Unfortunately, when you use the Internet there are dangers around every corner. Viruses, worms, malicious users, Trojan horses, key loggers, hackers, and a host of others are out to do you harm.

That’s where your Firewall comes in.  Basically, a firewall is a barrier to keep destructive forces away from your computer.  A firewall is simply a program or hardware device that filters the information coming through your Internet connection into your private computer system.

It also lets you know if a hacker is testing the ports (doors) on your PC to see if he can gain easy entry. If any of those ports are unprotected, that hacker is in – just like that!

A common misconception is that firewalls are only for people with cable or other high-speed connections.

Even if you use a dial up connection to get online, a firewall can help you detect and prevent people from logging on to your computer, stealing files  or even using your computer to break into others!

Special spyware programs called key loggers placed on your computer by hackers sit in the background unnoticed and record everything you type including passwords, credit card numbers etc. This information can be stored locally or silently sent out by e-mail, all without your knowledge.

If information like this is gathered from your PC by unsavory characters, you can quickly become a victim of Identity Theft.  Hackers can then use your identity for any purpose they choose!

Don’t let hackers into your PC, which is just like having unlocked doors to your house. Open, unprotected ports make every file, account number, password stored on your PC accessible to the hacker community at large!

There’s a really neat utility that I like from SecuritySpace, and it gives me that sense of safety I crave (especially after being “attacked” once).  SecuritySpace’s audits test for more that 14,000 (and growing weekly!) vulnerabilities, and is easy to use with nothing to download or install.  It has a very inexpensive annual fee, but you can run unlimited audits in that time.

Windows has a default Firewall program.  It’s OK, but not great.  If you are looking to upgrade to a better Firewall program, I recommend Zone Alarm Pro from Zone Labs.  It’s really easy to use (one of my criteria!), and has a great triple defense firewall.

Let’s just make sure you have your Windows Firewall turned on.

Step 1:
Click Start » Control Panel

Step 2:
Find the Security Center tab, and double click it.

Step 3:
Once you open the Security Center, you will see the Firewall, Automatic Updates and Virus Protection.  If they all say “On”, you’re done!  If not, proceed to step 4.

Step 4:

In order to turn on the Firewall, click Windows Firewall under Manage Security Settings (as circled below).

Step 5:

Go to the tab labeled General, and click On (recommended).  That’s really all you have to do. If you are using an Internet connection in a public area, you should also choose Don’t allow exceptions.  Otherwise, you really don’t need to click it.

Step 6:
Click OK, and you’re done!