Skip to main content
  1. Tech
  2. Gadgets & Tech
  3. Internet

What is a firewall?

See also

Most of us may have heard the term, and know it’s related to security in some way, but do you really know what a firewall is? Traditionally, firewalls were built to keep danger at bay—they were doors (or walls) to block fire from coming into another area—hence the name firewall. When you’re thinking in terms of your online security, modern-day hardware and software firewalls are similar. They act as barriers to prevent unauthorized access to your personal information.

Firewalls are software programs or hardware devices that filter the information coming through your Internet connection to your computer (and all the devices that are connected to that connection). A firewall protects you and your devices by examining each piece of information that flows between your devices and the Internet.

Hardware firewalls, such as those included with some routers, are usually a good first line of defense against outside attacks, and they require little to no configuration. The one down sides of using only a hardware firewall is that it only protects you if you are at home. So if you take your computer to a cafe or on a trip, your device is no longer protected by the home-based firewall.

Fortunately, software firewalls can catch these kinds of threats because they are running on your computer and can take a closer look at the network traffic. This allows them to intercept a malicious program before it leaves your computer.

Now that you know the purpose of firewalls, follow these tips for greater security online:

  • Make sure you are using a router that includes a firewall as a first layer of protection
  • Use comprehensive security, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, that includes a two-way firewall that filters both incoming and outgoing traffic, as well as protection for all your devices, your identity and your data
  • Turn off file-sharing and printer-sharing features if you don’t need them
  • Use common sense, don’t click on links or open attachments from people you don’t know—you could unknowingly be giving them access to your device
  • While the bad guys may always be looking to do harm, just remember that we all need to be vigilant about protecting ourselves and our devices, which in turn helps protect everyone else.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.

Advertisement

Don't Miss

  • Massive
    Ubisoft Massive exclusive: 'The Division', PS4 & Xbox One, Activision to Ubisoft & more
    Camera
    Games Exclusive
  • iPhone
    Get your wallet ready: The next iPhone could cost $100 more than your last one
    Video
    Tech Buzz
  • Civ
    Need to catch up on 'Sid Meier's Civilization'? Here is everything you need to know
    Camera
    Games Feature
  • Google Glass
    See how Google Glass is letting sick kids go to the zoo without leaving the hospital
    Tech News
  • Upcoming
    These are 2014's biggest PS4, Xbox One and Wii U games
    Camera
    Games Feature
  • Google
    Google has filed for a patent to develop contact lenses capable of taking photos
    Video
    Headlines

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about Examiner.com and apply today!