Firewalls are an effective means of defence against hackers. There are 65535 avenues of communication between your computer and the internet, and a firewall will allow you to control the access of these ports. Most firewalls even report the attempts made by hackers to gain access or damage your computer. On a typical DSL or Cable internet connection, these days, the average was about 50 to 100 unauthorized attempts for access each day. After August of 2002, after the initial release of the Nimda worm, averages have gone up to about 500 - 800 a day.
Operating System Firewalls
Windows 3.1, 95, 98, Me and 2000 do not have any type of firewall built into the operating system. Windows XP and 2003 versions do have a firewall, which they call the Internet Connection Firewall (ICS); unfortunately, its only designed to prevent unauthorized traffic from the Internet getting into your computer. This still leaves the possiblity of information leaking or exposure originating from within your computer. Also of note, for the first few years of the installtion of the Windows XP operating system sets the default setting of the firewall to off. Only those who go into the network settings and turn it on will receive any of the benefits of this new feature of Windows.
TO: Enable or Disable Internet Connection Firewall in Windows XP
discusses how to enable the Internet Connection Firewall feature to provide Internet
security for your computer. This article also discussed how to disable the Internet
Connection Firewall feature, which may help in troubleshooting some applications that
do not function as expected behind a firewall.
Connection Firewall Does Not Filter or Provide Firewall Services During Startup
When you start or shut down your Windows XP-based computer, the
Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) does not filter or provide firewall services. During
the startup or shutdown process, users can connect to your computer or to any program or
service that may be available. Note that other than these two times, ICF works correctly.
A software firewall can be used with a direct connection the Internet, or in
combination with a hardware firewall or router. You just won't see any unauthorized traffic coming
from the Internet into your computer, when used with hardware.
Zonelabs makes a Professial and non-Professional version of a software firewall. The non-Pro
version of this software is free for personal or non-profit use. The Pro version contains additional features
Black Ice Defender
From NetworkICE this software teams a personal firewall with an advanced intrusion detection system to constantly
watch your Internet connections for suspicious behavior.
Kerio Personal Firewall (KPF)
This is is a software agent that builds a barrier between your personal computer and the Internet. KPF is designed to protect your PC against attacks from both the Internet, and other computers in the local network. Free for personal use.
Agnitum Outpost is the first personal firewall for Windows developed with Open Architecture. The Open Development Process proved its efficiency with the development of the Internet and with Linux. No company can be as fast, flexible and innovative at enhancing a closed product as thousands of developers from different countries all working on an open one. FREE and PRO versions available
VisNetic Firewall is a stateful packet level firewall solution built to protect Windows-based Servers, telecommuters / mobile users, and LAN workstations not currently protected by a firewall. VisNetic Firewall is more secure than application-based personal firewalls, yet less expensive than high-end firewalls, providing peace-of-mind through comprehensive intrusion protection.
Tiny Personal Firewall
Tiny Personal Firewall represents smart, easy-to-use personal security technology that fully protects personal computers against hackers. Includes Multi-layer security protection (NDIS & TDI), MD5 Signature Support, Stateful filtering based on SRC/DST IP address, port & application, Remote access to logs and statistics and Suspicious activity monitoring and Intrusion detection.
Norton Personal Firewall
Symantec makes the Norton Personal Firewall, which can come bundled with their Anti-Virus software.
A hardware firewall can have several different methods of configuration.
These days most people use a Router, which uses a Network Address Translation (NAT). All traffic from computers connected,
will use IP Addresses that are issued by the device. These addresses are special addresses similar to the 555 area
and city codes used on TV as phone numbers that everyone knows they are not actually in service. These addresses are
known as local addresses in your computer network, and anyone trying to access these addresses will be looking in their
own Local Area Network Neighbourhood.
In the late 1990's and earlier in this millenia Packet Filtering was a common method of a hardware firewall.
Most were very expensive, and some ISPs would offer a substantial monthly fee for deployment onto your internet connection,
sometimes including additional fees for changing the settings. If you have purchased one, they require constant updating, and
altering of settings to keep the bad stuff out. They also slow your internet connection down, because it has to check
all content for suspicious activity, before its allowed in or out to the Internet.
What Your ISP May Say About Your Firewall
Internet Service Providers may not appreciate the benefits of using a firewall,
because improper configuration or a partial removal of a firewall can cause the computer to not be
able to access the internet. Support calls to your ISP will conclude that there is not problem with
your internet connection; however, your problem lies within your computers ability to connect to the
Internet, which is not their responsibility. Often they will suggest that "you'll have to re-install
your operating system". They often omit to tell you that you will lose all your installed applications,
and even sometimes all your data as well. Changing the appropriate settings, a registry hack or re-installation
of the firewall will usually fix the problem. Hacking the registry should only be attempted by those
who know what they are doing, and re-installing a software firewall, originally downloaded from the
Internet, can only be done if you have a working Internet connection. So help from someone, other than
your ISP, may be neccessary.