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Understanding Firewalls, Part 2 - Am I Protected?

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 3/5/2010

Do I have a firewall? How many firewalls do I need? How important is a computer firewall? This article in the series on "Computer Security" informs you the different types of computer security and possible precautions. This article helps you determine how secure you are.

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    Understanding Firewalls - How Important is a Computer Firewall

    How important is a computer firewall? In the previous article on "Understanding Firewalls," we learnt about firewall and different types of firewalls in market. In this Internet era - where some people wish to access your data for misusing, destroying it, or for any other malicious intentions - you need good protection for your computer and networks.

    A computer behind a firewall can block unwanted inbound or outbound connections to Internet, thereby securing your personal data. A firewall in a network helps you secure each and every computer from intrusion attempts. A firewall on each individual computer on a network helps protect each computer from malicious attempts to access important data. For example, someone in your office may wish to manipulate your data to downplay you before the management. In addition, a network firewall can also be configured to allow/deny access to different network resources like databases, printers, and even Internet. The network admins can also use the firewall to grant you rights to access Internet - partially or fully - based on your user reputation/group.

    In short, a computer firewall not just secures your computers from malware through websites, emails, and hackers - it also helps you manage your network. I hope you now know how important is a computer firewall. The next section checks out how many firewalls do you need.

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    Do I have a Firewall - How many Firewalls do I Need

    Finding answer to the question - Do I have a Firewall - is not hard. If you are using Windows XP SP2 or later versions, you have a firewall. Microsoft introduced a built-in firewall from Windows XP SP2 onwards. You can check this from Control Panel -> Security Center. Another method to know if you have a firewall is to check if you have an Internet Security Suite on your computer. An Internet Security Suite such as Norton, McAfee, Comodo, or similar software essentially contains a firewall. Normally, these appear in the taskbar of your computer. You may open them to see if they mention firewalls. If you are still stuck with the question - Do I have a Firewall - I recommend you run a test from online sites to see if you are covered. Though the link is to check if your firewall is strong enough, it also serves the purpose of finding if you have a firewall.

    Coming to "How many firewalls do I need," an average user who uses Internet just to check email does not essentially need a firewall. If you use an "Always ON" Internet connection or stay hours on stretch using a broadband modem, you need a good firewall. For a single, standalone computer, one of the best software firewalls should be sufficient. If you are using a firewall enabled router or modem, you may skip software firewall. However, the firmware firewall should offer good protection.

    In case you are on a network, you can use a hardware firewall against the main computer or server to protect the entire network. Each computer on the network can have a low-level firewall for protection against malicious users in the network. The outer, hardware based firewall should be as strong as the size of network. For a smaller network of three to five computers, Linksys routers are good enough. For enterprise level networks, you need firewalls that are more powerful. Examples of such firewalls can be the ones from Cisco. The number of firewalls and their configuration is dependent on network designers in case of enterprise level networks.

    To sum up, the answer to "how many firewalls do I need" depends on the usage of Internet or any network. The more you use it, the stronger protection you need. Still, it should NEVER be more than one software firewall on same computer.

Types of Computer Security - How Important is a Computer Firewall

This series on types of computer security informs you about different types of security threats. It helps you deal with security threats to computer and security threats to networks. The series on types of computer security also discusses computer based security systems before detailing firewalls.
  1. Understanding Computer Security - Types of Computer Security
  2. Understanding Computer Security - Part 2: GPS Security and CCTV
  3. Understanding Firewalls, Part 1 - What is a Firewall?
  4. Understanding Firewalls, Part 2 - Am I Protected?
  5. Understanding Firewalls, Part 3 - Limitations of Firewalls