You never know the extent of what lies on the Internet. For every insightful and useful piece of content, you will find a dozen more viruses, malware, and hackers trying to access your computer and network. 

As the Internet emerged and increased in popularity, firewalls were released to protect the public from unwanted digital traffic. A firewall creates a safe barrier between a private network, such as your home or work network, and the public Internet. 

A Firewalls Purpose

A firewall is a system that prevents unauthorized parties from entering a private network. This allows you, your workplace and home from being vulnerable to digital attacks. It does so by blocking unwanted traffic and filtering through wanted traffic. 

The word “firewall” in the computing world comes from the analogy of a firewall used in buildings. A firewall in a building structure provides a barrier between two rooms. In the event of a fire in either one of the rooms, the firewall is there to prevent the fire from spreading to the other room. In similar ways, a firewall in the digital world is in place to stop malicious attacks from spreading to a private network. 

How Does a Firewall Work?

A firewall is set up by orchestrating logical rules. For complex non-standard rules, you will generally have a network administrator to manage it. Combinations of variables (IP address, Protocols, Domain Names, Programs, Ports, and Keywords) are indicated as permissible and non-permissible. These combinations of variables are useful to understand the types of incoming and outgoing traffic. 

This combination list is often referred to as an access-control list. It controls permissions used by the firewall. For example, a network administrator can indicate to block all traffic coming from source address through port 50. This way, only trusted source addresses can pass through the firewall.

Types of Firewall 

Firewalls come in software and/or hardware form. They are respectively called host-based and network-based firewalls. Both types protect against dangerous traffic when you are connect to a public network. 

The host-based firewall is a software that is installed on a computer. This type of firewall protects the singular computer. If you ever used an anti-virus program; you most-likely have encountered a host-based firewall.   On the other hand, a network-based firewall is a combination of hardware and software systems. It is meant to protect the whole network. This physical hardware is set between your network and gateway. In some cases, the router itself has in-built firewall technologies. 

The best practice is to use a combination of both host-based and network-based firewalls. This provides multiple layers of protection for a world where digital threats are proliferating at an exponential rate. 

A Firewall’s Limitations

While they are an incredibly valuable technology, firewalls are unfortunately not 100% secure. As explained in previous sections, firewalls work by monitoring incoming and outgoing traffic from ports and addresses. However, it cannot detect the content of the data that is entering and leaving your network. That is to say, even if you configure a firewall with intricate logic to protect you from specific types of data packets; the content of these packets can still have hidden harmful elements. 

Also, a firewall will also not prevent a third party from monitoring your information. This means that the content that you are sharing with the world wide web is free to grab and traceable back to you. This is where a Virtual Private Network comes in very handy. A VPN encrypts all exchanges between you and the digital world. It will allow you to have better anonymity by hiding your IP address and preventing third party from stealing your data. 

Both VPNs and Firewalls have specific purposes to protect your online activities. However, is one better than the other? No. Using both with diligence is the safest way to interact in the digital world.

In Brief

We have seen firewalls since the dawn of the Internet. It has progressed to a technology that is so valuable that you will find it embedded in most systems for protection. While they may come in many forms, their purpose is for you to have better protection and security from harmful digital attacks.

Here at PrivadoVPN, we put your security on top of our priorities. Check out how our product can elevate your journey to a more secure experience with the online world.