The internet can be a dangerous place without good online security measures in place. A firewall can keep away unauthorized traffic to protect your IP and internet-connected devices. Read more and stay safe online.
Firewalls have been used to improve safety long before the internet was even invented. However, the purpose of these firewalls was to help contain an actual fire from spreading inside a building. A digital firewall, on the other hand, monitors incoming and outgoing traffic.
Definition of a firewall
The task of a firewall is to let only safe traffic through it while blocking traffic that can pose a threat to cyber security. In a way, a firewall acts as a filter between a device, such as a desktop computer, and an external network, such as the internet. A firewall blocks unauthorized traffic from coming both into and out of your computer.
For example, a firewall can block a hacker from breaking into your computer. It can also prevent a virus on your device from accessing the internet. However, a firewall may also in mistake stop safe applications from working. Although a firewall is a great addition to your arsenal of cyber security measures, it is not enough alone in today’s online environment, full of hackers and malware.
Luckily most consumer devices have their own firewalls, so you do not need to buy a separate firewall for your computer, for instance. Just make sure that the firewall on your device is up and running from the device’s settings. An antivirus program, on the other hand, is something everyone should get for their devices, as it is something that is not often installed by default.
What is the difference between a firewall and an antivirus?
In order to stay safe online, you need more than just a firewall. The most important cyber security tool is an antivirus program. But how does it differ from a firewall? Although a firewall monitors and in some cases blocks traffic coming in and out of your device, it does not check what’s in that traffic. An antivirus program, on the other hand, inspects downloaded files and visited websites to see if they pose a threat to you and your device. If an antivirus comes across something suspicious and potentially dangerous, it blocks the threat before it can cause any harm.
A common misconception is that the default firewall on your computer is enough to protect you. Although it does help, a firewall needs an antivirus program to support it. As firewalls often block traffic that can stop legitimate programs from functioning or prevent you from downloading files, many users tend to make exceptions to their firewall’s rules or turn it off to avoid inconvenience.
When the firewall is turned off without an antivirus to act as a backup, you are left completely defenseless against malware and hacking. With an antivirus there to support you, you can safely turn off your firewall in order to download files or use programs that might be blocked by a firewall.
Do I need a firewall?
Whether you are an individual user or a large company, a firewall adds another layer of protection on top of other security measures, such as an antivirus. Although the default programs on Windows and macOS devices offer protection against hackers and their attempts to attack you, the cyber security landscape is always evolving and you need to be prepared for whatever cyber criminals come up with.
For instance, a firewall:
Monitors traffic in your network. If the firewall identifies a threat, it blocks it from reaching your device.
Blocks harmful traffic in your network. If traffic in the network is identified as harmful, the firewall can stop it before any damage gets done.
Minimize the risk of malware infection. With a firewall, you can protect your device from being infected with malware, such as trojans, ransomware and spyware. However, a firewall alone is not enough as your device may still get infected if not supplemented with an antivirus.
Improves overall security and privacy. All steps of protecting your privacy online and improving cyber security are worth taking. Using a firewall is one of these.
Although both a firewall and antivirus have their strengths, you need both for more extensive online protection. After all, cyber security should always be multi-layered. Consider adding a VPN into the mix to browse securely and in private online.
Firewalls for mobile and desktop devices
Just like your desktop computer, mobile devices have their own firewalls too. On desktop computers, Windows and macOS have their own firewalls. The firewall on new desktop computers running on Windows has Microsoft Defender Firewall by default. The default firewall on macOS computers, on the other hand, needs to be turned on separately. This can be done from the device’s system settings.
Android mobile devices do not have their own firewall installed by default, but you can install one yourself. The same applies to iPhones running on iOS. Just make sure that the third-party firewall is one you can trust before installing anything.
Software, hardware and cloud-based firewalls
We can make a distinction between software, hardware and cloud-based firewalls. There are also different types of firewalls that fit different purposes, based on how they work and who uses them.
A software firewall protects only a single device and is installed, as the name suggests, as software. Software firewalls are a common choice for consumers as they are easy to install. In most cases, individual users also do not need to protect an entire network with multiple devices connected to it. However, because of this, software firewalls can be an insufficient solution for companies and other instances where a larger network needs to be protected.
As opposed to software firewalls, hardware firewalls come in the form of a physical device that is equipped with the needed software to block incoming harmful traffic. One benefit of a hardware firewall is that it allows the user to disable firewalls running on the device that is being protected. The device’s own resources are no longer needed to run the firewall. It can also be used to control network traffic coming to multiple devices in the same network. However, hardware firewalls are a more expensive solution than ones running as software and may require some expertise to install and operate.
As the name suggests, a cloud-based firewall uses a cloud server to filter and block harmful traffic. The term firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS) is also used. Cloud-based firewalls are a good choice for larger enterprises that are looking to expand. They are also capable of dealing with large amounts of network traffic and securing multiple devices simultaneously.
Do you want to browse privately?
The simplest and best way to stay private online is to use a VPN like Maxproxy. If you want to cover your tracks online and truly go incognito, a VPN is your best choice. In short, a VPN hides your real address from the websites that you visit and blocks your internet service provider from seeing your internet traffic. Maxproxy is really easy to use.