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Dated: Jun. 18, 2012
Related CategoriesNetwork+ Certification
Networking In General
Overview of Firewalls
A firewall can be thought of as a gatekeeper who has been handed over a list of people whom he must allow to enter into the premises and/or the list of those people whose request to enter the premises must be denied straightforward.
Just like the role of a gatekeeper, a firewall monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic to and from a computer system and allows or denies the communication of the computer with other computers that are connected to it via Local Area Network (LAN). Since in network communication, the packets are transported over the cable or through wireless media, a firewall allows or denies the communication on the basis of source or destination IP addresses, source or destination MAC addresses, incoming or outgoing port numbers, protocols used to transfer, etc. A firewall can also monitor and control communication that takes place between a computer and the Internet on the basis of above mentioned criterion.
Types of Firewalls
There are two types of firewalls that are available in the market nowadays. They are:
- Hardware Firewalls: These firewalls are the hardware devices that are manufactured specifically to provide security to the organizations. Since hardware firewalls are the dedicated devices that are designed and developed for the purpose, they are considered the best solutions when it comes to organizational security and protection of sensitive information. Hardware firewalls are mostly used in production environments and it is unlikely that they are purchased for homes. The reason behind this is that hardware firewalls are hard to configure and require technically skilled and qualified professionals to implement the security in them efficiently. Since home computers do not have sensitive information and neither home users are expected to be professionally and technically sound to be able to configure the hardware firewalls, the usage of these firewalls is limited only to the security oriented medium or large scale organizations.
- Software Firewalls: These firewalls are the software applications that can be installed on computer systems just like other applications. After the installation, software firewalls must be configured appropriately to allow or deny the communication between the computers and the networks/Internet depending on the nature of the packets. Although there are some software firewalls available in the market that are precisely developed for security purposes, these firewalls are not as efficient as hardware firewalls are.
Availability of Software and Hardware Firewalls
Since hardware firewalls are tangible entities, they cannot be downloaded from the Internet and therefore they must be purchased from the market. On the other hand software firewalls are the applications and can easily be downloaded from the Internet and can also be purchased from the local markets. When software firewalls are downloaded, users can make payments via credit cards or other methods.
Moreover, every Microsoft Windows operating system nowadays has a built-in firewall that is by default enabled and proves to be a good protection solution for the computers. These built-in firewalls are technically known as ‘Windows Firewalls’.
Firewalls vs. Antivirus Applications
Majority of users live with a misconception that antivirus applications and firewalls are one and the same things, but the fact is that they are not. An antivirus application detects and removes a virus program or a malicious script that have already entered into the system, whereas a firewall cannot detect any such application but it prevents unwanted packets from entering into the system. Therefore it is always a good practice to have both, a strong firewall and an efficient anti-virus application installed on a computer to get maximum security. To make things easier, most antivirus applications nowadays also have built-in firewalls in them in order to provide complete security to the computer systems on which they are installed.
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