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When we use the internet to shop, bank or otherwise use our personally identifying information, we open ourselves up to many risks. Cyber threats like spyware, identity theft and other attacks can all happen on a machine that isn’t well protected. That’s where a firewall, one of the most important security features you can have, comes in.
A computer connected to the internet is constantly sending and receiving information. This information comes in small units called packets, and a firewall acts as a traffic cop for these packets. It’s a layer of protection between your computer and cyberspace. It decides which packets are safe to let in and out, and which should be stopped at the door.
There are three types of firewalls. Personal firewalls generally protect only one computer or a small home-network. Departmental firewalls, which might protect a business, protect a limited number of computers in one location. Finally, enterprise firewalls might protect thousands of users in various locations.
Firewalls are also available in a number of formats. Many network routers, which connect computers to the internet and transfer data between different networks, have limited firewall capability. In other cases, you can use a firewall appliance, a piece of hardware integrated with firewall software. Some firewalls are software only. This category includes most personal firewalls. But some large enterprise firewalls are also software based. Finally, a type of network device called the all-in-one tool is getting more popular. Some of these devices act as cable modem, router, network hub, firewall and wireless base station all at once. Although these devices are cost-effective, often the firewall functions on these devices are limited.
When you set up a firewall, you define the criteria for incoming and outgoing traffic. Blocking unwanted incoming traffic is the most common feature of a firewall, but a good one will also screen out-going traffic from your network to the internet. For example, if you’re an employer who wants to block employees from accessing certain websites.
Firewalls can screen network traffic based on content and report on what kind of traffic is coming and going on your network. For example, some firewalls can integrate with a virus scanner or email program to screen out malware or suspicious email messages.
Thanks for watching and good luck protecting your system. Visit the Center for Identities website for up-to-date information on all aspects of identity and privacy management.