The first thing people think about when defending their computers and networks is an up-to-date antivirus program. Without this most basic protection, your computer will get a virus, which could just slow it down or potentially bring the pc to a complete standstill!
So anti-virus software is the answer?
An anti-virus solution on it's own is not the answer to all of your problems, it can only protect you so much; in fact test have shown that a new pc running Windows XP if left connected to the Internet unprotected will be infected with viruses and remotely controlled via unauthorised persons within 20 minutes! To protect you against hackers and often to prevent spyware and 'scumware' from communicating directly with their servers about information it may have picked up from your pc, a firewall should form the key part of your e-security solution. Previously, the targets of hackers were large institutions, banks and government organisations; now hackers try to steal your personal information, including bank details and passwords directly from your PC on a daily basis.
But perhaps you don't consider that your data is particularly valuable?
You will be the one who suffers the consequences when it is destroyed, and these consequences are usually expressed in economic terms. If you lose your data, you will have to pay someone to try and recover it for you, and if your computer is illegally hijacked and used to attack others, then you will also have to handle any legal issues that may result from this.
What will a firewall do to limit the danger to your systems?
A decent firewall is sometimes referred to as a 'choke-point' or 'bridge'. Every piece of data that comes into your network has to go through the firewall in order that data of undesirable content and unauthorised users cannot gain access to your computer or network.
A good firewall will also hide the fact from others, that you are actually connected to the Internet, stopping software that pings, sniffs and queries IP addresses in the hope of finding a system to attack.
A firewall will cloak me, but which one do I need?
There are two different types of firewall available for you to use; a software firewall that is loaded onto your computer and a hardware firewall. In truth, both types are software, but the hardware one is a dedicated firewall appliance, whose only job is to perform firewall functionality. A clear advantage of a hardware firewall, is that if you happen to install some sort of maleware or virus on your system, it cannot take over your firewall.
Unified Threat Management firewall functionality
Unified Threat Management products are defined as those that act as firewalls, include intrusion detection and protection, and also deal with viruses.
Does your current firewall perform content filtering, spam filtering, intrusion detection and anti-virus duties? All of these functions are usually on a number of different pieces of hardware, taking up valuable space in your server racks.
The technology within business grade firewalls has become considerably more robust recently, and paved the way to add these additional, but vital functions to the one appliance.
The administration time has been cut significantly, as there is only one appliance; product selection is quicker and easier, as is product integration and ongoing support. With only one appliance, troubleshooting also becomes a lot less of an issue. If the firewall were to fail, then only one piece of hardware needs to be swapped out; which means that your business can be back up and running faster.
In conclusion a good firewall should do the following things:
- Protect your personal data
- Protect your computers resources
- Protect your reputation and that of your business
- Protect your liability
- Ideally be capable of Unified Threat Management
Rob Green is the CEO of Century Computing Support Services, a WatchGuard Firewall Expert Partner, who provide both business grade hardware and software firewalls at http://www.firebox.uk.com. Fill in the contact form at http://www.firebox.uk.com/catalog/contact_us.php to sign up for the Century Computing newsletter.