Why do IT Security experts refer to firewalls?

Tony Anscombe

If you have had tech connectivity issues you may have heard the IT security team say, “that’s a firewall issue”, so what is a firewall and how does it work?

As its name would suggest, the term originates from a structure that prevents the spread of a fire, such as emergency fire exits. In old cities, physical walls surrounded the city to prevent unauthorized visitors from entering. This is exactly what the firewall referred to by your IT security team is doing - keeping all the internal company assets safe and only authorizing permitted visitors access. The firewall creates a virtual wall around the companies’ network, acting as a security guard for any incoming traffic.

There are two main types of computing firewalls, a network or host based. The network firewall is a dedicated and specialized device that creates a wall around the entire company network, while the host based firewall is the security on a specific device, such as your laptop. Unlike ancient city walls, modern firewalls are very advanced in making decisions on whether the traffic should be allowed to pass. When your IT team mentions the firewall, it is likely they are adjusting the settings to allow traffic to pass.