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Computer Problem Tips - Should You Install and Use a Firewall Program?

May 25, 2008
Hmmm...That would a be a "YEAH". Let me tell you a story...

I got the call late Friday afternoon. I'll call them "Momma Fran" and "Poppa Fred", a retired couple. I had built a computer for them and installed it the past Wednesday. Gosh, I hoped everything was okay with it.

The computer was fine. But it seemed the "Cable Guy" had come to hook-up their Internet service and some thingy called a "firewall?" kept popping up and prevented him from completing the setup.

I told them all the guy had to do was to "ok" the alerts or turn the firewall off all together. They said he had already left and told them they didn't really need a firewall.

I drove out to their house that evening and tried setting the firewall so it would let the cable company's software pass thru unmolested. But since it was half-way installed it wouldn't work. I told them I had done all I could at the time.

The "cable guy" came back on Monday and still couldn't finish the job because of the "firewall" thingy. I went back out. They wanted to know what was a firewall? And why did they need one when the "cable guy" said their Internet service included anti-virus protection?

What is a firewall, anyway?

A firewall can be either a hardware or software defense device. It acts as a "protective barrier" between the sensitive information on your computer and the professional data thieves out on the Internet.

A firewall that is a hardware device is the most secure. The most common hardware firewalls are inside routers for high speed Internet connections (DSL phone lines or Broadband cable lines).

Think of routers as "baby" computers that can redirect or manipulate harmful Internet traffic away from your machine. Routers can also "hide" your computer or home network away from the prying eyes of robotic programs which is constantly roaming the Net looking for open or weak systems to break into.

A software firewall application is slightly less secure than a router because with any software program it can be compromised. But for most home or small office users, it is strong enough to keep the bad guys out of your PC. My favorite is Zonealarm.

Why do you need a firewall?

Like I mentioned, the world now has international "teams" or "crews" of organized professional data thieves and hackers. They make their living writing programs that hack (break and enter) unsuspecting people's computers to steal passwords, financial information, pictures and other personal stuff to either use themselves for spam or identify theft or to sell on the black market.

A firewall also can prevent the download of malware (malicious software) like "porn pop-ups", Trojan Horses, viruses, and spyware from infected websites.

Who needs a firewall?

Okay, here is the unvarnished truth...If you have a DSL or Broadband connection, then you should using some type of firewall. You are using high speed hook-up, unless your computer is turned off, it is ALWAYS open to attack from someone or something from on the Net.

Especially if you routinely visit the "3 Gs": Gaming, Gambling, and Girlie sites (porn sites of either sex).These websites are in my experience have infected some of my clients with the worst kinds of viruses and spyware.

What can you do to protect yourself?

- Get a good quality firewall; either hardware or software.
- Turn on your firewall and keep it on and updated (if software)
- Stay away from the "3 Gs": websites for gamers, gamblers and girlie peek-shows. In order to make a fast buck, more than a goodly number of these websites serve up all manner of malware to their customers.

Oh, yeah what happened to Momma Fran and Poppa Fred? In the end, I removed the firewall from their machine so the "cable guy" could finish their setup. They asked that it be left off because it was too confusing for them.

I told them without a firewall; it would be like them running naked through the bramble bushes, they would eventually get "caught" on something if they weren't careful!
About the Author
Got computer problems? Want to reduce your technology headaches? To find more helpful computer tips, visit http://www.fixcomputerproblemsguide.com From Chancer Reese - The Small Office Tech Diva.
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