There has not been a time in the history of the personal computer that firewalls and anti-virus programs have been more necessary and in-demand. Today, personal computer security is not only threatened by viruses and worms, but also by spyware ? those severely annoying programs that are illegally loaded onto your computer from the internet. Spyware programs can seriously undermine the operating structure of your computer, as well as make you vulnerable to identity theft and other criminal activities. Firewalls, long since a staple in the corporate world for defending large, expensive internal intranets or other networks, has now come into its own as a tool for personal computer owners as well. Your home computer is just as susceptible ? if not more so ? to online attacks, so why should it not be protected?
What is a firewall, anyway?
For those of you who may not be as versed in the pc security lingual as some, we offer here a fairly simple definition. A firewall is a collection of security programs that act to block unauthorized users from gaining access to a particular computer network (or single computer). Most firewalls also comprehensively monitor and report the data transfers between the network and the outside internet environment. Thus, they are quite effective in keeping your computer or network safe, allowing you to access the internet without taking a high security risk.
Sygate Personal Firewalls
There are few highly reputable firewall providers out there, and Sygate is certainly one of them. Here we go over some of the features of the Sygate line firewalls, so that you may choose the best one for your pc or server.
Sygate currently offers two main personal firewalls: the Sygate Personal Firewall (SPF) and the Sygate Personal Firewall Plus (SPFP). The major differences between the two are the advanced features you will only find on the SPFP. With the Plus version you will get VPN support, intrusion detection system (IDS), active reponse, and anti-mac, anti-ip spoofing. Both versions of the software come with the material that any pc user should really make sure they have: the main "application" firewall, intrusion alarm system, attacker tracing system, and security policy customization. These features are what are really necessary for a firewall to protect your home computer. The firewall needs to be able to block outsiders from gaining access to your computer, and they need to alert you when an attack has been attempted (or is in progress). Considering that the SPF is essentially free to download, and contains the elements you really need, this is the application we recommend for home pc users. For small business networks, the more advanced features offered by the Sygate Personal Firewall Plus is certainly worth the $40.00 pricetag. Both options are solid firewall applications and can be highly trusted to perform well on nearly any system.
Norton Personal Firewalls
Sygates closest competition in the area of personal firewall is Norton. Norton anti-virus programs are very well known, and have largely carried the brand over the last decade. Although less well known, Norton offers a powerful and comprehensive firewall program for home pc owners. Norton Personal Firewall 2005 is similar to the Sygate Personal Firewall program mentioned above. Some of the neat features of this application include the Norton Privacy Control (which keeps information from being sent without your knowledge in email, instant messages, MS Office attachments, and various forms on the web, such as those you enter your credit card number in), and intrusion prevention system that automatically blocks suspicious incoming traffic (from hackers, etc.). If this product is anywhere near as well designed and engineered as the anti-virus programs from Norton, then it is definately worth a look. The software can be downloaded or ordered online for $49.
Bradley James is a senior editor at SciNet.cc, a website containing many helpful consumer electronics review articles. For more information on personal firewalls, please visit our personal firewall webpage.