Dwight Watt - Newspaper Article #353 10/5/2016

Question: What is a firewall?


A firewall is used in the IT field to protect computers and networks from malicious activity through the network.

Firewalls as a non-computer term are walls in buildings that stop or slow down a fire from spreading to other parts. They are non-combustible walls that have no openings in them that the fire could go thru.

Firewalls in the computer world are a similar concept but slightly different. The object of the firewall is to not let malicious stuff get thru that could damage the network or computers. However, to be able to use the network and the Internet, it has to allow the good traffic through.

Firewalls bock the traffic coming thru in a number of ways. They will look at all the traffic coming in the network for signs of problems. They may also look at outgoing traffic.

When they look at the traffic they will look at how often is it coming (preventing attacks to disable the network or a machine), the address that it comes from (knowing certain addresses are problems), the type of message that is coming through (the port which tells us application usually, the application it uses), what is in the message (it can do anti-virus and anti-malware checks) and is it a response back to traffic we sent out(knowing that Susan requested a web page and that this is the web page being returned).

With all of this it has rules on items that it may always block and items that t always allows and other that it may look at more.

Firewalls are helpful in protecting networks. The firewall may be a separate box at the entrance to the network (like a guard as you enter a building) or it may be part of the individual machines. Windows includes with it a firewall that does basic testing. People also generally have a basic firewall in their boxes (routers and switches) that connect their networks. You can get fancier firewalls for your individual machines thru most of your anti-virus providers.