Firewall Software - Desktop Firewall Advice

How Firewalls Can Protect Your Computer from Security Threats

If you think anti-virus software is enough to protect your computer from malicious hacker attacks, think again. An anti-virus utility is insufficient to provide you with complete online security, and you will have to supplement it with a firewall. Firewalls protect your computer by limiting incoming and outgoing traffic based on guidelines that you establish; they are your first line of defense against security threats. Without a firewall, it is possible for your computer to be infected within seconds after connecting to the net.

Firewalls work using one or a combination of three methods – packet filtering, proxy service and stateful inspection. Packet filtering compares packets (chunks of data) to pre-set filters. Proxy service has the firewall retrieving information from the net and sending it to the requesting system. And stateful inspection compares parts of the packet, rather than the whole thing, to a database of certain defining characteristics; the packet is only allowed through if it passes the match. However, it is difficult for the firewall to filter viruses or malware, thus the need to complement it with anti-virus and anti-spyware tools.

Firewalls can come in the form of hardware or software. A hardware firewall is usually found in a broadband router but can be bought as a stand-alone product; they can be effective even with little or no configuration, and can usually provide protection as soon as it is plugged in although for the most effective results you will have to familiarize yourself with their specific features and how to enable them. Software firewalls are installed onto your system and allow you the option to customize their features; apart from protection from outside attacks some firewall utilities may also protect your computer again e-mail worms or Trojan programs. While some people believe that having a router will provide you with sufficient security, others say that you should also have a desktop firewall along with online and desktop anti-virus software. The idea is to create layers of defense that will be difficult for a hacker to penetrate.

While you can buy firewall software from commercial vendors, there are some very good free firewall products that you can download. Among the features you should look for are ease of use and quick installation as well as the option to set different security levels. However, if you want a higher level of protection you will probably have to pay for upgrades. To find the best firewall download do some homework by reading online reviews or ask for recommendations from computer-savvy friends and relatives. Microsoft provides a built-in firewall for Windows server and desktop releases starting with Windows XP, but you can install your own preferred firewall; just make sure that the Windows firewall is turned off. However, you should never use two personal firewalls at the same time, as it may affect your computer’s performance; make sure the existing one is completely uninstalled before installing the new one. And if the firewall has an auto update function, make sure to enable it to ensure that you are protected from the newest security threats.

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