Hardware Firewalls

Firewalls are filters that keep the most of the bad Internet traffic out.  There are two types of firewallshardware firewalls (a separate box you plug in between your computer and the Internet) and software firewalls (software that you install on your computer).  You should be using BOTH types, but this post focuses on hardware firewalls.

Why do you need a hardware firewall?  Suppose you buy a new computer, and it has the latest Microsoft Windows operating system (or Apple’s OS X, or Linux, or whatever) on it.  Before you plug it in, it already has software vulnerabilities.  Why?  Because there is a lag time between when your computer was built and when it was delivered to you. In contrast, hacking attacks happen almost constantly, and software vulnerabilities are being discovered and patched very frequently.

So, what do you do?  Plug it into the Internet?  NO!  First, read 10 Ways to Improve the Security of a New Computer (developed and published by CERT).  If you don’t have a hardware firewall blocking the bad traffic, the statistics are that you have about 4 minutes to download and install your initial batch of patches before your new computer gets infected.  4 minutes!  Pretty surprising, huh? If you don’t believe me, check out:

Your ISP (e.g. Comcast, etc.) didn’t tell you that that a hardware firewall is a CRITICAL and REQUIRED component for your Internet hookup?  Shame on them.  Contact your ISP, and ask whether or not their Internet hookup kit includes a hardware firewall. Many wireless routers have a firewall already built in.  If yours does, great!  Just make sure it is configured correctly.

If you think your new computer is infected…

  1. Immediately disconnect your computer from the internet.
  2. Call your ISP, and ask if they provided a hardware firewall to you (or told you to buy one).  If not, give them an earful for allowing your computer to get infected.
  3. Implement an Internet Security Suite.
  4. Make sure you have a hardware firewall.
  5. Make sure it is installed and configured correctly.  You may need your ISP to help you on this one.
  6. Plug your fixed-up computer back into your newly secured network.

If all this is too much for you, you can buy technical help.  Of course, there may be someone you know who can help you– I’m the tech support guy for my entire extended family.  Whatever it takes, just get it done.   The WORST thing you can do is NOT install a hardware firewall, or some other device like a wireless router that has a firewall built in.


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