Personal Firewalls and Virus Scanners for Protecting Your Computer

With the advent of the internet, millions of computers all over the world are now linked together and communicate with each other. This communication manifests itself in different ways: visiting websites, connecting computers remotely either through a virtual private network, through file transfer protocol software, the exchanging of files through email, among others.

But with this new level of communication new dangers have also cropped up in the form of computer viruses, trojans, hacker attacks as well as other malicious software.

Fortunately, computers do not need to be exposed to these dangers. Protection from these malicious elements can come from virus scanners and personal firewalls that help protect a computer from being infected or accessed illegally.

Personal Firewalls

Personal firewalls, like its namesake, segregates a computer from the internet through a virtual wall that inspects each data packet that reaches the firewall either outbound or inbound from a computer. The inspection of the packet of data is done to find out if it should be able to pass the firewall or not.

Firewalls come in two types, software or hardware. Software firewalls are applications that you install in a PC in order to perform its functions. A good example would be ZoneAlarm. 

There are also hardware firewalls that are usually incorporated in routers. Hardware firewalls use packet filtering, a technique wherein the headers of a packet are examined in order to find out the source and destination addresses. Hardware firewalls offer a strong level of protection from outside attacks. And since it is located in the router, it can protect all of the computers attached to the network.

You will need to use a personal firewall if:

Your computer needs to be remotely accessed through the internet
You use an internet server
You use an internet-based remote access program
You want to protect yourself from malicious software like NetBus or Back Orifice.

Virus Scanners

Virus scanners are software whose functions are to identify and eliminate various computer viruses and other malicious software. A virus scanner can either eliminate the offensive piece of code (the virus or malware) or, if it cannot successfully remove it, quarantine it in a safe area where it cannot be opened. 

Virus scanners not only look for computer viruses in computer files like datasheets or word processing documents, it also tries to protect the integrity of the whole computer system by checking for malicious code in areas like file and system sectors as well as the boot sector.

In order for a virus scanner to work at its utmost efficiency, the software needs to be updated regularly with new virus definition files, which helps the virus scanner identify new computer viruses and malware that are released into the wild. An inability to update the virus definition files would make the virus scanner unable to address new threats to your computer.

There are also two new ways of detecting viruses, these are the heuristic analysis and the sandbox. These new virus analysis methods are attempts to make virus scanners more responsive to new threats to your computer.