Firewalls – Keepers of the Gate

In this next writing about basic internet security, we will talk a little about firewalls.

It is common that people lump firewalls and antivirus software in the same bucket, however these are two separate items with two separate functions.

To start off, lets take a quick look at the difference between the function of a firewall and of antivirus software.

Firewalls:   These are the “Guard at the gate” so to speak. Firewalls help to minimize damage from spyware by keeping it from gaining unauthorized access to files and software. Firewalls monitors network traffic into and out of a computer or network and decides whether or not to let it in.

Antivirus Software:  Antivirus software would be the “soldiers” of the computer world. Their mission is to seek out and software, files, or programs that can harm or compromise your computer. It can detect harmful programs that are being downloaded or are already downloaded and will quarantine, remove or fix. It will also look for potentially harmful files attached to emails, or being downloaded from the internet and will remove these files and notify the user of their removal.

Now that we know the difference let’s look at firewalls.

There are 2 types of firewalls:

  • Hardware firewalls – This sits between your computer and the internet.

An example of a hardware firewall would be your router. A router may not have a built- in firewall or it may not be enabled so you will want to check with the manufacturer specs to see if it does.

A hardware firewall uses packet filtering to examine the header and decides whether to allow it to move through the system to the computer. It does this by comparing the header to a set of user created or pre-defined rules. Based on this comparison, it will allow or block the incoming traffic. If your computer becomes infected it could disable a software firewall, but it will not infect a hardware firewall as the hardware firewall sits apart from the computer.

Hardware firewalls also can provide centralized network management for multiple computers preventing individual users from having to change any settings.


  • Software firewalls – This sits between your computer and a network


An example of a software firewall would be Windows Defender.  Software firewalls, which usually come pre-loaded on your computer just as other software applications will only protect the device in which they are installed. They can often be customized, allowing the user some control over the protection features.  They may also include privacy and web filtering controls as well as other options.

The software firewall will run in the background of your computer and should always be running.

So the question becomes do you need a software firewall if you have a hardware firewall?  From what I have researched, you should run both as while they both may have redundant features, a hardware firewall should stop the barbarians at the gate while the software firewall should stop anything that may get through.

While I cannot recommend any specific firewall software, I have provided a link below that reviews the top ten personal firewall software for 2018.


For my next post, we will discuss antivirus software. In the meantime, happy internetting.

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