A Firewall is a network security system that controls the incoming and outgoing network traffic based on the Firewall's settings.
As well as Anti-Virus, and Anti-Spyware software, you should also have a Firewall which will help to prevent hackers or malicious software gaining access to your computer.
Your Internet Router will most likely include a hardware Firewall, and it is also recommended to have Firewall software installed on any computer connected to the Internet.
Where can i get Firewall software?
The Windows Operating Systems provides you with a Firewall called 'Windows Firewall' which can be found in the Control Panel. You also have the option to download a free Firewall such as 'Zone Alarm' which can be found at http://www.zonealarm.co.uk/
. Your Anti-Virus software may also include a Firewall as one of its features.
How does Windows Firewall work?
Windows Firewall can be found by clicking 'Start' and selecting 'Control Panel', and locating 'Windows Firewall' or click 'Start' and type 'Firewall' into the search box and press 'Enter' on your keyboard.
On the 'Windows Firewall' page it will allow you to switch the Firewall on or off, and it is switched on by default.
You can modify the Firewall settings for Home/Work (Private) network location or for a Public network location. 'Home Network' is for a Home Computer where you can trust all the people and devices on your network. If you have shared files and a shared printer between computers on your Home network in a Homegroup then you should select 'Home Network' otherwise select 'Public Network' as it will be more secure. Public network is for public places (coffee shops, airports) and should be used if you're connected directly to the Internet without using a router, or if you have a mobile broadband connection. You can select 'Home Network' or 'Public Network' on the 'Network and Sharing Center' page found in the Control Panel.
The 'Windows Firewall' page will let you 'Allow a program or feature through Windows Firewall'. Select the program or game and allow it to communicate through the Firewall.
Advanced settings will allow you to set the Inbound and Outbound rules for the Firewall and provides more information by selecting 'Properties'.
If 'Windows Firewall' is blocking an online game and the game isn't listed in your Firewall settings then you can go to the 'Advanced Settings page' and select 'Inbound Rules' and select 'New Rule' and you will be able to enter the port number used for this game, so that the game data will reach your computer.
You also have the option to 'Restore Defaults' on the 'Windows Firewall' page which resets the Firewall's settings to default.
How does your Internet Router's Hardware Firewall work?
Your Internet Router will most likely include a Firewall which is the first line of defence against any threats. As the Firewall is part of the router then it will protect all computers that are connected to it. A software Firewall will only protect the computer that it is installed on. However, using both Firewall's is a good idea and will offer more protection.
The Firewall will use a process called 'Network Address Translation (NAT) which looks at the incoming ip addresses of data packets and changes them to a single hidden ip address which is used with the computers on your local Area Network. This means that the Router's Firewall will help to restrict the incoming data while a software Firewall will restrict incoming data as well as outgoing data.
How do i access my Router's Firewall setting and ensure it is switched on?
If your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provided your Broadband Router then they will supply instructions on how to access its settings. If you bought a Router then it will also include instructions on accessing the settings. Usually you would open a Browser and enter something like 'http://192.168.1.254'.
In the settings you should find a page dealing with the Firewall and it may be found under 'Advanced Settings'. On the BT Home Hub router you have three settings:
- This setting allows all outgoing connections but blocks all unsolicited incoming traffic, and should be selected.
- This will block all incoming and outgoing traffic.
- This will disable the Firewall and allow all traffic to pass through the Firewall.
You might also find a page in the settings called 'Port Forwarding' which allows you to select an online game or application that will work over the Internet while the Firewall is on.
What are IP Addresses and Ports?
An IP (Internet Protocol) Address is a unique string of numbers separated by full stops (ie 192.168.1.254) that identifies each computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate over a network.
A Port is used to identify specific applications and services so that they do not interfere with each other. For example, Port 80 is for HTTP which is used in the World Wide Web, Port 110 is the Post Office Protocol (POP3) used in E-mail, and Port 194 is for Internet Relay Chat (IRC) etc. If you play an online game then it will work on a specific Port number which may be blocked by your firewall. That is why you need to configure your Firewall so that it allows traffic to access your computer through that specific Port in order to play the game.