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Imagine having a border patrol on your computer 24/7. If someone tries to gain access to your personal or business files without proper authentication, the border patrol blocks access. Well, there is such a thing. It's called a "firewall," and it can protect you from would-be hackers.

Let's talk about construction for a moment. When townhouses are built, there are exterior walls, which protect against the elements. There are interior walls, which provide privacy and separate rooms for the inhabitants. And between your townhouse and your neighbor's, there are "firewalls," which are designed and constructed to prevent the spread of fire from an adjacent unit into yours or visa versa.

Internet and network firewalls work similarly They allow you to move freely within your own unit (or network), while deterring unauthorized movement between units (networks) by outside visitors.

Made up of software (a program) or hardware (separate devices such as router, switch, etc.), the firewall has built-in, preprogrammed filters that literally watch everything passing back and forth. If a portion of the information (or packet) passes by the filter and is flagged as restricted, the firewall will block access in both directions, thereby preventing the unauthorized communication. It also has the ability to authenticate allowed users, and permits or denies communications between servers and remote PCs, based on permissions set by the administrator.

Most network firewalls will detect and record intrusion attempts, along with the original IP address (the server from where the person or program originated). Although nine out of 10 times this information is irrelevant, it could lead to a hacker's prosecution.

"My anti-virus software will protect me." Wrong. The most common misconception is that anti-virus software will protect a computer against hackers. The truth is, antivirus software only protects the computer against viruses, which are designed to create havoc or destroy files. On the other hand, hackers usually are attempting to "break in" or "hack" into a computer to view or steal valuable or private information. As such, antivirus software and firewalls work in tandem to protect your computer from two different threats.

There are many consumer versions of firewalls available from several Internet security companies, such as Symantec (Norton) and McAfee.

With the increasing availability of broadband and "always on" technologies, security issues are becoming more and more important anywhere there is an Internet connection. The higher the bandwidth and the longer you are connected to the Internet, the higher the potential that an attempt will be made to hack into your computer.

If you decide to utilize a firewall on your work or home computer, it's a good idea to ask around for opinions on ease of use, customer service and price. There are many good products available that offer solid protection designed specifically for single PCs or small home networks.

Think of security protection for computers like alarms for cars. If a car thief really wants your car badly enough, he will get it somehow, despite the alarm. You're just making it as difficult as possible.
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Author:Levine, Jeff
Publication:The Exchange
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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