Why is a firewall important for our PCs?

We all have data stored on our desktops or PCs which we hold dear. Unfortunately, for as long as we have PCs to store information on, there will be organizations out there who try to find ways of retrieving the information for their own use. Whether people are trying to hack in to your machine to download illegal software or spyware, or hackers simply have a go at accessing your passwords and user IDs, there is always some threat when it comes to our virtual storage.

Having a firewall on your PC is really important when it comes to keeping your files and data safe. A firewall basically acts as a security barrier between other programmes and users, and your own PC, which stops any attempts made by people to threaten your machine and information.

What does a firewall protect us against?

A firewall acts as a barrier against a number of hazards, including hackers, various viruses which can cause damage to our machines and data, and illegal software which can be downloaded without you knowing, that infect our computers and spread rapidly across the web. A good firewall blocks the outgoing traffic that some worms of viruses may try and programme your computer to send, such as personal data, unsolicited emails, or other activity.

How do firewalls work?

Because the internet is essentially a big public network of machines, it means that any computer can connect with another computer. Your firewall operates by stopping other machines contacting and connecting with yours, unless you want them to! Although a firewall isn’t enough all by itself to stop every security threat which your machine may be subjected to, it acts like the first line of defence against potential threats.

Although the firewall doesn’t protect against annoyances such as spam, it does work like a key in a door, making sure your information is safe when you lock it down.

What types of firewall are there?

Firewall types can be split in to desktop, hardware, or commercial. Desktop firewalls are installed on each computer that connects to the web, and monitor the traffic that comes through your machine. An example would be Windows Firewall, which is a basic model that is included when you download Windows Office or equivalent software. Desktop firewalls are not really effective against most threats, but are still useful to have. You can download free versions of desktop firewalls form the net.

Hardware firewalls are usually built in to your broadband router, and are best when a number of computers are connected. Most router manufacturers provide hardware firewalls with their devices. They are easy to set up and maintain, and offer a good first line defence against security threats.

Finally, Commercial firewalls offer extra protection against security threats, and more control over how the firewall works. You can buy these as a standalone system, or as part of a broader security service.

How do I choose a firewall solution?

The solution which you choose depends upon what you want from your firewall. If you have great security software, your choice of firewall is not so important, as your software will protect you. In this case, the firewall you get with your software provider and broadband supplier should be enough to keep you relatively safe. If on the other hand you are running a company with employees, for example, and you have a large network of machines, you would be better selecting a Commercial firewall for enhanced security.