By Doctor Security
Hey, kids, it’s back to basics today. Welcome to Firewalls 101. Here are some frequently asked questions about firewalls with clear answers so in the future you can pontificate like the best online security experts.
Question #1: What the heck is a firewall?
My dictionary says a firewall is “a fireproof wall to prevent the spread of fire, as from one room or compartment to the next.” There’s no mention of a computer in that definition, is there? Well, I guess, my dictionary is a little outdated…
Okay, here’s the cyberworld definition: a firewall is security software (some my use a hardware appliance) that protects your computer from attacks via the Internet. All security experts agree that a firewall is an absolute necessity for securing your computer. You must have a firewall active whenever you are connected to the Internet.
Question #2: Do I need a firewall?
You must have skipped the answer to Question #1. Yes, you absolutely must have a firewall to protect your PC from hacker attacks (malware = viruses and worms). These attacks may result in your private data being stolen or destroyed or your computer may be turned into a zombie that is used for numerous nefarious online crimes such as phishing.
Question #3: Doesn’t Windows have a built-in firewall?
Yes, they sure do. On the Windows website, they say their built-in firewall keeps track of communications that come from your computer, and it “prevents unsolicited traffic from reaching your computer.”
Question #4: What doesn't Windows Firewall protect against?
In general, it misses three kinds of things.
1) Viruses, spam and pop-ups. According to Microsoft’s website the “Windows Firewall in Windows Vista and Windows XP cannot protect against viruses that spread through e-mail, such as Trojan horses, which masquerade as helpful or benign software and trick you into opening or downloading them. To help protect against viruses, use antivirus software. The firewall cannot prevent spam or pop-up ads.” For this, you need antivirus, anti-spam, and a modern browser that can stop pop-ups.
2) Outbound attacks. Viruses and other malicious software get onto your system even if you have an inbound firewall and antivirus. An outbound firewall prevents any of these from going back onto the net to send your personal information back to the hacker or to operate as a “bot” to send out spam email or worse. By default, the Windows Firewall lacks this protection (technical users can turn on some outbound protection within the Windows Firewall, but it is far too complex and noisy for average users.) We at ZoneAlarm don’t think this is acceptable. This is why we offer a two-way firewall with both inbound and outbound protection.
3) Interior attacks. Malicious software can attack programs and settings deep within your operating system to do harm that would be unnoticed by a basic firewall or antivirus. That is why our ZoneAlarm Pro Firewall (also included in our antivirus product and our suites) also includes the OSFirewall which monitors and stops malicious behavior deep within your operating system. It monitors program installation, registry and file changes, keyboard and mouse code control, and over 40 other potentially dangerous behaviors. So there, that’s what’s so special about us.
That’s all for now class. Keep coming back to learn more about online security.