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Installing A Firewall

Protect your PC from intruders with a firewall

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 backups).

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
a firewall:

  1. 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 is valid or not.
    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
           disk space).
        - 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.
  2. 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
           software firewalls
        - 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
           to protect it can cost less to purchase one
           hardware firewall than a number of copies of
           a software firewall.
        - Since they do not run on your computer, they
           can be a bit challenging to configure.
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.

Some Firewalls

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
personal system:

  • 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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