Oct 23, 2022

Does Your Dental Practice Have a Firewall? Here’s Why It Should

Sarah Harris | Oct 23, 2022 | 8 min read

Dental practices provide a variety of services that all have one thing in common. They all rely on personal information to provide the best care to patients. While the collection and use of data have given dentists many advantages, allowing them to provide precise evidence-based care to more people, it also presents some challenges.

User data isn’t just valuable to dental practices. It’s also a target for criminals who want to use it for their own ends. Digital information stored on computers is vulnerable to potential attacks from third parties.

Dental practices need to have strict data management protocols that control who can access what information and when. For this reason, many clinics choose to use a firewall to safeguard their networks.


What’s a Firewall?

When connected to a network, computers become vulnerable to malicious traffic and attempts at unauthorized access. A firewall provides a first-level layer of security that buffers the internal and external networks with specific rules for how information can be shared. Any traffic going into or out of the network will be allowed or blocked based on predetermined options.

For dental practices, a firewall can help protect patient data by ensuring the local network is safe from malicious actors. Dental organizations can define rules to safely control network traffic. There are many different types of firewalls that offer specialized protection against potential threats.


  • Packet Filtering Firewall

A packet filtering firewall provides strict rules for incoming and outgoing data packets. It looks at each piece of data to see if it abides by preestablished criteria, discarding any that don’t. The criteria the firewall uses can include any type of information, including IP addresses, mapped ports, and other metadata.

With a packet filtering firewall, each network point can be protected, providing a fast and cost-effective way for users to protect themselves from intrusion. While this type of setup might not be perfect for everybody, its simplicity and ease of use offer clear advantages to users.


  • Circuit-Level Gateway

Circuit-level gateways are used to validate packets and connections between distinct transport layers. Each attempted connection is checked by the firewall before information can be passed on to the other. User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) allow for the creation of a digital handshake to ensure a secure connection.

Unlike traditional packet filtering firewalls, a circuit-level gateway can validate the source address. This way, communications between two separate sessions can be monitored and protected. As a result, spoofing or faking an IP address becomes much harder, creating a safer network for end users.


  • Application-Level Gateway

When deploying an application on a server, there’s always the risk that malicious actors will attempt to gain unauthorized access or deploy dangerous code. With an application-level gateway, application servers have a proxy for blocking malicious traffic. By using an application-level gateway, traffic can be managed at the host level, and maintainers can use more specific configurations.

One of the biggest benefits of an application-level gateway is that one can be deployed for each application on the machine. This improves network security but can also harm the application’s performance.


  • Stateful Inspection Firewall

By operating in the TCP layer, a stateful inspection firewall is capable of monitoring all forms of network traffic at any given time rather than just a single packet. This offers greater protection from malicious attacks and also provides system logging for users to make adjustments and improve their systems over time.

A stateful inspection firewall gives users a higher level of control over connections at any given time and makes it easier to see patterns and prevent attacks from occurring.

Looking at the entire state of the network when managing connections offers a more thorough defense for users. This, however, can erode network performance over time due to its resource-intensive nature.


  • Next-Generation Firewall

Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) bring together port and application-level blocking and inspection to detect and prevent intrusions before they occur. As the newest generation of firewall technology, NGFWs are capable of providing advanced security features without compromising efficiency. This makes them a great option for dental practices that want to improve the security of their patient data.

Although they have many advantages, NGFWs are also more expensive than more traditional options. It can also be difficult for many organizations to properly integrate them into existing infrastructure.


Why Your Dental Practice Should Have a Firewall

Dentistry relies on advanced technologies and digital information management to ensure patients receive the best care possible. Dental IT can be difficult to employ when digital assets aren’t protected properly.

Having a firewall goes a long way in safeguarding networks. This allows dental practices to protect their digital assets by making sure all network communications are legitimate.


  • Flexible Solutions

Firewalls offer many configurable options to users that can be used to fine-tune the interactions between providers and clients. This includes having consistent IT security protocols in place to make sure the network and its users are protected against potential threats.

No matter what type of firewall you decide to use, there are comprehensive options available that will help you make sure your deployment goes off without a hitch. By considering your network architecture, users, and the needs of your business, you can create an effective cybersecurity solution that will enhance your data management capabilities without adding unnecessary costs.


  • Control Access

Unauthorized access from malicious users and websites can wreak havoc on your network. Firewalls can sit between each network node and give each point an added layer of security for making connections. Firewall control and filtering offer a more fine-tuned approach to network access, meaning attacks can be detected and prevented in any environment.

Restricting individuals from accessing the network based on location, credentials, or any other validation options makes it easier for dental practices to block unauthorized access and prevent data breaches.


  • Secure Data

For most dental practices, having access to critical software in a secure environment is essential for ongoing operations. When information is needed, it should be readily available and uncompromised. A firewall is an essential line of defense against intruders, allowing organizations to keep their patient data secure and free from harm.

With a firewall in place, dental practices can know which services their networks are communicating with and make sure requests are only coming from valid sources. This allows practices to reinforce the integrity of their systems and prevent data from being lost, corrupted, or stolen.


  • Detect Intrusions

Early detection and prevention strategies can make all the difference in protecting systems from malicious attacks. Firewalls can be used to prevent incoming traffic from email services using POP and SNMP, preventing spam and tracking any data that does pass through.

Dental practices that rely on IT and digital assets for their day-to-day operations should consider the importance of a firewall for verification of incoming network traffic. It isn’t a magical solution that can prevent all types of intrusion. However, it plays an important role in eliminating potential intrusions while helping organizations protect themselves and their patients from harm.


  • Maintain Compliance

Any organization that operates with private user data has a legal obligation to do all it can to protect the information. This includes information stored on computers that can be accessed by potential intruders. It is essential for dental practices to reinforce their digital security and limit their liabilities through sound IT investments.

A firewall is an essential investment for businesses concerned with protecting their users and maintaining compliance with regulations. If digital information is not protected by a basic feature such as a firewall, breaches may lead users to pursue legal action. By deploying a firewall, you’re demonstrating a basic commitment to sound IT security practices.


Simplify Data Protection with PMS Software

Practice management software (PMS) can be used by dental practices to reduce employee workloads and reinforce best practices with minimal effort. Gathering relevant information, scheduling events, and communicating across the network is quick and efficient with the use of PMS software.

By leveraging modern hardware and cloud capabilities, PMS software eliminates much of the overhead associated with a dental practice. Some examples of PMS software include:

  • Open Dental
  • Dentrix
  • Eaglesoft

Having a secure network environment for using these services will make it easier for dental practices to keep their patient data private. This allows decision-makers to optimize their digital assets and streamline operations over time.


Zenith Dental IT

Are you in need of support for your dental practice? If you’re looking for a nationwide IT partner that understands the ins and outs of dental, then there’s no better choice than Zenith Dental IT. With Zenith, you get the number one dental IT support provider alongside cutting-edge solutions for all of your practice’s needs.

Zenith Dental IT provides local dental IT support to over 800 practices nationwide. Whether you’re an individual or an administrator for one of the many DSOs, Zenith Dental IT has something for you. We offer cloud backup and disaster recovery, hosted email encryption, antivirus services, and more.

Zenith Dental IT has the technology to address all of your IT solutions. Click here to get a quote!


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