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Free Firewalls for Home Use

The Internet term "Firewall" comes from the automotive industry. Cars have firewalls that protect the passenger compartment from possible fires originating in the engine compartment.On the Internet the term applies to hardware or software which protects one or more computers from other computers.

Personal Firewalls, also called desktop firewalls, are used to protect individual personal computers from malicious users and programs. They are able to stop network scanning and attack programs from accessing resources on the individual PC. Since they're monitoring all of the traffic passing to and from the computer's network interface they also are able to stop local programs from accessing external resources.

How To Select a Personal Firewall

A personal computer firewall should have the following features:
  • Block External Intrusions
  • Block Local Outbound Malware
  • Ease of Use. Some provide automatic advise concerning any alerts that occur.

Nice to have features include:

  • E-mail scrubbing with anti-virus
  • P2P protection (like Kazaa, ICQ, and MSN Messenger)
  • Popup ad blocker
  • Automatic identification of Internet access rights

How to Use Personal Firewalls

The easiest way to use a personal firewall, and the quickest way to make it ineffective, is to click on the "Allow" button too often. Be very selective about allowing programs network access -- only allow programs you know need access to gain access. These include:

  • Netscape or Internet Explorer
  • Messenger
  • Various Microsoft Office Products

Periodically review the list of allowed programs and remove programs that you don't absolutely know need access. The worst that will happen is another pop-up asking you if the program should have access next time you run it. Allowing malicious programs access to the network can prove fatal.

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