A firewall is a piece of software or hardware that functions in a networked environment to prevent communication between areas with different degrees of trust. The term comes from the same word as that applied to a construction that is used in construction to keep a fire from spreading if one should start.
A personal firewall is a software application that monitors and can block the flow of data between the internet and your computer. The firewall is a key part of your computer security set up. It prevents hackers from gaining access to your computer using an internet connection.
Almost every single home in America now has a personal computer, and almost every single one of these computers is hooked up to the Internet. The Internet is a valuable new way of communicating, gathering information, and purchasing, but it has also given rise to a whole new breed of criminals and miscreants who love to prey on the uninformed or the unsuspecting in order to make a profit or just to have what they think is a little bit of fun. It is vita that you protect your computer and your information from being accessed by these people, who are becoming ever more innovative when to comes to achieving their perfidious goals. A key instrument in the fight for your computer’s security is a firewall.
If you have any personal information on your computer at all and access the Internet it is vitally important that you consider the benefits of a computer firewall. Many people lock their homes, lock their cars, keep a watchful eye on their children, and yet leave the bank accounts, personal information, and all kinds of other information vulnerable and exposed through their personal computers.
The most common type of firewall is the personal firewall, and this type in fact will come with most Windows software from the XP version forward. Although the model was not at first used very much, the emergence of the Blaster worm and the Sasser worm forced Microsoft to begin developing a more comprehensive software application that offered users better protection for both their home and office networks.
The next generation of Microsoft Firewalls takes the security of the personal and business computer one step further, by offering advanced protection against the phone home capabilities of both viruses and software. These firewalls will allow you to detect any activity that goes out form your computer, so that you know who is receiving information about what you are doing and your transactions online.
The fact is, every personal computer needs a firewall, just as any business system does. But you probably do not have to worry about going out and buying one on its own- your operating system likely has included one for you. Your job will be to find out how to set your operating parameters, and tell your firewall what to allow and what to block on your computer. It is especially important that you seek help when attempting the manipulation of your firewalls functions whenever possible, as mishandling will render your firewall useless. Instead, do not adjust the levels until instructed to by a tech help from the developing company. If you keep the documentation of the procedure, you will be bale to prove that it was their lack of knowledge, and not your own, that led to any informational leaks which caused some kind of stress.
A virtual attack can be just as devastating financially and emotionally as someone breaking into your home. They are allowed access to secrets you may have shared in confidence with online friends or even offline friends that you correspond with online, they will have passwords for financial and banking accounts, they will know where you buy your coffee; they can learn where your children go to school. The information we have on our personal computers is staggering in terms of personal security nightmares and yet so many people take no steps to secure this information from prying eyes by investing in a simple computer firewall.
The amazing thing is that you can even find free computer firewalls available online if you know where to look. I highly recommend paying for a computer firewall though if you have little knowledge of the inner workings of your computer. If you’re going to secure your families secrets you may as well invest in a very good program with constant updates in order to do so.
A computer firewall isn’t just a nice thing to have on your computer; it is a vital line of defense for you and your family. Keep this in mind when choosing the best computer firewall for you. Remember you want to have a service that will provide updates and keep up with evolving technology that would harm your computer or steal your personal information.
There are two types of firewall available to the home computer user. A hardware firewall is a device which sits between your computer and the internet. At home for example it could reside on a broadband router which is used to share your internet connection with a number of computers. One of the advantages of a hardware firewall is that it can be used to protect more than one computer at a time. For this reason hardware firewalls are deployed in corporate networks. For home users who own just one computer a personal firewall is more commonly used and more cost effective.
Hackers gain access to your computer through open ports that are used by your computer to communicate with the internet. The most basic firewall programs, like Windows XP’s firewall, monitor and can block “inbound” traffic by closing these ports. If theses ports are closed a hacker cannot access your computer directly via the internet.
More advanced firewall programs like products from ZoneLabs or Symantec also monitor and can block “outbound” traffic. This extra level of security is important and is worth investing in. For example, if malicious software like a Trojan Virus or spyware were installed on your computer without your knowledge the firewall would alert the user when it tried to connect to the internet and prevent it communicating with its host.
A firewall usually works at two basic levels. Firstly, packets of data are analysed based upon IP address and content to see whether they comply with a set of rules which a user can input to. The second level the data is analysed is at the application level. The firewall determines whether an application can send and/or receive data and the port which it should be communicating through.
The firewall “learns” through continuous interaction with the user. It seeks user approval from programs when they first come in to contact with the firewall. Most firewalls also allow the user to allow or block applications through a stored list of program which can be accessed through the firewall’s user interface.
There are a number of sites which will help test your firewall’s effectiveness. A number of these sites are run by security software vendors so it is recommended you test using an independently run site to double-check any results. One of the best independent test sites is run by The Gibson Research Corporation. They offer a free test called “Shield Up!” which can be found at their website – http://www.grc.com. The test checks a number of well-know and vulnerable ports on your computer and then provides some useful additional information to help improve your security while online.
It is important to remember that the firewall is only part of your computer security and does not negate the need for a good anti virus solution, a spyware removal tool and a degree of caution / common on sense on the type of websites a user visits. For example, the firewall will not scan for viruses or remove them from your computer.
PC SECURITY 101
How To Guard Your Computer Against Virtual Threats!