When you signed up for that ultra-fast DSL or Cable connection there was probably one very important piece of information that your ISP failed to mention. By accessing the Internet via a high-speed connection, you have tremendously increased your chances of being victimized by a computer hacker.
Dial-up may not have seemed like it could have held any advantages, but it actually did have one upside. It is much less prone to hacking. Every time you dialed-in your computer was assigned a new IP address. That unique IP address made you a moving target that was more difficult for hackers to hit.
With a high-speed connection you are assigned a static IP address (it never changes). So, your computer went from being a moving target to staying still with a bulls-eye pasted on the side. That, coupled with the fact that with a high-speed connection your computer is always online, are ideal conditions for a potential hacker attack. That seemingly beneficial always-on connection gives hackers a 24/7 open invitation to try and hack your system. Once inside they can access personal or financial details, compromise your computer's operating system, or unleash a virus, worm, or spyware.
Which Firewall is Right For You?
Now that you know how vital a firewall is to the protection of your PC you have to decide which firewall is right for you. Software or hardware.
A software firewall is designed to monitor your computers activity at all times. Think of it as a bodyguard who won't let anyone into your computer if he doesn't like the look of them. With a software firewall you may to have to assist in protecting your system. The firewall might alert you to certain activity and ask you if you want to grant or deny permission. It's just like the bodyguard that was mentioned before. He needs the okay before telling someone to scram. After you give either the thumbs up or the thumbs down the firewall will take the appropriate action and remember your reply so that you won't be asked in the future.
If you feel comfortable installing and configuring hardware, then you might want to consider a hardware firewall in the form of a Cable/DSL router. The hardware firewall handles everything on its own without any input from you and you also won't have to read any reports or make any decisions. The firewall handles everything on its own. Installation, however, can be tricky, so this option is definitely more suited to the advanced computer user.
My Firewall is Installed. Now I'm Safe, Right?
With your new firewall in place you are probably thinking that your computer is impenetrable, right? Well, maybe not. As important to the security of your system as a firewall is, some do have their limits. Most software firewalls won't scan your system for viruses that can harm your computer and there aren't any hardware firewalls on the market that offer virus protection. That means that you are still vulnerable to attack.
The best line of defense against viruses that can harm your system is anti-virus protection.You can either buy a seperate anti-virus program or shop around for a software firewall with anti-virus protection built-in. You may never be able to make your computer 100% hacker-proof, but the installation of a firewall coupled with anti-virus protection will greatly reduce your chances of becoming a hacker's next victim.
Heather Wallace is a writer whose work has been published in national, regional, and online publications. Additionally, she has written articles as a newspaper correspondent. Visit http://www.fetchingsites.com/FreeFirewall.html to download a free firewall that is easy-to-use and will block hackers and other unknown threats.