There are a number of elements that make up computer security including antivirus, spyware, and spam protection. Another part of computer security basics is the computer firewall. This form of protection can be implemented as both a hardware firewall and a software firewall. Both are a valuable defense against the multitude of online threats. Many people hear the term “firewall” without any real understanding just what it means. this post will help you in understanding firewall basics.
What Is A Firewall?
A computer firewall acts as a filter and gatekeeper to protect your data, your computer, and your network from malicious or unwanted software or intruders and from having your data leaving your system without your permission and knowledge. A firewall can provide protection for networks as well as individual computers and you don’t have to be a network administrator or computer expert to use one.
Firewalls can be both software firewalls and hardware firewalls. A Software firewall can be a standalone program or, more commonly, part of an Internet Security Suite. A hardware firewall is a device that is connected between the Internet and your computer. Frequently a hardware firewall is part of a wireless or wired router that is connected to your Internet connection (DSL or cable modem). There are many variations on this type of hardware device as they are used in large scale corporate environments all the way down to individual single computer Internet connections. Here we will focus on the built-in hardware firewalls that are part of the small routers that many people use in their offices and homes.
What Does A Firewall Do?
The main function of a firewall is to examine and filter traffic to and from your computer and within your local network and distinguish between requested traffic and unrequested/unwanted traffic. By filtering this traffic (data, files, programs) the firewall is able to prevent unwanted and unrequested traffic from entering your computer and your network.
In the case of the software firewall running on your computer the firewall is able to block unrequested traffic from gaining access to your computer, prevent unauthorized programs from sending requests out to the Internet, and prevent unauthorized programs from transferring data and files from your computer to other computers or server on the Internet.
Why Do I Need A Firewall?
Anyone connected to the Internet is a target for hackers, viruses, spyware, and identity thieves. No single piece of security protection is 100% effective. Having overlapping security elements including antivirus, antispyware, software firewall, intrusion prevention, and a hardware firewall is very beneficial.
For example, say a recently developed malicious piece of software gets onto your system through an email that your spam or virus filter did not catch and tries to send some of your files to a server in Asia. Your firewall software, through its filtering and monitoring capability will block the unauthorized program from gaining Internet access and keep any of your data and files from leaving your system due to the malicious software.
Trojan horse programs are a very common variety of malicious programs that can transfer files off your computer and download other files and programs onto your computer. A software firewall on your computer is a key element in blocking these types of programs.
How Do I Get Firewall Protection?
Firewall software is available through an Internet Security Suite, such as those from Symantec, Norton, McAfee, and Trend Micro and as standalone products such as Zone Alarm Firewall. Hardware based firewalls for residential, home office and small business environments are included in most quality wireless and wired routers from manufacturers such as Linksys, Netgear, D-Link and Belkin. Microsoft also began including a basic software firewall starting with Windows XP Service Pack 2 and improved on their firewall with Windows Vista. However, while better than no firewall at all, neither versions are as robust or as flexible as third-party firewall product.
Most firewall software is updated as part of the given software publisher’s update process. Most publishers will include this as part an automatic update process that runs on a daily basis. Hardware firewalls generally do not require any updating outside of normal router maintenance which may include upgrading the router’s firmware. Overall, the maintenance of a firewall is minimal. Just one more reason to make sure that you are using a firewall.