I've been meaning to write a post about personal firewalls, such as the one built into Windows, and why it's important to use them, but I came across an issue this weekend that strikes me as a more important use of firewalls that not everyone may be aware of.
If you're like most internet users, you have some sort of broadband connection. Dial-up connections are rapidly being replaced by “always-on” services like DSL and Cable. Along with the convenience of these services comes a serious risk. Being attached to the internet 24×7 vastly increases the chance that someone may try to find their way into your computer, often for less than honorable purposes.
What to do about this? Well, the personal firewalls I will be writing about soon will certainly help, but a more immediate (and easier to implement) solution is to use a router between your DSL or Cable modem and your computer.
Aren't routers for connecting multiple computers to your internet connection? Yes, that is their main purpose, but they also server as a basic firewall for your internet connection, since you will be able to communicate out with the internet, but not much will be able to come back in and find you. Many of them have more advanced functions for things like running a web site from your home connection (if allowed by your ISP).
In the next post, I'll discuss some of the common routers to use as a firewall, and how best to configure them.