Tarek Chaaban

Tarek Chaaban, M.Sc's official blog. It contains current web project portfolio, posts regarding his Canadian army experience, news, sports articles, and web tutorials on programming and using social networking technologies.

do I need a firewall on my computer?

You will hear dozens of computer terms that are used everyday being thrown at you like you took four years of computer science at MIT. I know getting a handle on all of these new terms can be difficult but believe me, knowing at least some of these terms will help you a great deal in the long run. They will help keep your online presence secure and let you be aware of the dangers that float around on the Internet. One of these terms is called a “Firewall“. This term is very important in keeping your home network safe from intruders. In the rest of the article we will explain what it is and how it helps keep you secure.

A firewall is sometimes set up on your router or it can be set up directly on your computer. The firewall on your router is mostly invisible and is known as a hardware firewall. If you need to allow a program to have network access then you will have to log onto the router through your browser to do this. The one that can be set up on your computer is known as a software firewall. It will show you little alerts every now and then of people or software trying to access your computer. It will also show you alerts of software on your computer trying to talk to an outside server. Both of them are effective but the hardware firewall is known to be more secured.

computer firewall

computer firewall

What a firewall is actually doing is blocking access to your network or computer that is unauthorized by you. Your computer has what are known as “ports” that allow outside programs to access your computer internals. Some of this traffic is welcomed, such as when you go to visit a web page. This is usually entering through a port that is numbered “80″. Other software that you use may try to use other ports to communicate with an outside server. A firewall allows you to decide if you want them to have ability to do this or not. Some programs such as an instant messenger or skype, you will want to allow them to have access to the outside world. This is their main objective and they are for the most part known entities by you. Other programs that you are not so sure about, you can limit their access.

So now that you see how a firewall limits traffic on your computer or network, you pretty much have a good ideal on how it keeps you secured. It allows you, and only you, to make the final decision on whether you want a program talking to an outside server. Windows comes with its own firewall but it is suggested that you might want to go with a third party software firewall instead. They will usually have more functionality and their interface is easier to use.

Hopefully we have explained to you what a firewall does and how it keeps you secured. The Internet can be a much more dangerous place without one.

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5 Comments

  1. I fix computers from time to time and I think some may have been hacked into.

    When I fix them I don’t use my router with a firewall I just connect via my modem and after there repaired I hook my router back up.

    So if the hacker can see my ip addy am I still safe since I put my router with firewall back up or should I use my router all the time even when I do repairs

  2. According to nearly all of the PC magazines, review sites, etc. Zone Alarm is the best one out there.

  3. The recently issued CERT Advisory #20 (1) and the accompanying Home Network Security document (2) address these sorts of questions in some detail. They recommend using a firewall, though they don’t go so far as to recommend any. They also make a number of other recommendations for trying to secure home computers.

  4. Microsoft almost got it right with Service Pack 3 – they made the firewall operational by default then, but they still didn’t make it monitor and control outbound network/Internet connections.

  5. One example that comes to mind is if one of your computers gets infected from e.g. USB drive, there is nothing stopping it to propagate through network.

    Also, if it happens that router’s firewall has some flow, you have additional protection.

    It is called defense in depth.

    And it does not cost you anything to have at least basic firewall on all computers.

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