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Windows Vista Firewall Part 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Windows Firewall helps to protect your computer when it is connected to a network. This could be a private local area network (LAN) that is used to connect two or more computers in the same building, or it could be public network like the internet. Many users will connect to both a private LAN and the internet. The main purpose of a firewall is to prevent unauthorised and unwanted people on the network or the internet from accessing your computer while allowing authorised people to access it.

Your computer will contain many files that you will want to keep private and these might include letters that you have written, emails that you have sent or received, financial information like bank and credit card details in accounts programs, family photos, music and software you have purchased, and so on. Without any protection, a computer that is connected to a LAN or the internet could be accessed by anyone with sufficient technical knowledge (sometimes called a hacker), and they could steal the files and information on your computer. If they managed to access your bank details, for example, they might then be able to access your bank account through the internet and transfer all the money to their own account, buy goods for themselves with your money, or log on to websites using your identity.

If you use the internet or a LAN without a firewall you are putting your computer and the files it contains at risk. However, just as you lock your house when you leave home in case there are burglars in the area, you should make your PC secure when you use the internet or LAN in case there are hackers snooping around. You might get away with no firewall for a while, but eventually you will discover that your computer's security has been compromised.

It is important to understand what a firewall is, what it does, and what it does not do. For example, a firewall does not prevent viruses or spyware (generally called malware) from being installed on your computer. Malwareis often transmitted as an attachment to an email message and it will pass straight through the PC's firewall. This is because the email server is authorised to connect to your computer. If it were blocked, you would not be able to send or receive email messages. A firewall does not stop you downloading software from the internet and then running it and it does not check that the files you download are safe. However, a firewall will block certain functions of malware, for example, spyware will not be able to send out any of the information it collects about you because the firewall prevents outsiders from accessing your computer and software on your computer from communicating with others unless you specifically authorise it.

In and out

A firewall can block unauthorised incoming connections, that is someone on the network or internet trying to access your computer, and it can block outgoing connections, which are created by programs on your computer trying to communicate with another person or computer on the network or internet.

The firewall in Windows Vista blocks incoming connections by default, but it does not block outgoing connections unless you specifically configure it to do this. This means that people on the network and internet cannot access the contents of your computer, but programs that are already installed can send out information and request information. By default, you are not protected from spyware sending out personal details about you.

Part 1, go to next page


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