What is a Firewall ?
A computer firewall protects your computer by putting up a barrier to keep anyone from accessing your files when you are connected to the Internet. The common term for this is " hacking " your system - but it is important to understand that in most cases, computers are hacked by malicious software, and not a specific person as has been made popular in the movies.
Typically, an attack on your computer or attempted hack is carried out by an automated software application that is designed to search for holes in your security. This is like a back door to your computer, and once penetrated, the software has complete access to your entire system including sensitive information such as bank records, passwords and even your family pictures and email. Depending on the application, the software will either ferret out your information, or will report back to its owner that your system is vulnerable and their is a back door access available.
Once a hacker get access to your files malicious codes spread through your computer retrieving your personal information that the hacker can use to steal your identity or charge items with your credit card numbers. In extreme cases, blackmail and large scale fraud has taken place.
So how does a firewall work?
A firewall not only stops intruders, be it a person or a malicious software application from accessing your computer, as well as contain it so it can't spread to your other files. That's why it's called a firewall because its job is similar to a firewall that keeps a fire from spreading from one area to the next.
If a hacker tries to invade your computer files to get your passwords and credit card numbers, your firewall will prevent access. Firewall software is designed to interpret threats to your system, allowing safe programs to run, while preventing malicious software from taking root in your system and works in conjunction with your virus protection suite. It's common to think that the anti-virus software that came with your computer protects you from hackers. While it's important to keep anti-virus software updated for viruses, it does not protect you from direct attacks against your computer and subsequently is as important to your online security as your anti-virus software is.
Regardless of your internet connection, every minute that your computer is connected to the internet, you are risk. Hackers with their malicious software are looking to do you harm and even steal your identity. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes today. One of the most effective ways to guard your personal information and keep these criminals away from your sensitive passwords and credit card numbers is the use of computer firewall protection.
Recommended Firewall Software
Just as with most software applications out there, there is a wide range of firewall utilities ranging from excellent to garbage. When ever you consider purchasing a program for security purposes, it's always essential to use a reputable product that keeps updates current and is always advancing the capacity and performance of the program through research and development.
When it comes to reccomending a firewall application to my clients, I prefer a product called Zone Alarm which is an advanced firewall that adds the highest level of security to your network and computer systems. The program is easy to use and their newest version combines a total solution for virus, spyware and hacker attacks into one security package. To learn more about their firewall applications, go here.