Most everyone has heard the term “Firewall” being used, but a lot of people do not know what a firewall does, or why it is so important to have one. A firewall is your most important line of defense between your computer and the Internet. You basically want the Great Wall of China between your computer and the outside world. Good firewalls will protect your computer from spyware, adware, malicious attacks, and the list goes on and on. If you have a high-speed connection to the Internet at home, you are physically attached to the Internet. This means, without some sort of protection, others out on the Internet, who know what they are doing, can see and access your computer. Firewalls can be either a physical device or a piece of software. In the corporate environment, physical firewalls are used. Your Internet line plugs into the firewall, and the firewall is then plugged into the network. So physically, you have a device between you and the outside world to protect your computers. A software firewall is installed on each computer in your home. You cannot install a software firewall on one of your computers and expect that it will protect all of your computers on your home network. What does a firewall protect you from? 1. Remote logins – basically, it will prevent anyone from outside your network from having the ability to see your files, or run programs on your computer. 2. Application Backdoors – some applications or programs will have features built into them to allow remote access. Additionally, a program can contain a bug (intentionally or non intentionally) that will provide hidden access. 3. SMTP Session Hijacking – SMTP is the protocol that is commonly used to send email. Hijacking your SMTP session allows someone to gain access to your email address book and send out unsolicited emails (spam) to everyone in your address book. 4. Denial of Service – this is when a hacker sends out a request to connect to your computer. When your computer tries to acknowledge the request, it cannot find the requesting hardware. If someone floods your computer with these requests, it can cause your computer to crawl or crash. 5. Operating System Bugs – some operating systems have bugs (can we all say Microsoft?) These bugs can often provide remote access with insufficient security. 6. Virus’s. The most well-known threat. A virus is program that can copy itself to other computer, hence allowing it to quickly spread. Virus’s can be harmless, or they can sometimes erase all the data on your computer. Have I scared you all yet? Internet security is extremely important. I have worked on hundreds of computers that have had to be rebuilt, all because proper security protection has not been put into place to prevent some or all of the above. For the typical home user, a software firewall will do everything you need it to. Depending on who you talk to, everyone will have differing opinions on what firewall to use. Windows XP and Vista both have built in firewalls. However, it lacks in features and functionality. It can be easily turned off, not only by the users, but also by another application. If you are looking to go beyond the Windows Firewall, I will suggest two products to use: 1. ZoneAlarm Pro – I used ZoneAlarm Pro for years and found it to be extremely effective, as well as easy to use. ZoneAlarm Pro sells for $39.95 and can be found at http://www.zonealarm.com/ 2. Another firewall that I would recommend is the Comodo Firewall. Comodo is free, and can be downloaded at http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com/ .
Additionally, they can both be downloaded from www.download.com If you are only utilizing the Windows Firewall, I would highly suggest you try one of the two offerings above.