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Network Attacks and Hackers - Firewalls

A 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. 

The 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 desk load.

Most 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.

This 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.

The 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.

 

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