The famous Jargon Dictionary has a great definition for “a dedicated gateway machine with special security precautions on it, used to service outside network connections and dial-in lines.” Firewalls serve two useful purposes: they filter what traffic comes into your network from the outside world, and they control what computers on your network may send there. No firewall—whether a small, free host-based firewall or a multiple-thousand-dollar enterprise firewall array—will make your computers impervious to attack.
Firewalls, like locks and walls and moats and dragons, create barriers to attack—they get in the way of someone trying to take control.
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This article covers the design, deployment, and use of both network and host-based firewalls (also called personal firewalls).
Although home users have traditionally used only host-based firewalls, recent trends in security exploits highlight the importance of using both types of firewalls together.
In this case, you become one of the bad guys—because the worm or virus is using your computer to attack other systems on your internal network and the Internet, wasting your computing resources and bandwidth.
Even though the worm or virus won’t know what to do with your confidential data, chances are good that it will open a new back door into your system to allow someone else to further abuse your computer and compromise your privacy.
If a worm or a virus does find a security vulnerability and compromises your system, it can do one of several things.
To begin with, it will almost always start looking for other systems to attack so that it can spread itself further.
The least worrisome attackers focus on crashing computers and networks by using Denial of Service (Do S) attacks.
Others might be looking for confidential data that they can abuse for profit, such as sales contacts, financial data, or customer account information.
Introduction The Nature of Today’s Attackers The Firewall to the Rescue Types of Firewalls How a Firewall Works Host-Based Firewalls Network Firewalls Firewalls for Small Offices and Home Offices Firewalls for Enterprises Firewall Products Summary Firewalls are a key part of keeping networked computers safe and secure.
All computers deserve the protection of a firewall, whether it’s the thousands of servers and desktops that compose the network of a Fortune 500 company, a traveling salesperson’s laptop connecting to the wireless network of a coffee shop, or your grandmother’s new PC with a dial-up connection to the Internet.
This type of attack does happen, but it makes up a very small portion of the total network attacks that occur.