A Firewall is a network monitoring and application control program that monitors network connections, and controls which programs can connect to the Internet, receive data from or send data to the Internet. Just like an Antivirus, a Firewall is also a real-time program. It is always running in the background to monitor network connections, websites visited, data downloaded and uploaded, traffic source and destination, etc.
A Firewall protects the computer by blocking the malicious traffic coming from the Internet, and by blocking the low reputation programs from connecting to the Internet. These two methods are called Inbound Protection and Outbound Protection respectively. A Firewall that supports both of these methods is called a Two Way Firewall.
Following are the 10 things an ideal Firewall must be able to do. The 10 Benefits of using a Firewall on your Windows Computer.
10 Ways a Firewall helps you Protect your Computer and Data
- Antivirus Assistant
- Real-time Monitoring
- Web Filtering
- Application Control
- Remote Protection
- View Data Transfer
- Hide/Close Open Ports
- Create Rules and Policies
- Additional Computer Security Features
- Block Access to Specific Websites
1. Antivirus Assistant
A firewall acts as an Antivirus Assistant. It can protect you against those attacks that bypass your antivirus protection. A firewall filters the web traffic, and blocks any malicious data from coming from the Internet into your computer. It checks the behaviour of programs, and blocks unsigned, suspicious, and unknown files/programs from sending any type of data from the computer to the outside network.
When it comes to the Internet-borne threats, a firewall is the first line of defence in protecting your computer and data.
2. Real-time Monitoring
A firewall monitors all of the programs, and block threats in real-time. There are some firewall products that let you block the programs form accessing the Internet by applying rules to them manually. This is not what a real-time firewall does. A real-time firewall asks the user whenever a new program file tries to connect to the Internet. Based on user input, and firewall settings, these responses are stored for that particular program.
3. Web Filtering
A proper firewall software provides both types of protection, Inbound and Outbound. The Inbound Protection includes blocking the malicious data coming from the Internet to your computer. The Outbound Protection includes blocking malicious programs from sending the sensitives user data from the user computer to the Internet.
The Web Filtering section handles the Inbound Protection of your computer. A firewall automatically filters the traffic to protect the user computer from infected downloads, malicious website scripts, phishing webpages, malicious websites, and hacker attacks.
4. Application Control
The Application Control feature handles the Outbound Protection of your computer. A firewall automatically controls the connectivity permissions of the programs based on their trustworthiness. It firewall lets the user allow or block specific applications from connecting to the Internet. You can also define policies or rules for the specific programs on your computer.
With a firewall, you can also check if a suspicious program is using your Internet connection to download malicious content in the background, or if a malware such as a Trojan Horse or a Spyware is sending data from your computer to the web server of its creator.
5. Remote Protection
A firewall protects the computer from unauthorized remote access. It prevents the cyber-criminals from accessing and controlling the computer remotely. If any unauthorized remote control access is detected, the firewall terminates that connection to protect the computer.
6. View Data Transfer
A firewall is a great network and data monitoring tool. You can detailed information about the incoming and outgoing data. A firewall lets the user see which programs are downloading the data from or uploading to the Internet. It can also show the processes responsible for network connections and data transfer. You can also find out the amount of data downloaded or uploaded.
If your Internet connection suddenly seems slow, even when you are not doing any web related activity then a firewall can give you some answers. With your firewall, you can check which programs are using your data. There can be various background tasks using your data such as Windows downloading updates, Antivirus downloading latest definitions, web browsers and other programs downloading their updates, etc.
7. Hide/Close Open Ports
A Firewall closes unneeded open Ports. In Networking, a Port is used as a communication endpoint for the data transfer between devices and the network. In other words, a computer sends and receives data through ports. There are 65,536 ports ranging from 0 to 65,535.
Some of the most common Port numbers are:
- 20 – Used for File Transfer Protocol (FTP) data transfer.
- 25 – Used for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) email data transfer.
- 53 – Used for Domain Name System (DNS) service.
- 80 – Used for Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) data transfer.
- 194 – Used for Internet Relay Chat (IRC) data transfer.
- 443 – Used for HTTP Secure (HTTPS) data transfer.
A Port number lets your system understand the type of data. For example, if the data is coming to the port 80, then it is web traffic (HTTP).
Only a few of these ports are used. A hacker uses port scanning tools to scan any open ports in the computer to check the possibility of an attack. A Firewall hides the open ports from port scanning tools to prevent any potential hacker attacks.
8. Create Rules and Policies
A firewall let its users manually create Inbound and Outbound Rules for all of the applications installed on the computer. With the help of these Rules, a firewall can allow or block an application from connecting to the Internet. There can be a number of reasons to block the Internet access of a program. For example, you have an ad-supported program on your computer that shows ads whenever you run it. You can block the Internet access of this program by creating a firewall rule. This would stop this program from displaying ads.
9. Additional Computer Security Features
A firewall can come with additional layers of protection, which may not be available on your antivirus. In such a case, you can improve your computer security by using additional security components provided by the firewall. For example, if your antivirus does not provide the HIPS feature then you can use a firewall that has HIPS support. Or, if your antivirus does not provide the Sandboxing feature, then you can do with a firewall that has that feature. Make sure they are compatible with each other.
10. Block Access to Specific Websites
A firewall makes it easy to block specific websites or a type of websites on your computer. Web Filtering is an important component of a firewall. A good firewall that has organized the websites into different categories can be used to create an effective Parental Controls setup on your computer. Different firewall software allow different methods for blocking websites such as selecting a websites category, adding one or more websites, or even importing a custom list of websites that you want to block on your computer.
This sums of up this list of the benefits of using a Firewall. Also, these are some of the things that an ideal Firewall should be able to do in order to protect your computer.