Hardware vs. software firewalls
The rules of network and personal computer security can be quite murky. Take, for instance, hardware and software firewalls. When properly configured, both security solutions shield users from hackers, crackers, cyber-prowlers, disgruntled employees, and other would-be attackers. However despite their similarities, hardware and software firewalls have many differences. Here’s a guide to some of the key differences
Software firewalls are ideal for individual users or small businesses that have dial-up or broadband internet connections. Instead of using a custom (and often expensive) piece of hardware, a software firewall installs on an individual’s PC, notebook, or workgroup server.
Even if an organisation has hardware firewalls in place, it’s wise for individuals to use software firewalls on their own systems. The main reason: software firewalls are especially convenient for mobile workers who need digital security when working outside of a corporate network. That’s because the entire security solution is, in essence, a single application running on your computer. Another major benefit is that software firewalls are easily upgraded. Users simply download patches, fixes, updates, and enhancements from the firewall provider’s website – or the provider sends these improvements via the internet.
For the sake of simplicity, think of hardware firewalls as specialised network boxes that contain customised hardware and software. When properly configured, hardware firewalls provide a protective barrier that hides an organisation’s internal PCs from the outside world. They can also shield one company department (say, finance) from another (say, human resources).
In many cases, hardware firewalls are great solutions for organisations that want a single security umbrella that protects multiple systems. For this very reason, most FTSE 100 networks have hardware firewalls in place.
So what’s the downside? Since they are specialised devices, hardware firewalls tend to be expensive, complicated, difficult to upgrade, and tricky to configure. In other words, they are best reserved for IT managers who are specially trained to install, configure and monitor such devices.
Low-end hardware firewalls – now found in network switches and routers for the home – also have their limitations. If you take a personal laptop on the road, for instance, your system is no longer protected by the home-based firewall.
So how can Broadband Security help?
If you sign up to be a broadband subscriber, Broadband Security list many security software utilities to provide you with one of the industry’s most robust software solutions, These software packages come with an intuitive setup assistant; summary pages that identify network traffic; enhanced application handling that identifies trusted websites; robust intrusion detection; and even intrusion-tracing that allows users to determine who’s trying to attack their systems.
“Think of the firewall Security Suite as a tireless traffic cop who stands between your system and the internet,”
Firewalls are vital for defending against attacks, but common sense plays a major role in winning the battle with cyber criminals. For starters, it is wise to turn off Windows’ file-sharing and printer-sharing features if you don’t need them. If you activate such features, don’t share files or printers with anyone outside of your network. And always – before you open unsolicited files (for example an email with a .exe attachment) – contact the sender via phone to confirm the attachment’s contents.
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