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Common Myths About Firewalls

How many times have you heard someone say, “I run Linux, I don’t need a firewall!”? Perhaps more importantly, how many times have you ever heard a Windows user say that? The world of security has grow a little too complex for its own good - and we are going to get down and dirty in figuring out what is fact and what is fiction. It’s time to put five of the top firewall myths to the test!

#1 - Free Firewalls are Rubbish
A private company from New Jersey put out a killer firewall named Comodo in the late 1990’s, and has since gained the support of internet users around the world. This firewall has been compared to paid versions of McAfee and Symantec software and actually comes out in the lead in most categories. The best part is you can save up to $80 each year for the equivalent software you would pay for, that Comodo gallantly provides absolutely free.

This myth is utterly defeated considering Comodo runs faster, catches more malware, stealth ports your entire system, and even looks better than the competition. What can’t it do? Well, it can’t exactly make toast. But neither can Symantec or McAfee - and we’re pretty sure we would rather have the free alternative.

#2 – I Run Linux, I Don’t Need a Firewall
Linux does indeed have great access to security features built into the operating system, but it does still have its flaws. It is not uncommon to see a Linux fan-boy boasting that he has never used a firewall for antivirus. In fact, it is a lot more common than we would like to hear about.

The truth is that Linux users can indeed modify their Linux installation to act as a firewall, but some things are better left to the professionals. Ask that Linux fan-boy if he can use stealth-porting to hide his entire computer from a hacker, and still have full connectivity to the internet. Or maybe ask him if he can instantly block programs that are requesting to the internet based on their behavior, and not based on simple port blocking.

Sure, Linux users can boast that an antivirus generally is not needed, but there is still a dire need to control outbound and inbound access to a computer. The first time you accidentally install a malicious program that opens up your system’s ports, you’re a goner. And you have no one to blame but yourself.

#3 – I Have a Firewall, I Don’t Need an Antivirus or Anti-Spyware Kit
This myth is actually true in some cases. A lot of companies are switching to selling a suite of tools, not just one. This makes it easier to price and sell security tools to the customer, not to mention makes it easier for customers to buy what they need all at once.

This practice isn’t followed by everyone, however. Most notable is Kaspersky, who tends to stick to selling just a single firewall. The funny part is that Kaspersky sells its single firewall for a greater price than suites provided by McAfee or Symantec, on average. This is a good solution for people who just want the firewall. We’re looking at you, Linux users.

#4 – Hardware Firewalls Are More Secure Than Software Firewalls
Ok, this myth can be true most of the time. You may have noticed that hardware firewalls will cost you a bigger bag of gold than the average software firewall. Of course, it just depends on how far you want to go. Software security products from Kerio, for instance, can easily run over $500 in price.

But the real decider in this myth is the operating system. If a technician knows a good deal about security, the operating itself can be hardened to act much like a firewall would. In general, however, the common hardware firewall will indeed be more secure than the common software firewall.

And last but not least…

#5 – I Have a Firewall, I’m Secure
This is incredibly wrong, but not for the reason you are probably thinking of. Yes, firewalls are only as good as those who configure them. But there is something more that many people don’t take into consideration. The ultimate downfall to the firewall is that it won’t be able to guard against human error.

That’s right - your network isn’t secure because you use it. Take for example social engineering. Social engineering is the fine art of getting confidential information out of your employees or peers by building trust. For instance, one may dress up as a janitor to gain access to the server room that is locked up tight. It sounds farfetched, but it does indeed happen more often than you would think. And don’t forget dumpster diving! Corporate entities that don’t shred their data correctly may be made vulnerable by any simple homeless person from the streets.

And lastly, your network isn’t secure because it is used by other people. Firewalls can’t protect against an attack originating from inside the network - that job is left up to you and other network programs.

Closing Comments
Five common myths about firewalls, and we only managed to poke fun at Windows users (and technically Linux users, too) just twice. All jokes aside, it is important to keep these myths in mind when buying or setting up your next firewall.

And after everything is installed and configured keep in mind that the only truly secure system is the one turned off, buried in a block of cement, and guarded by armed guards. And if you haven’t noticed, pessimists make the best network security experts by far.

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