The Internet is teeming with viruses, Spyware, Trojan horses, worms, and other nasty software critters. Their aim is to wreak havoc with computers that are connected to the Internet. For example, a virus emailed to you, as an attachment, can destroy your computer’s data (when you open the attachment) by erasing the contents of your hard drive. (Don’t you wish you had backed up that data?)
Another example: Spyware can monitor your World Wide Web (surfing) habits, and pass on that data to interested miscreants. A third example: a hacker might send a Trojan horse (a software program masquerading as something else) to your computer. When run, the Trojan horse installs code that effectively uses your computer as a base to launch attacks against other computers. (And you get blamed!)
Firewall Board: Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
To protect your computer (and peace of mind), consider installing a firewall card (in addition to antivirus software and privacy software – for example, a high-quality VPN service like VeePN) in the computer. A firewall card implements, in a hardware card that plugs into your computer, a firewall — software that analyzes communications from the Internet (in the form of incoming data packets) according to various rules, and discards any packets that violate those rules.
You can setup the firewall card to accept packets from trusted sources and discard packets from nontrusted sources. Firewalls detect, report on, and stop many of the attacks aimed at your computer. (They aren’t as effective against viruses, because viruses tend to mutate. Therefore, it’s a good idea to install — and regularly update –antivirus software in addition to a firewall.)
On the plus side, firewall cards analyze data packets faster than software alternatives. They are also more immune to being hacked (which would render them useless). On the minus side, firewall cards are typically more expensive than software firewalls. For example, a 3Com firewall card can set you back nearly a few hundred dollars. Software-only firewalls: If you find firewall cards too expensive, consider a software alternative. As with firewall cards, there are many software firewalls from which to choose. One of the best software firewalls is BlackICE PC Protection which is fairly inexpensive.That firewall blocks attempts to use your computer as a base from which to launch attacks against other computers, prevents destructive programs (such as Trojan horses) from running on your computer, reports attempted attacks and intruders, and secures Internet connections (including wireless connections).
If you use Windows
If you are running Windows, then you should know that it has its own built-in software firewall but it is hard to properly configure it and you are safer getting a commercial product. Before you purchase a software firewall, be aware that there are free firewalls, called, freeware firewalls. They are essentially free software firewalls — either created by people who believe that software should be free or serving as enticements to get you to purchase more capable versions.
Whether or not you paid for your software-only firewall, remember that firewalls usually don’t coexist with other firewalls. Therefore, remove a previously installed software-only firewall (or disable Windows firewall), before installing the new firewall. But if you have a firewall card, why replace that firewall with a software-only version?