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Posted on Apr 16, 2013 in Firewall Tutorials, Online Safety | 0 comments

Firewall internet security software and hardware

Keep hackers at bay and take control of your internet connection! Let teach you everything you need to know about configuring firewall internet security software.

What is a firewall?

Netgear FVX538 Firewall

Hardware firewalls, like this Netgear FVX538, are great for stopping hackers getting in, but might not do such a great job of stopping malware sending messages out.

The job of a firewall is to monitor and restrict the internet traffic flowing in and out of your computer. There are two types of firewall that home users typically use. Software firewalls are programs that you install onto your PC (or  come included as part of your operating system), hardware firewalls are physical items that plug between your internet connection and your PC. Both types of firewall can work together and each approach has advantages and disadvantages.

Hardware firewalls are typically found in networking equipment such as routers or even in your cable or DSL modem. These are devices which allow home users to share their broadband connection between several computers. The firewalls that come built in to these products are usually configured to stop people on the internet accessing the files on your computer, or your printers or scanners which may be shared with other computers connected to your home network.

Software firewalls are programs which you can purchase from the internet or in a store and require installation on your computer like any other program. The exception to this is the Windows firewall, which comes as standard with all modern version of Windows. Firewall internet security software monitors traffic coming into your PC and also helps stop harmful programs from sending information out from your PC too. While hardware firewalls are useful for stopping unwanted incoming traffic, they cannot detect which programs are running on your computer and thus cannot restrict harmful software from sending data out to the internet in the same way that a software firewall can.

Zone Alarm firewall asks the user to grant permissions for an application to connect

Here the popular firewall internet security software package “Zone Alarm” asks permission for an application to connect to the internet. Without Zone Alarm or another software firewall, this program would not need permission to connect.

For example, imagine you have installed a program on your computer, a game perhaps. When you start this game, without your knowledge, it connects through your internet connection to a website in another country and sends information about your system to that website. Without a software firewall, this would take place without your consent and probably without your knowledge. However, many software firewalls will intercept the program as it tries to connect to the internet and alert you that it is trying to do so, so you can decide if the program is allowed to connect or not.

With a few exceptions, a hardware firewall will not protect you from spyware or Trojan Horse programs, such as the game in the example above, or even from vulnerabilities in Windows itself. Many Windows users are lured in to a sense of false security when they install a router that claims to have a built in firewall. A router cannot distinguish between a legitimate program accessing the internet and a malicious one. Software firewalls, on the other hand, let you decide which programs on your computer can access the internet and which cannot. Although the purpose of a firewall is not to detect or remove spyware or malicious software, it can prevent it from hijacking your internet connection or sending out private information. Some of the more advanced software firewalls for Windows take things even further, by monitoring system files for changes, or prompting the user to grant permission to applications when they wish to perform a potentially dangerous operation. This system is similar in some ways to the User Account Controls Microsoft implemented in Windows Vista.

There are several firewall solutions available for Windows. We recommend you use at least the Windows Firewall that comes with all current versions of Windows. For many users this will be entirely adequate.  If you are considering using a third party software firewall, check out our recommended Firewall software packages.

Which firewall internet security software is the best?

We’re glad you asked! We have prepared a page especially to help answer that question, so take a look at our free firewall internet security software comparison to help you decide which firewall suits you the best.

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