If you spend a lot of time connected to the internet and you aren't behind a firewall, then you're taking your chances and living on borrowed time. Placing firewall protection
between you and the internet is the 3rd most important thing that
you can do to protect your computer and your data (after installing anti-virus software and performing regular
And if you connect to the web with an always-on connection (DSL or cable), a firewall is an urgent necessity! This article will arm you with the information necessary to select a quality firewall.
A broadband connection that is unprotected by a firewall is wide open to a constant barrage of hackers. Anyone on the internet can attack your system very easily because with few exceptions, DSL and cable modems provide no firewall protection.
Actually, an attacker can get through any type of modem, be it a DSL, cable, 56K,
28.8 or whatever. If the device connects you to the web, you're
vulnerable. But a firewall provides very effective protection.
I repeat, for those with a DSL, cable, or other "always-on" connection, you must get a firewall. This is critical because your machine is always connected to the internet and it most
likely has a fixed IP address. This makes it very easy for your system to be
"found" and attacked. Install a firewall today.
Now that I've hammered that point home several times (yes, it is that important) we can move on to the firewall basics:
What a personal firewall does is effectively isolate your computer from the rest of the
internet. It does this by checking each packet of data to determine if it should be allowed to get to your machine. The absolute best protection available completely hides your computer by employing a stealth mode.
You have two options when selecting
- Software firewall - A software firewall is a program that
runs on your PC in the
background. It evaluates each
network request and determines if the request
Software firewalls offer the following advantages:
- They are usually very inexpensive
- They are very easy to configure
Software firewalls have the following disadvantages:
- Since they run on your computer they require
valuable system resources (CPU, memory and
- They can introduce incompatibilities into your
PC's operating system.
- You have to be sure to install exactly the correct
version for your particular operating system.
- You're required to buy a separate copy for
each system on your home network.
- Hardware Firewall - A hardware firewall is a small box that connects between your computer and your modem.
Hardware firewalls have
the following advantages:
- They provide more complete protection than
- A hardware firewall can protect an entire
network of computers
- Since they don't run on your system, hardware
firewalls don't effect system performance.
- Hardware firewalls operate independently of
your operating system and software applications.
Hardware firewalls have the following disadvantages:
- They tend to be more expensive than software
firewalls, although if you have several machines
protect it can cost less to purchase one
hardware firewall than a number of
a software firewall.
- Since they do not run on your computer, they
can be a bit challenging to
Testing your system
To test your system, surf on over to http://www.grc.com
and request a probe. You'll be provided with a very detailed report of exactly what
issues were found and what to do about them. Once the probe is completed, several excellent personal firewall products are recommended. My personal
favorite is Zone Alarm Pro, primarily because it's protection is excellent
and it is very easy to use.
A couple of good personal firewalls are listed below:
- Zone Alarm Pro - This is by far the best software firewall available. Zone Alarm offers protection for both incoming connections outgoing connections.
It is also extremely simple to set up, has low impact on the system, and it is very inexpensive (a free version is also available).
- BlackIce - A good choice in firewalls. Very easy to
configure, and inexpensive.
This is the firewall configuration on my
- SonicWall hardware firewall protects my entire home network.
- Zone Alarm Pro on each system provides additional safety
- Norton Internet Security installed for it's privacy protection.
Because of the rapidly changing nature of the internet, it's extremely important to
be continually monitoring all security issues. You may purchase the perfect
personal firewall product today, only to find out in a few months that it's been
hacked to pieces. Always be looking around, and be ready to get a
newer and better product quickly when the need arises. This is not one of those issues where you
can scrimp and save. Your entire computer system (and data) is at risk.
Richard Lowe, Jr is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets, which has over 1,000 free articles to improve your internet
profits, enjoyment and knowledge.
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