On many occasions when installing a program in Windows that later tries to connect to the Internet, we will have seen a message from the Microsoft firewall. In it we are informed that said software is trying to connect to the Internet, giving us the option to allow or deny connection. It is something very common, already introduced in our digital day to day.
Now suppose that for some reason (connection problems with an online game, for example) we decide to disable the Windows firewall. What risks are we exposing ourselves to? Is it a wise decision for our computer security? Is it really worth sacrificing it in favor of our online life?
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What is a firewall and what is it for?
A firewall is as critical to security as antivirus. These programs (also known as “firewalls”) are responsible for preventing malware from spreading through a network, and defend it against attackers who try to enter the system. In user environments, especially those using Windows, what can happen is that the user’s computer is completely unprotected when browsing the Internet.
exist two types of firewalls: physical and logical. Logical firewalls are computer programs, like any other that you could install in an operating system. An example would be Windows’ own firewall, or Comodo Firewall. When one of these programs is installed, the usual thing is that when you open a program that needs an Internet connection (for example, Spotify, Steam or a video game) it asks you if it should be allowed.
In addition to operating your software at that level, you can set different standards so that the program knows how to act if it accepts a connection (for example, from Spotify to its servers), rejects a connection (if someone tries to connect to your computer through the Internet) or does not respond to a Connection.
By contrast, in the case of physical firewallsWe are referring to independent devices (such as those from Cisco) or integrated into a router. These firewalls work in a similar way to the logical type, only they are more common in corporate environments than in homes.
This is what happens when you disable the Windows firewall
If we disable the Windows firewall, what we should really ask ourselves is in what position is our security. Nothing has to happen, but if we leave the front doors of our computer open, we are more susceptible to being infected with malware from the Internet.
Among this malware, there could be keyloggers that read the keystrokes we make on the keyboard or remote access tools such as those stolen from the NSA. With these tools you can control a computer without having physical access to it, something that we already discussed in our article about hacking the Facebook of a partner or lover.
Firewalls aren’t just about allowing and blocking incoming and outgoing connections. They can also open and close ports so that certain programs that need to connect to the Internet can function properly. If we have the Windows firewall disabled, what we do is show all ports as “open”. Through the firewall we manage to control which of them we are going to allow connection requests to “listen” and which not.
This should sound familiar to you P2P program settings, such as any client on the bittorrent network. These ports are configured, especially, in the router’s firewall, although you can also do it with the Windows one.
If you are ever forced to perform an administrative task that requires you to disable the firewall, consider disconnect the PC from the Internet while you carry it out. Prevention is better than cure, and in this way you eliminate the possibility that your computer can become infected by leaving the doors wide open.
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