Everything You Need to Know About Firewalls

March 9, 2009

When you hear the term firewall, you might think of an actual wall that provides a barrier between two areas and prevents fire from spreading from one area to another of the building. In the world of computers, a firewall is also a barrier. It is a barrier between a computer and the internet.


A firewall can protect a computer in two ways. It can protect a computer from certain kinds of inbound attacks, and it can also prevent malicious software from accessing the internet in the event that your computer becomes infected.


Every internet connected computer should have a firewall that protects it from inbound attacks. If your computer is connected to a router (either wired or wirelessly), the router acts as a firewall and protects you from inbound attacks. In addition, Windows has a built-in firewall that protects your computer from inbound attacks as well.


So if you have a router or you have the windows built-in firewall turned on (It’s on by default), then you’re set.


The other side of firewall protection is that it can prevent malicious software from communicating over your internet if your computer does happen to become infected. The firewall provided by your router does not provide this type of protection. The firewall in  Windows XP doesn’t either. The firewall in Vista has this feature, but it is turned off by default. You can also install a software firewall. A software firewall is a piece of security software that provides firewall protection on your computer. Most security suites include a software firewall. There are a few free software firewalls like ZoneAlarm and Comodo. But our favorite software firewall is Sunbelt Personal Firewall. It’s only $20. $10 if you purchase it with Vipre (Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware).


The problem with software firewalls is that they tend to pop-up a lot of questions asking the user to allow or deny things. Most people either don’t bother to read it or don’t understand what it’s asking so they just click allow every time. When people click allow every time, the this type of firewall protection becomes useless. 


If you want the extra protection of a software firewall, you should resolve to read pop-up messages from your firewall very carefully. Your default should be to deny if  you don’t know or are not sure. Only allow if you are sure. If you aren’t sure, fire up your web browser and google it. If you deny something and later realize you want to allow, you can open the firewall, to to the Applications or Programs area, find that program, and allow it to access the internet.


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