| By Ryan Russell |
Your hardware firewall is your primary security defense, but today’s products are also differentiated by their performance and functionality as wireless access points.
I’ll be updating the Windows Secrets Security Baseline over my next few columns, and today I focus on your first line of defense: the hardware firewall.
Stop PC attacks in their tracks
The main purpose of your hardware firewall is to prevent attackers from being able to connect to your computer at all. If you were to reinstall a version of Windows older than XP SP2 from an unpatched installation CD and connect to the Internet without a hardware firewall, your computer could be compromised before you had a chance to download your first Windows patch.
All versions of Windows are at risk, because new attacks against the OS are being devised all the time. This is where a hardware firewall comes in.
Before making any connection to the Internet, install and activate this firewall, which is the first box your ISP connection plugs into on its way to your PC or home network. (The firewall nearly always doubles as your network router and wireless access point, or WAP.) Then download all your software patches before you open your browser or e-mail and venture onto the big, bad Internet.
A hardware firewall is a lifesaver if you have to disable your software firewall temporarily. Some malware is designed to disable software firewalls, which is one reason you need both a hardware firewall and a software version.