A firewall is a piece of software or hardware that sits between your computer and the internet and acts as the gatekeeper for all incoming and outgoing traffic.

Firewalls can keep hackers out of your device and inhibit the activities of malware and viruses.

A correctly configured firewall will prompt you when it detects an unauthorised computer or program trying to access your computer or when a software program is installed on your computer tries to make an unauthorised outside connection.

Types of firewalls

  • Hardware (network) firewall
    • built into broadband routers
    • effective with little or no configuration
    • protects your local network from unauthorised external access.
  • Software (application) firewall
    • installed on computers and devices
    • often part of the operating system
    • offers more specific protection
    • limits how applications on the device can communicate and be communicated with
    • recommended for all devices.

Both hardware firewalls and software firewalls have user settings which can be changed to create the best compromise between security and convenience. More stringent settings provide greater security, but may interfere with some applications, for example online games, email or VoIP. 

For more information and guidance on firewall settings, search the internet or the website of your operating system provider.