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What is a Firewall Leak Test?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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A firewall leak test is a procedure for identifying security holes in a firewall so they can be addressed. Firewall leaks primarily manifest in the form of unsecured outbound connections. Identifying leaks and addressing them will keep a network safer. Information technology staff can perform firewall leak testing with software or manually, depending on the network, their concerns, and the situation. They need to repeat the testing regularly to make sure the system is still safe.

Firewalls are primarily focused on keeping malicious materials out of a network. They block intrusions, limit incoming traffic, and may filter or scan material as it enters the network. The permissions on outgoing traffic tend to be more lax on the grounds that the primary concern is keeping material out of the network. Malicious software inside a system can exploit this to infect more computers and leak information, two potential security risks.

Sometimes, people using the network create a firewall leak, usually without understanding what they are doing. They may use remote connection software to access a computer on the network from another location, or may load software and other materials from a memory stick or portable hard drive. Laptops can also create a firewall leak, as someone may pick up a virus while traveling outside the firewall and bring it back with them when they return to the network. A firewall leak test will highlight the leak and the source.

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In a firewall leak test, an operator or program checks the firewall for weak points. The goal is to see what kind of data can be passed along an outgoing connection and to identify the types of outgoing connections the firewall will allow people to create. This information is used to look for vulnerabilities in the network so they can be plugged. To make the firewall more effective, people can block some outgoing connections or filter outgoing data to snag confidential or malicious materials before they are released into the wild.

Information technology departments can perform a firewall leak test if they suspect a leak or as part of a routine system evaluation. Computer security requires an evolving approach, including random testing and analysis of the network to look for changes. Regular scanning of ingoing and outgoing traffic is necessary to identify anomalies indicative of leaks and other problems. A firewall leak test may also reveal a specific security risk, such as an outgoing connection set up to allow unauthorized personnel to access the system.

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