Differences Between Hardware & Software Firewalls

According to a recent survey by NCSA Cyber Security, more than 40% of Americans don’t know what firewalls are, and whether or not their PC is firewall enabled. This guide will help you understand the necessity of a firewall and how to choose the right one for your needs.

What is a Firewall? And do I need it?

If you’re an internet user, you’re constantly under the risk of some hacker accessing personal or financial data on your PC. When your PC is connected to the web, it continuously sends and receives information in small units called packets. A firewall acts as the first line of defense between your computer and the cyberspace. A firewall stops unauthorized access to your computer by filtering these packets to check if they meet a particular set of rules, thereby allowing or blocking data. This prevents unscrupulous hackers from stealing financial and personal data from your PC such as passwords and bank information. There are two types of firewall: hardware and software.

As the name suggests, the Hardware firewall is tangible and is usually purchased as a stand-alone product. It is a small, portable metal box installed with software that blocks unauthorized traffic, and has a minimum of four ports to connect to other computers. It is easy to install as you just plug into your computer like you would any other peripheral device like a printer or scanner, and configure a few settings. It is also less vulnerable to hackers because it is not on your PC. To ensure optimal protection, it is highly recommendable that you test your hardware firewall configurations. This can be done by using a firewall testing online service or purchase a third-party firewall test software.

On the other hand, the software firewall is highly customized and installed on your PC, like any other software. It allows some control over its protection features and depending on the type of software firewall, can protect against a myriad of common e-mail worms and Trojan programs. It is advisable to use a software firewall that runs in the background and uses the minimum amount of system resources. It is also recommendable to install and download updates of the software firewall from the developer.
So, which firewall is best for me?

A hardware firewall is best suited for businesses and large organizations, with more than 6 PCs because it is more cost effective than buying multiple licenses of the software firewall and installing them individually on each PC in the network. For home use, the software firewall is ideal because it is easy to install and customize even for a computer novice. Additionally, some software firewalls give the option of parental control, and one can limit and manage the websites accessible to their children, including specific text and photos.

For maximum protection, the ideal internet security option would be a combination of both software and hardware firewalls as they can run complimentary functions and give you greater protection in your personal computer or in any other gadget.