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A firewall helps keep hackers from using your computer to send out your personal information without your permission. While anti-virus software scans incoming email and files, a firewall is like a guard, watching for outside attempts to access your system and blocking communications to and from sources you don't permit.

It restricts information that comes to your computer from other computers, giving you more control over the data on your computer and providing a line of defense against people or programs (including viruses and worms) that try to connect to your computer without invitation. You can think of a firewall as a barrier that checks information (often called traffic) coming from the Internet or a network and then either turns it away or allows it to pass through to your computer, depending on your firewall settings.

Firewall programs can be quite annoying for the first few days of use. Any program on your computer that tries to access the Internet will be stopped by the firewall until you either approve it or disapprove it. Most programs today will at one time or another access the Web to look for updates for itself. After a bit of time, these interruptions do not occur nearly as often. As a tip, if you are warned that a program is trying to access the Web and you are not sure what the program is, you can Google the name of the file that is in question. Chances are very good that there is a website out there that will tell you what it is and if it can be considered safe.

Don't Let Your Computer Become Part of a "BotNet"

Some spammers search the internet for unprotected computers they can control and use anonymously to send spam, turning them into a robot network, known as a "botnet." Also known as a "zombie army," a botnet is made up of many thousands of home computers sending emails by the millions. Most spam is sent remotely this way; millions of home computers are part of botnets.Spammers scan the internet to find computers that aren't protected by security software, and then install bad software known as "malware" – through those "open doors." That's one reason why up-to-date security software is critical.

Malware may be hidden in free software applications. It can be appealing to download free software like games, file-sharing programs, customized toolbars, and the like. But sometimes just visiting a website or downloading files may cause a "drive-by download," which could turn your computer into a "bot."

Another way spammers take over your computer is by sending you an email with attachments, links or images which, if you click on or open them, install hidden software. Be cautious about opening any attachments or downloading files from emails you receive. Don't open an email attachment even if it looks like it's from a friend or coworker unless you are expecting it or know what it contains. If you send an email with an attached file, include a text message explaining what it is.

What is a firewall?
  • A firewall is software or hardware that checks information coming from the Internet or a network, and then either blocks it or allows it to pass through to your computer, depending on your firewall settings. 

Why do I need a firewall? 

  • A firewall can help prevent hackers or malicious software (such as worms) from gaining access to your computer through a network or the Internet. A firewall can also help stop your computer from sending malicious software to other computers.
  • Even if you think there is nothing on your computer that would interest anyone, a worm could completely disable your computer, or someone could use your computer to help spread worms or viruses to other computers without your knowledge.

What are the recommended settings for Windows Firewall?

We recommend the default firewall settings: 

  • The firewall is on.
  • The firewall is on for all network locations (Home or work, Public place, or Domain).
  • The firewall is on for all network connections.
  • The firewall is blocking inbound connections that do not match an exception.
How can I be sure that Windows Firewall is on?

Windows Firewall is on by default in this version of Windows. To make sure it has not been turned off, follow these steps:
  • Open Windows Firewall by clicking the Start clicking Control Panel, clicking Security, and then clicking Windows Firewall.
  • Click Turn Windows Firewall on or off. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  • Click On (recommended), and then click OK.
What are some of the things that a firewall can't prevent?

Email viruses
  • Email viruses are attached to e‑mail messages. A firewall can't determine the contents of e‑mail, so it can't protect you from these types of viruses. You should use an antivirus program to scan and delete suspicious attachments from an e‑mail before you open it. Even when you have an antivirus program, you should not open an e‑mail attachment if you're not positive it's safe. For more information, see Avoiding e‑mail viruses.
Phishing scams
  • Phishing is a technique used to trick computer users into revealing personal or financial information, such as a bank account password. A common online phishing scam starts with an e‑mail message that appears to come from a trusted source but actually directs recipients to provide information to a fraudulent website. Firewalls can't determine the contents of e‑mail, so they can't protect you from this type of attack. For more information, see Phishing Filter: frequently asked questions.
Can I use more than one firewall on my computer?

Yes, but running more than one firewall program at the same time could cause conflicts. It's best to just use one firewall program.

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