Have you ever been on the Internet at work and run into a message declaring that you cannot access a site due to your firewall? What exactly is that firewall? And how is it ultimately helping you?

Firewalls, in a nutshell, are barriers designed to protect your computer from being accessed by other computers or systems that could cause your computer harm. Just as a physical firewall is built to keep fires from spreading from one area to another, a firewall helps prevent dangerous material from spreading from the Internet to your computer. A proper firewall allows your computer to access the vast amounts of good and helpful information available on the Internet while keeping it safe from any dangerous material embedded into websites or from any malicious hacker attack.

Your firewall is located at the gateway or junction point between your private network (your computer or your company’s network) and a public network (the Internet). Firewalls can be located on a secure host computer or installed through a software program. Firewalls are established with certain standards and criteria and are tasked with examining all traffic between the two networks to make sure that the material being transmitted meets those standards.

When the firewall senses that material does not meet its standards, it blocks that material from getting through. Depending on your firewall, you may receive a notice when your firewall has been activated and you may be given a choice in whether or not you want to proceed. Firewalls will also keep track of any attempts to access your private network from hostile or unauthorized users.

Firewalls are an important precaution for anyone who has a private network connected to a public one. Anyone who connects a computer to the Internet, whether through broadband or wireless, is vulnerable to malicious attacks and pranksters. Firewalls help protect your equipment, your network, your company, and your personal security.