What is a Firewall?

Most of us may have heard the term, and know it’s related to security in some way, but do you really know what a firewall is? Traditionally, firewalls were built to keep danger at bay—they were doors (or walls) to block fire from coming into another area—hence the name firewall. When you’re thinking in terms of your online security, modern-day hardware and software firewalls are similar. They act as barriers to prevent unauthorized access to your personal information.

6DFirewalls are software programs or hardware devices that filter the information coming through your Internet connection to your computer (and all the devices that are connected to that connection). A firewall protects you and your devices by examining each piece of information that flows between your devices and the Internet.

Hardware firewalls, such as those included with some routers, are usually a good first line of defense against outside attacks, and they require little to no configuration. The one down sides of using only a hardware firewall is that it only protects you if you are at home. So if you take your computer to a cafe or on a trip, your device is no longer protected by the home-based firewall.

Fortunately, software firewalls can catch these kinds of threats because they are running on your computer and can take a closer look at the network traffic. This allows them to intercept a malicious program before it leaves your computer.

Now that you know the purpose of firewalls, follow these tips for greater security online:

  • Make sure you are using a router that includes a firewall as a first layer of protection
  • Use comprehensive security, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, that includes a two-way firewall that filters both incoming and outgoing traffic, as well as protection for all your devices, your identity and your data
  • Turn off file-sharing and printer-sharing features if you don’t need them
  • Use common sense, don’t click on links or open attachments from people you don’t know—you could unknowingly be giving them access to your device
  • While the bad guys may always be looking to do harm, just remember that we all need to be vigilant about protecting ourselves and our devices, which in turn helps protect everyone else.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

Identity Theft Expert and Speaker on Personal Security: Young, Organized Criminal Hackers Can Hijack Unprotected Computers on a Grand Scale

(BOSTON, Mass. – Dec. 5, 2007 – IDTheftSecurity.com) News reports indicated last week that law enforcement authorities recently arrested a New Zealand-based, 18-year-old alleged leader of a botnet. According to Robert Siciliano, a widely televised and quoted personal security and identity theft expert, law enforcement activities that led to the apprehension of the teenager and others this year are critical in the fight against computer crime. But he also noted that computer users themselves can do a great deal to thwart criminal hackers’ activities.

“Robust law enforcement is a key approach to slowing criminal computer hackers,” said Siciliano. “These criminals need to know that somebody might be watching. But just as important is robust computer system security. Criminal hackers, including those who specialize in botnet activity, take the path of least resistance and often will be dissuaded by computers that have up-to-date antivirus software and hardy firewall protection installed.”

CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com and a member of the Bank Fraud & IT Security Report’s editorial board, Siciliano leads Fortune 500 companies and their clients in workshops that explore consumer education solutions for security issues. An experienced identity theft speaker and author of “The Safety Minute: 01,” he has discussed data security and consumer protection on CNBC, on NBC’s “Today Show,” FOX News, and elsewhere.

On Nov. 30, the Guardian Unlimited reported that law enforcement officials in New Zealand had apprehended an 18-year-old, alleged leader of a botnet hacking ring who went by the online identity of “Akill.” His ring, according to the article, was responsible for the remote control of about 1.3 million computers and the pilfering of $20 million. (Wikipedia defines a botnet as “a jargon term for a collection of software robots, or bots, [that] run autonomously and automatically…on groups of ‘zombie’ computers controlled remotely by hackers.”)

On the same day, Computerworld ran an article covering the events in New Zealand. Computerworld’s report further revealed that the arrest of the teenager was part of Operation Bot Roast, an FBI effort to crack zombie computer rings by working with law enforcement agencies worldwide.

“The FBI’s success in bringing criminal computer hackers to justice is to be applauded,” said Siciliano. “But the lack of attention to computer security on the part of individual users is making law enforcement’s job all the more challenging and urgent. Anyone with a personal computer must take antivirus and firewall security seriously.”

Siciliano added that criminal hackers use computers compromised by spyware and viruses, including those that facilitate botnet activity, to commit identity theft and fraud. Furthermore, he said the ubiquity of Social Security numbers as universal identifiers helps identity thieves both online and off-line. Earlier this year he appeared on “FOX News” to explain how (readers may view YouTube video of his comments below).

Anyone wishing to learn how to protect himself or herself against identity theft may view video of Siciliano at VideoJug.


About IDTheftSecurity.com

Identity theft affects us all. Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com and member of the Bank Fraud & IT Security Report’s editorial board, makes it his mission to provide consumer education solutions on identity theft to Fortune 500 companies and their clients.

A leader of personal safety and security seminars nationwide, Siciliano has been featured on “The Today Show,” CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, “FOX News,” “The Suze Orman Show,” “The Montel Williams Show,” “Maury Povich,” “Sally Jesse Raphael,” “The Howard Stern Show,” and “Inside Edition.” The Privacy Learning Institute features him on its Website. Numerous magazines, print news outlets, and wire services have turned to him, as well, for expert commentary on personal security and identity theft. These include Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, United Press International, Reuters, and others.

Visit Siciliano’s Web site, www.IDTheftSecurity.com; blog, www.realtysecurity.com/blog; and YouTube page, http://youtube.com/stungundotcom.

The media are encouraged to get in touch with Siciliano directly:

Robert Siciliano, Personal Security Expert
CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com
PHONE: 888-SICILIANO (742-4542)
FAX: 877-2-FAX-NOW (232-9669)

The media may also contact:

Brent W. Skinner
President & CEO of STETrevisions
PHONE: 617-875-4859
FAX: 866-663-6557