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What are firewalls and who needs them?

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Firewalls (see Disclaimer Notice)

A firewall is a program that monitors information being transferred around a network. The network could be a home or company network or it could be the Internet. If you get infected and the virus program wants to access the Internet the firewall will alert you and ask if you want it to allow it to or not. You can stop it, permanently, from accessing the Internet. Anyone trying to gain access to your computer (easier now with Broadband always on) will also be stopped from getting in by the firewall.

Windows XP has a firewall built in but it is very basic and only checks data coming into the computer. To check requests going out you will need to get a better one and install it. A good free firewall is Zonealarm although the Pro version (with extra functionality) can be purchased.

If you have a Broadband router then you may already have a firewall built into that but again it usually only blocks unsolicited data coming in.
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