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A firewall is designed to prevent and filter unauthorized access to/from a private network over the internet based on security policy. A firewall can be implemented as either a hardware or software solution, or a combination of both.

Firewalls are generally installed as part of the network infrastructure to protect access to/from the organization's private network over the Internet. Firewalls can also be installed at the end user level to protect a single personal computer or a home network. Software firewalls designed for a single computer are generally called personal firewalls. Hardware-based firewalls can also be deployed at the end user level to protect a single computer or home network.

If a teleworker connects to the internet, particularly via a high-speed connection, from a remote site (home or otherwise) they should have a firewall installed either on their computer or at their remote site.

Firewalls are the first line of defense from outside threats and are relatively inexpensive to purchase and easy to install. Hardware-based firewalls can be purchased and installed by the end user, or purchased, configured, and potentially even remotely installed and managed, by the organization's IT department, eliminating the need to install additional software on an end user's computer.

Firewall configuration can be a challenge, particularly for the end user, in terms of ensuring that security policies are met and access to necessary applications and resources is not inadvertently prevented. Teleworkers with limited computer or security experience may be uncomfortable handling the requests and alerts that personal firewall software presents to them. In general, without proper configuration and on-going management, a firewall can become ineffective.

Look for these features in a personal firewall product:

  • Port hiding or "stealth" mode
  • Incoming and outgoing protection
  • Automatic lockout
  • Connection notification
  • Clear configuration options

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This page was last updated on May 7, 2009