Computer intrusions occur when someone tries to gain access to any part of your computer system. Computer intruders or hackers typically use automated computer programs when they try to compromise a computer’s security. There are several ways an intruder can try to gain access to your computer. They can:
- Access your computer to view, change, or delete information on your computer.
- Crash or slow down your computer.
- Access your private data by examining the files on your system.
- Use your computer to access other computers on the Internet.
A firewall is a security mechanism that is designed to keep intruders from gaining access to your computer or its files. A firewall can protect your computer by denying access to intruders who try to access your computer through the Internet. It can also keep a log of the times someone tries to enter your computer system and can notify you when an unauthorized entry is detected.
For home users, a firewall can be a piece of hardware with configured security software, a software program running on an individual computer, or a combination of both. Either option allows you to define what type of things you want to restrict when on the Internet. Some firewalls can regulate your outbound traffic or what types of services you will allow access to through your computer when on the Internet.
As shown in the example below, without a firewall, there is nothing between your computer and the rest of the Internet to protect you from intrusions. Although the chances are slim that you will be the target of an unscrupulous intruder, the possibility is there.
In the example shown below, the addition of a hardware firewall adds security to your Internet connection. As mentioned above, your firewall can inform you of any intrusion attempts made on your computer system.
In this third example, you can see how a firewall can protect multiple computers. In this example, the firewall also acts as a hub, which allows multiple internal connections (computers) to access the Internet through the firewall. If your firewall does not have the ability to act as a hub or as a switch, you will need to purchase these items separately and install them between the computers and the hardware firewall.
A firewall can help prevent unauthorized access to your computer. It can be a very effective safeguard against intruders. The firewall acts as a barrier between your computer and the Internet, ensuring that all traffic passes through one regulated area.
A firewall won’t protect someone from physically accessing your computer from within your home. In order to restrict access to your computer at home it is a good idea to use the login and password features of your operating system. A firewall also won’t protect against:
a) Viruses – most firewalls are not configured with up-to-date virus definitions, so a firewall alone will not protect you from virus threats. For this reason, each computer on your home network should have a current version of antivirus software.
b) User error – Intruders often try to trick computer users into compromising their computer’s security. They may send false or enticing email messages to lure users into divulging sensitive information. In these cases, if permission is granted to others through the Internet, a firewall may not be able to prevent any resulting damage.
If you’re an average home user, you will probably want to forego an expensive and elaborate firewall system. Off-the-shelf or bundled firewall products can help protect most home users. Visit your local computer retailer for details on the best firewall/router solution for you.