Guarding your charity’s data: a word about firewalls

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Most people nowadays will have heard of a firewall, and the majority of those will know that it has something to do with data security.

But if asked what it is that a firewall actually does or how it differs from an antivirus, people are generally a lot less sure. This is understandable – as opposed to antivirus software, where the clue is in the name, a firewall is a more ambiguous term.

To help you understand exactly what your firewall does and why you need one, I’ll run you through some of the basics about firewalls and advise you of some best practices when it comes to using a firewall for your charity.


What exactly is a firewall?

Any time that you connect to the Internet, you’re doing so through a ‘port’. Hackers can use these ports to see what you’re doing and access information from your computer without you being aware of it. Firewalls block and protect these ports to prevent outsiders from seeing any information.

They work very differently to antivirus software, which operates solely on a file level. Whereas an antivirus will scan for and prevent attacks from dangerous files/programs/software etc., a firewall will work at the network protocol level (essentially where a connection is made with the Internet). As both of these areas are susceptible to attack, it makes sense to have them both covered.


Some advice on what to do

For most charities, security should be a priority. Important files such as financials, information regarding donations, as well as supporter or beneficiary data might all be accessible if you don’t take the proper measures.

It’s best practice to have both a firewall and antivirus software, as they can work alongside each other. Many antivirus products have a firewall included, which is a good idea, as it prevents conflicts that sometimes arise where your antivirus thinks the firewall may be a threat, or vice-versa.

We recommend the following antivirus systems, which come with great firewall solutions and are also available through Charity Digital Exchange:

If your charity uses a ‘bring your own device’ policy, you should make sure you protect smartphones and tablets too – I recommend using Kaspersky for Android or Norton Mobile Security, which are paid options but do offer free trials.

To ensure that you’re getting the most out of your firewall, think about the level of protection you need. For charities and other organisations, it is worth creating a security policy to set the standards of security to your employees. This can be used to inform employees about why certain websites might be blocked and explain the procedures to be taken if you think your computer is at risk of an attack.

If you get a good antivirus product with a firewall and set it to update automatically, you’ll have a decent level of protection. It’s always worth remembering that online, you can never be too secure!

I hope this helps. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch by clicking here.


By Andy Man, Office 365 Support Engineer


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