What is a firewall and why do you need it?

A firewall used to refer to the materials in an automobile that would protect the passengers from the heat and elements of the engine compartment.  When it comes to computer networks and the internet, a firewall still protects people.

  • Most large companies with extensive computer networks use sophisticated firewalls to protect their digital assets from outside sources.
  • Firewalls are configured to block most incoming network or internet traffic, but exceptions are made so employee’s can perform their work duties accordingly.
  • Any computer that has Windows XP, Windows Vista, WIndows 7 or Mac OSx has a built in firewall software application.
  • Some viruses and malware are designed to infiltrate, disable or re-configure a firewall in order to give a third party access to the network, computers or websites.
Antivirus and Third-Party Firewall Software

Most antivirus software programs include a personal firewall solution for desktop computer systems.  You can also download third-party firewall programs.

Although the built in firewall in the Windows operating system is generally effective enough in keeping your computer safe on the internet, the reason you may want to consider using another firewall program is that many authors of viruses and malware specifically target Microsoft products.   A third party firewall software may be able to thwart some attacks that a built in firewall may permit.

  • When you install a firewall program, you may notice that some of your programs, internet access or other networking configurations may not work.  You may have to configure your firewall to allow the program configurations to work.
  • File and printer sharing may also stop working.
  • One of the first troubleshooting steps most IT professionals will take is to disable antivirus and firewall software applications to determine if those programs are causing issues.

Utilizing a firewall can be a good way to keep your computers and network safe from intruders on the internet, but be sure to read the instructions or help files to configure the software correctly.


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