Need To Know: Internet Firewalls

by Barbara J. Feldman on September 25, 2007

Internet firewalls are designed to protect both the user of any given computer and the computer itself. As computers have developed and have become more sophisticated, so too have the tactics of hackers. Hackers have developed very clever ways of getting information from you that they can then use against you. Sometimes this information is used for monetary gain, sometimes it is used for other potentially more damaging reasons. Whatever the case, no one wants to be a victim of a hacker, and luckily, a firewall can provide you with some protection to avoid such negative circumstances.

What does a firewall do?

A firewall is responsible for making sure that only content that you can trust is able to make it from your Internet network to you through your personal connection. An Internet firewall is like a safety filter in that it allows for you to see and download that which you have determined as safe and the firewall serves the purpose of warning you if you attempt to take action that may cause your security to become compromised.

How does a firewall work?

A firewall is responsible for controlling the data that comes across the network and is accessed by you on your computer. Firewalls use one or more of three methods to control information traffic that is flowing in and out of the network. The three methods are listed below:

Packet filtering — small bunches of data are referred to as packets. The packets are analyzed and compared to the filters of the firewall system. Those packets that pass the filters are sent along the path of information. Packets that are unacceptable are discarded and the user is denied access to that information.

Proxy service — In a proxy service the Internet information is sent to the requesting body by the firewall itself.

Stateful inspection — This newer method of controlling information compares packets of information with a sample of a database of contents that have been proven trustworthy. If the information matches the trusted database sample the information is allowed passed the firewall. Bunches of information that do not match that which has been marked as trustworthy are not permitted to be sent to your computer.

How do I get an Internet firewall?

You would be hard pressed to find a newer computer in use that does not have a firewall. Most people do not know whether or not they have a firewall because they have never adjusted the firewall settings. In adjusting your firewall settings you are determining the level of security you want and how many threats to the safety of your information and computer can be stopped by your firewall. Firewalls for business with several computers on the same network need to practice even more caution when setting their firewall controls. Businesses usually turn to an experienced network administrator that understands what the security needs of the company network are and knows exactly what information traffic to allow through the firewall. If you are not sure about what setting you should use with your firewall in a business network setting, a common rule of thumb is to block everything, then hand select which sites and information that you will allow through the firewall. For most people with personal computers in their own home, it is best to work with the defaults provided by the firewall developer. The firewall developer may have suggestions for what types of controls would work best based on your type of Internet use. Generally, keeping to the manufacturers suggestions is wise unless you have a specific reason to change them.

Firewalls work best when they are coupled with anti-virus software. Viruses and other unwanted information that may be missed by the firewall may be picked up by the anti-virus software and vice versa. Give yourself the peace of mind that you know that your information is private and that others are not being granted the opportunity to log on to your computer to help themselves to your private information.

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Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Need To Know: Internet Firewalls." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 25 Sep. 2007. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/tech/1174/need-to-know-internet-firewalls/ >.