Whether you’re a laptop or desktop owner, there are some cybersecurity essentials you need to keep your device protected. Here is a breakdown of two of the most important components—an antivirus tool and a firewall—including what each one does and some Safety Detective favorites.
What’s an Antivirus?
Antivirus programs use definition- or behavior-based methodologies to identify computer viruses—code pieces that are capable of self-propagating and spreading among host operating systems. Scanning for viruses is a fundamental part of running a secure computer, but it’s not a complete approach.
By the time a scan is initiated, a virus may have already damaged the system. Periodically scanning the file system does nothing to prevent viruses from downloading in the first place. While some internet security packages scan downloads before they are initiated, monitoring the network points that provide internet connectivity is the safest, easiest way to secure network traffic.
Thankfully, this is exactly what a firewall does.
What’s a Firewall?
A firewall regulates connections between devices on your local network, the LAN, and the outside world. When you browse the internet or use a VOIP program like Skype to make a call, your computer communicates with the Wide Area Network (WAN) by exchanging packets of information over designated ports; these differ according to the application type. These packets travel both from the outside network to the computers on the LAN during the downlink (such as when you’re downloading a file from the internet), and in the opposite direction during the uplink (such as when you’re uploading a video to YouTube).
Firewalls configure inbound and outbound network traffic and keep the settings as restrictive as possible while still maintaining the system’s function. Malicious files don’t make it onto the network from the outside world, and any programs like spyware or trojans are not leaking unauthorized information out. Firewalls can:
- Monitor packets being sent and received.
- Keep certain ports closed entirely.
Firewalls operate at all layers of the networking stack, including the packet, circuit, application, and proxy layers. Their protection is therefore extended to all devices connected to the local network, no matter what kind of configuration the system administrator has implemented.
Firewalls are a vital supplement to a basic antivirus package. They can prevent threats such as malware from making it onto the network in the first place. If any do get past it, antivirus programs can then scan the network devices and safely quarantine and delete anything that made it through undetected.
Great Security Products Have Both
Many cybersecurity programs include both antivirus scanners and firewall managers. It’s important to note that while Windows and MacOS both include firewall managers by default (Linux does not), third-party tools are still recommended. These expand the function of the default tools and make them substantially easier to use.
Norton has one of the industry’s most highly-rated antivirus engines as well as a dedicated firewall module in all products except Antivirus Basic. Its Smart Firewall uses built-in intelligence to automatically create rules based on the network conditions it detects. It does a great job at making firewall administrating quick and easy.
Panda offers antivirus and firewall protection in its entire product line, including Essential. It has a nice UI and comprehensive customer support options. The Program Control feature allows users to modify firewall settings on an individual program basis.
Bitdefender’s firewall manager has gone through some significant improvements. The tool automatically generates application rules when programs are installed and provides helpful explanations about its port protection. Users can also turn on the Paranoid Mode feature which provides alerts each time an application tries to connect to the internet.
Get Protected Today
There’s a long list of add-on security products consumers can buy, but an antivirus and firewall manager are the two essential cybersecurity programs that every computer should have.