What is a Computer Firewall?

A Firewall is a computer program that monitors the flow of information from the Internet to your computer. There are two different types of firewall available for you to use - Hardware Firewalls and Software Firewalls.

Hardware Firewall:

A Hardware Firewall is a physical piece of equipment that sits between the Internet and your computer. An example of a hardware firewall is a broadband router, a common form of Internet connection. The benefit of using a hardware firewall, is that it has the ability to protect multiple computer systems that are connected to it at the same time. This makes it an effective firewall for use in businesses that have multiple computers connected to the Internet, as well as in homes that have more than one computer system.

Software Firewall:

Software Firewalls work in the same way as a hardware firewall, by monitoring and blocking information that comes to your computer via the Internet, however software firewalls must be installed as a program on your computer. These software firewalls can either be installed from a computer disk that you have purchased, or downloaded over the Internet. Software firewalls are the most common type of firewall. Programs such as Norton 360, Norton Internet Security, ESET Smart Security, and Kaspersky Internet Security all have a firewall bundled within them.

What a Firewall does:

Regardless of what type of firewall you choose to use, having one on your computer is a really good idea. A firewall helps to prevent computer hackers from accessing your computer through the Internet, and stealing sensitive information or infecting your computer system with some form of computer virus. A hacker can gain access to your system by "back doors" or open ports that connect your computer to the Internet. With a firewall in place these ports are blocked from inbound traffic, effectively closing the door in the hackers face.

Of course, damage can also be done to your computer from outbound traffic as well. Say for instance a hacker was able to slip by you with a Trojan, virus, spyware or phishing scheme that went undetected. The next time you booted up your computer and connected to the Internet, information on your computer could be sent out to the hacker. Many firewalls also block outbound traffic that will help prevent this from happening.

There are basically two ways that Firewalls work. Generally, data that comes in is analyzed by the firewall to determine the IP address it is coming from and the content that it contains. The firewall system then checks to see if this information is compliant with rules that you are able to configure. It can also analyze information at the application level. The firewall program will determine whether or not the application should be able to send or receive data through the port you are connected by.

Firewall programs are extremely important to the protection of not only your computer system, but you personal information as well. Many anti-virus programs come with firewall protection. Firewall protection should be considered an essential part of any computer's security strategy.

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