practice’s network and information. By creating a barrier between your internal network and the internet, you can control which traffic is allowed to pass through.

This action can help stop hackers from gaining access to sensitive information, like patient records. In addition, a firewall will also alert you when someone tries to access your system, allowing you to determine if they were authorized or not.

#2. Protect Against Data Breaches

Data breaches can lead to loss of patient trust, financial damages, and legal action. For these reasons, you want to be sure that hackers cannot access sensitive information such as credit card numbers or patients’ records.

A high-quality firewall will protect you from these threats by creating an impenetrable barrier between the internet and your private network. It will also monitor all traffic coming into the system, so if one of your additional security measures misses a malware program, the firewall will detect it.

#3. Ensure Compliance

A firewall is integral to your dental practice’s compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This federal law requires you to safeguard Protected Health Information (PHI) from unauthorized access, and a firewall is one way to do this. 

HIPAA establishes standards for electronic health care transactions and provides safeguards for individually identifiable health information. It also sets requirements for the privacy of such information.

Likewise, a firewall can help prevent viruses and other malware from infecting your computers and accessing PHI.

#4. Limit Bandwidth Usage

In a dental institution, computers are not only used for checking patient records and x-rays. They serve multiple functions such as emailing, answering phone calls, scheduling, or doing paperwork. Some of these functions require an internet connection, which puts the information stored in the computer at risk.

Additionally, an office computer can have many applications open at once, as employees may need to perform various tasks at once. If the applications make extensive use of your bandwidth, they can prevent essential sites from loading.

A firewall will limit your computers’ internet access by blocking out programs you want to disable. You can specify how much bandwidth specific sites can take up on the computer.

#5. Block Prohibited Websites

The internet consists of an infinite number of websites, and as such, there is no way to know what site may be harmful to your practice. Luckily, a firewall will block any website from entering your network without approval from you first, preventing any unwanted programs from breaching the system.

Firewalls can also restrict access to certain websites so employees can work more efficiently by not having distractions on their screens during work hours. You may also consider using a firewall to restrict access to social media websites, news portals, and gaming sites during work hours.

Why Your Dental Practice Needs a Firewall

Wrapping Up

A firewall is an essential network security hardware that every dental practice should have. Not only will it protect your sensitive patient data, but it will also help prevent malware and other attacks. 

A firewall keeps your network more secure because you can control who accesses what from the internet.

If you don’t have a firewall, now is the time to get one. Contact us today to book your assessment.