In the early days of the internet, people saw it solely as a tool to share information and very little thought was given as to how its openness might be exploited by the criminal or merely mischievous. As a result, very few computers, whether at home or in a corporate environment, included built-in security features. The entry points to the online network were protected by computer companies and this was felt to be sufficient protection for users. Since then of course we have learnt that these networks are not as secure against those intent on hacking into them to distribute viruses or launch cyber attacks, hence the need to install firewalls and anti-virus protection.
Appliance-based firewalls are those installed on a stand-alone appliance with several computer connections or built into a shared household router. When your computer is connected to internet via a local network, the firewall will filter all incoming and outgoing traffic, protecting you against cyber attacks and malicious software. It also makes sure that if malware is installed on your computer via the internet it is blocked from connecting back to the server it was sent from.
Unlike the firewall installed on a PC which acts to stop viruses connecting to your computer via its internet connection, anti-virus software protects it against viruses which are transmitted in emails, downloads, peer-to-peer transfers, plug-and-play appliances like MP3 players, flash drives and memory cards. Anti-virus software protects you against these dangers by running in the background, monitoring your computer for anything that looks suspicious.
Computer security is not just a question of firewalls and anti-virus software. You also need anti-malware software to protect your computer against spyware contained in cookies and websites attempting to attack it. You can now buy anti-virus and anti-spyware security solutions which are bundled together in one package. The best way to protect your computer is with a network router that has a built-in firewall together with an application-based firewall and then add anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
Dragon Blogger’s Note:
For free choices in spyware/anti-virus I personally use Microsoft Security Essentials combined with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware the two combined provide excellent protection at no cost for Windows operating systems.