Some of us may be unfamiliar with the many tech terms that spruce up every so often. Firewall can also be a term that not many are familiar with.
According to a study by the National Cyber Security Alliance, only 4 percent of Americans say they understand firewalls “completely”, while more than 44 percent don’t understand firewalls at all - or know if they have one enabled on their PC. So for those who feel unsure, keep reading to find out why a firewall is a necessary part of your online defense.
If your PC is connected to the Internet, you are a potential target to an array of cyber threats, such as hackers, keyloggers, and Trojans that attack through unpatched security holes. This means that, as you shop and bank online, you are vulnerable to identity theft and other malicious attacks.
What is a firewall?
A firewall is a software program or piece of hardware that helps screen out hackers, viruses, worms etc and works as a barrier, or a shield, between your PC and cyberspace. Your computer is more susceptible to being attacked when you are accesing your internet via your PC, you can restrict outside access to your computer and the information on it with a firewall.
What are the types of firewalls out there?
Firewalls can be either hardware or software but the ideal firewall configuration will consist of both. In addition to limiting access to your computer and network, a firewall is also useful for allowing remote access to a private network through secure authentication certificates and logins.
Hardware firewalls can be purchased as a stand-alone product but are also typically found in broadband routers, and should be considered an important part of your system and network set-up. Most hardware firewalls will have a minimum of four network ports to connect other computers, but for larger networks, business networking firewall solutions are available.
Software firewalls are installed on your computer (like any software) and you can customize it; allowing you some control over its function and protection features. A software firewall will protect your computer from outside attempts to control or gain access your computer.
How does a firewall work and protect my computer?
When you are connected to the Internet, you are constantly sending and receiving information in small units called packets. A firewall filters these packets to see if they meet certain criteria set by a series of rules, and thereafter blocks or allows the data. This way, hackers cannot get inside and steal information such as bank account numbers and passwords from you.
Basic firewalls such as the one included in your Windows, only monitor incoming traffic by default. This may give you a false sense of security. Keep in mind, outgoing traffic, with your credit card information, bank accounts, and social security number is not protected. A good firewall will monitor traffic in both directions. That is, both your incoming data and your outgoing data, keeping your private information safe. In addition to preventing unauthorized access to your PC, it also makes your computer invisible when you’re online, helping to prevent attempted intrusions in the first place.
Most sophisticated firewalls also include a feature that continuously updates the list of known good and known malicious applications. This way, the amount of questions relating to Internet access is minimized and your computer protection is always up-to-date.
Also important to keep in mind: although a firewall provides critical protection to keep your PC safe from unauthorized access, it cannot remove malware from a system that has already been infected. Due to that, a firewall should be used in combination with other proactive measures, like anti-malware software, to strengthen your resistance to attacks.