firewall is a piece of software or hardware designed to protect a computer
from potentially malicious network traffic.
Without a firewall your computer is a sitting duck on the Internet. New
computers are infected with some sort of virus or trojan in just 5 minutes
from being connected to the Internet for the first time. This is a two fold
factor. First, new computers almost never are completely patched with
security updates. Second, new computers do not have a firewall active.
Firewalls are probably the most complex technology to implement in a highly
effective manner, and are absolutely necessary for protecting a home
computer. This is why Windows has just recently implemented a firewall
turned-on by default.
problem that firewalls present is that to be successful they need to allow
only the network traffic that the computer owner actually needs for their
networking tasks. However, there are infinite possibilities that the user may
need. So how is it possible to install a firewall without first knowing what
the network is going to be used for? It is not possible, but this is exactly
what every user installable firewall for home computing attempts to do. The
way firewall vendors attempt to achieve this is allowing A LOT more
than is really necessary, or else they would break almost everything that
needs use the network when first installed. This would lead to a massive help
personal firewalls, including the one built into Windows XP service pack 2,
can be further tweaked to make them highly effective. This is where the
technical difficulty comes in. To lock down the firewall, you must know
exactly what programs need to use the network and what network protocols each
program utilizes. Then you must configure the firewall to allow this network
traffic and block absolutely everything else.
leaves a dilemma. You still absolutely need a firewall but how can you
possibly learn enough to configure it to be highly effective? Unless you
become highly educated in hacker intrusions, internet protocols, and firewall
configuration, you don't have much chance of using any firewall to its highest
potential. However, there can be a happy median where your security profile
is much improved with some basic steps.
Windows XP firewall in its default configuration is quite open, but still
raises the bar for direct network attacks. It does not have any chance of
stopping viruses from spreading from your computer or keeping a back door from
being opened. It also is very quite about what is does and doesn't do. You
could have a hacker working at breaking it for days and never know it. A
commercial firewall is still highly recommended.
Firewalls installed by a professional trained in network security and
firewalls are the best way to go. Until now this has not been an option for
home users. FamilyWatchdog.com is changing this. Ask about our home
routers with a custom firewall installation.