Great Walls of Fire
By CGLife - January 15, 2019
What do Central Banks, Castles, and Computers have in common?
Long answer: security, Short answer: walls. In the ancient past as much as now, walls have had one very simple aim; keep the bad guys out and keep the good guys safe. They’re defences, designed to keep whatever is inside them secure from grasping hands. You can’t go around walls, can’t climb over them, and you certainly can’t go through. A big wall is the basic unit of any system of security and they’ve done a great job keeping countries, Castles and people safe for thousands of years.
Old dog, new tricks
However, whilst the ancients built their walls from stone, the modern world can do one better; ours are made of fire. The Firewall is the basic unit of security for the information age, offering protection against the hordes of hackers, phishers and viruses unleashed by global connectivity. Without Firewalls our world would simply grind to a halt. We’d have no data, systems or devices that couldn’t fall prey to malicious intruders and no way to keep track of where the threats were coming from. Despite the ubiquity and importance of Firewall technology, surprisingly few are aware of its origins. At Convergence we believe in being open, honest and straight-talking, so let’s take a look at how this miracle of modern security came to be, and how they protect you every single day.
Firewall technology was born in the late 1980s, just in time for the arrival of the World Wide Web in 1990. Prior to this, earlier iterations of the internet (such as the ARPANET) were clunkier, less connected and far less fun. This however did not stop the development of computer viruses that travelled around and between ARPANET networks. The first ‘true’ computer virus (chillingly named ‘The Creeper Worm’) was created in 1971 and proved that self-replicating programmes could easily infect entire networks, not unlike how an actual virus corrupts a living biosphere. The first ‘network penetration event’ (hacking) took place even earlier than this in 1967. Students in Evanston Township High School ‘hacked’ a network after being given access to an experimental computer system and taught its programming language. The students were given freedom to explore the system, however curiosity drove several to use the code to explore other aspects of the network that they did not have permission to see. These events and others demonstrated the vulnerability of early networks and the less-than-honest way that people were likely to interact with them once they were available on mass. However, it took over a decade for one man to take the leap forward that made modern network security possible. His name was Nir Zuk.
It is undeniable that invention is rarely a one-person endeavour. You can trace the origins of anyone’s work to their predecessors, claim that without the stage being set by one person or another the eureka could never have occurred, or even point to a dusty scroll that clearly demonstrates that your idea has been around for over 10,000 years. Minus the last of these examples, this is certainly true of the Firewall. Many people contributed to its creation, and the debate rages on as to who the credit rightly belongs to. However, for the purposes of this article, Nir Zuk wins this prestigious honour. Zuk built the first commercially-useful firewall whilst working for Israeli technology company Check Point. He worked with a simple concept: a system that filters information (packets) coming in from a shared network (i.e. the internet) and flags anything that does not look right. Zuk’s work brought security to the world of networking, and our world would not look the same without it.
Walls Walls everywhere
Fast forward nearly 30 years and Firewalls are everywhere. They filter inconceivably large quantities of data every day, keeping us safe from online dangers both great and small. The early pioneers of the ARPANET, hacking and computer viruses could never have predicted our total reliance on connectivity or just how crucial network security would become. Rapidly rising levels of cybercrime threaten businesses, institutions and individuals every day and network security has become one of the most salient issues of our times. Thankfully, the next generation of Firewalls are already working hard to keep us safe. There are now worldwide databases of malicious entities (such as Cisco’s TALOS) dedicated to ensuring that our Firewalls are constantly updated with the newest possible information in order to keep us secure. The technologies and systems now exist so that we can properly protect ourselves and our networks; security is at our fingertips.
Insecurity in security
There is however, a ‘but’, and it’s a big one. It is estimated that 95% of cybercrime is due to a lack of diligence or the mismanagement of security systems. The internet of things, a lack of consistent updating, poor password choice and sub-par firewall management are among the most common causes of network vulnerability, all of which are utterly preventable. At Convergence Group we offer all-round security systems, properly managed to ensure your network is as secure as technologically possible. We already secure life-critical networks for hospitals, sensitive networks within the police force and critical care networks for ambulances, protecting both data and lives with our Firewall services. Our security solutions are prepared for today’s challenges as well as those of tomorrow. We build our walls high, we build them strong and we’re never caught off guard.