Thursday, February 2, 2012

Free Firewalls

As a Basement PC Tech (BPCT) your friends and clients except you to assist them with not only their mysterious computer issues but they also except you to help them protect themselves from the evils of the world. In a previous blog (Free Anti-Virus Software for EVERYONE!!!!) I provided a list of free anti-virus applications that could be used by your clients and friends as a security defense against malicious code (malware) that may try to exploit their systems. In this blog I will review what I believe to be the first line of defense when it comes to protecting computers on yours and your clients networks – FIREWALLS.

What is a firewall?

According to Wikipedia:

Firewall may refer to:

  • Firewall (construction), a barrier inside a building or vehicle, designed to limit the spread of fire, heat and structural collapse
  • Firewall (automobile), the part of the vehicle that separates the engine from the driver and passengers
  • Firewall (computing), a technological barrier designed to prevent unauthorized or unwanted communications between computer networks or hosts

All three definitions can be summed up to one definition: A firewall is a barrier designed to protect you from a danger on the other side.

Many users may be familiar with the firewall that is part of the Windows operating system. This is what is considered to be a host-based firewall, a firewall installed on the host to prevent certain traffic from accessing or leaving your computer system. Most commonly firewalls are placed at the boarder of a network to prevent unwanted communications from entering the network from what is considered to be a less secure networks.

During the infancy of the Internet, large organization such as corporation, educational institutions or the Government were the only entities that could afford a firewall, had the required skills to configure them correctly and had the need for one. Large organization were the only entities that had direct connections to the Internet. Consumers at this time were just learning about the Internet and connecting to it via dial-up.

Now times have changed and with the introduction of broadband Internet access, large organization are not the only ones that have a constant connection to the Internet or the only ones that need to protect themselves from the dangers of the Internet.

I'm surprised at the number of people I discover that do not have a network firewall. Although Windows has a firewall embedded in the operating system which may deflect an attack to your computer system why late an attacker or malicious traffic get that close to your system? What protecting all the other items you may have connected to your network such as game consoles, burglar alarm systems, smartTV and DVD players.

A network firewall is your network 1st line of defense against defending off attackers or preventing malicious traffic from entering your network. 

In future blogs I will cover many of these free software based network firewalls that you as a BPCT can utilize on yours and your clients networks. The following list are some of the most popular Firewall Distributions out on the Internet.

List of Free Firewall Distributions

Endian Firewall – Community Edition
PfSense Firewall
SmoothWall Express
IPCop Firewall
Astaro Security Gateway – Free Home Use Firewall

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