Read these 15 Firewall Software Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Internet Safety tips and hundreds of other topics.
Install anti-virus internet security software from a well-known, reputable company, UPDATE it regularly, and USE it regularly or it won't do your information security any good. New viruses come out every single day; an information security program that hasn't been updated for several months will not provide much protection against current viruses.
The level of security you establish will determine how many of these threats can be stopped by your personal firewall. The highest level of security would be to simply block everything. Obviously that defeats the purpose of having an Internet connection. But a common internet security rule of thumb is to block everything, then begin to select what types of traffic you will allow. You can also restrict traffic that travels through the firewall so that only certain types of information, such as e-mail, can get through. For most of us, it is probably better to work with the defaults provided by the firewall software unless there is a specific reason to change it.
There are new vulnerabilities and flaws discovered everyday which could allow a hacker to break your computer security, take control of it for use in a denial-of-service attack or steal or destroy your data security. Keeping your internet security software patched and running updated antivirus software are very important defenses, but having a firewall blocking or regulating incoming connections is definitely a wise idea. No single security solution will solve everything. The more lines of defense you have in place, the harder it is for hackers to get in and the safer you will be.
Firewalls offer internet security from many different kinds of attacks. One kind you may have heard in the news is a "denial of service" attack. This type of attack is extremely difficult to counter. What happens is that the hacker sends a request to computer asking to connect to it. When the server responds with an acknowledgement and tries to establish a session, it cannot find the system that made the request. By inundating a computer with these unanswerable session requests, a hacker causes it to slow to a crawl or eventually crash.
One of the best things about a firewall from a computer security standpoint is that it stops anyone on the outside from logging onto a computer in your private network. While this is a big deal for businesses, most home networks will probably not be threatened in this manner. Still, putting personal firewall software in place provides some peace of mind.
An e-mail bomb is usually a personal attack. Someone sends you the same e-mail hundreds or thousands of times until your e-mail system cannot accept any more messages. Sometimes a firewall can be set to automatically reject email from an offending address or domain, or you can talk to your ISP about additional options.
Virus programmers and makers of internet security anti-virus software are in a constant battle for supremacy. Current virus have grown quite sophisticated. A multipartite virus is a virus composed of several parts. Every part of a multipartite virus needs to be cleaned away, to give assurance of non-infection. A polymorphic virus changes itself (mutates) as it passes through host files, making disinfection a serious challenge. Then there are Stealth viruses that hides themselves by intercepting disk access requests. When an internet security software anti-virus program tries to read files or boot sectors to find the virus, the stealth virus feeds the anti-virus program a clean image of file or boot sector. To make sure you have maximum protection, you need virus software that is frequently updated to track and remove the latest viruses.
A newer method used by firewalls is called "stateful inspection". Instead of examining the chunks of data coming through the network, a stateful inspection firewall compares certain key parts of the packet to a database of trusted information. Information traveling from inside the firewall to the outside is monitored for specific defining characteristics, then incoming information is compared to these characteristics. If the comparison yields a reasonable match, the information is allowed through. Otherwise it is discarded.
Most anti-virus internet security software and firewalls can handle most of the well known Trojans, but none are perfect. You absolutely must make sure you have the very latest update files for your programs, or else they will miss the latest Trojans. Compared to traditional viruses, Trojans evolve much quicker and come in many seemingly innocuous forms, so anti-virus software is always going to be playing catch up. Also, if they fail to find every Trojan, anti-virus software can give you a false sense of computer security, such that you go about your business not realizing that you are still dangerously compromised. You also should not temp fate. Never open an attachment on an email if you don't know what it is.
Another way firewalls restrict access is by using protocols. A protocol is a means by which machines communicate. For instance, the letters "http" in a web address stand for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Certain protocols are more secure than others, and some are used frequently by a human to communicate with a remote machine. These protocols are the ones misused by hackers, so some personal firewalls simply restrict the number of protocols to those less likely to be used by a hacker.
How does firewall software work? There are a number of firewall screening methods. A simple one is to screen requests to make sure they come from acceptable (previously identified) domain names and IP addresses. For mobile users, personal firewalls allow remote access in to the private network by the use of secure logon procedures and authentication certificates.
The Internet Service Provider (ISP) you choose can have an impact on your computer security. Select an ISP that offers online virus, spam filters and content email filters on their main computers ("server side") or use an email service that does. If you are using a dial-up Internet connection, consider moving to DSL or cable to make it easier and faster to use the automatic update features of Windows, anti-virus, and other internet security software and privacy software.
The only way to make your computer completely secure is to turn it off or disconnect it from the Internet. Since that is counterproductive, the questions becomes, "how to make your computer 99% secure when it is connected?" Not having protection is like leaving your car running with the doors unlocked and the keys in it which a thief might interpret as "please steal me". Locking a car, using a "club" or installing a security system makes stealing a car more difficult. Internet security software, firewall software and privacy products provide adequate protection by making it difficult for "outlaws" to find and gain entry to your computer.
What is a firewall? Firewall software is a set of related programs, located at a network gateway server, that protects the resources of a private network from users from other networks. Basically, a firewall, working closely with a router program, internet filters all network traffic to determine whether to forward them toward their destination. A personal firewall is often installed away from the rest of the network so that no incoming request can get directly at private network resources.
In most cases, the path that data travels over the Internet (or any other network) is determined by the routers along that path. But the source providing the data can arbitrarily specify the route that the data should travel. This is called "source routing." Hackers sometimes take advantage of this to make information appear to come from a trusted source or even from inside the network! Most firewall products disable source routing as a matter of course.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|