Routers – Hardware Firewalls Vs Software Firewalls Part 2 Hardware

Hardware Firewall

A firewall is a part of a computer system or network that is designed to block unauthorized access while permitting authorized communications. It is a device or set of devices which is configured to permit or deny computer based application upon a set of rules and other criteria.

Firewalls can be implemented in either hardware or software, or a combination of both. Firewalls are frequently used to prevent unauthorized Internet users from accessing private networks connected to the Internet, especially intranets. All messages entering or leaving the intranet pass through the firewall, which examines each message and blocks those that do not meet the specified security criteria.

The first two paragraphs are kind of a definition of what a hardware firewall is.  I got this directly from the Wikipedia article.   This reference is a great start to understanding some of the concepts that are beyond this blog post.

Typical Firewall Setup

In the above picture we see a hardware device that sits between your computer and your internet. The normal flow of data is represented below.  This is a from your computer out to the internet and back again.

Normal Traffic

In the case of a hardware router, your computer should in normal circumstances never see things from the internet that were not asked for by the computer.  In the case of a hardware device like a router, the data sent to your computer from the outside is discarded.  It is discarded simply because it did not start with your computer.  This is where the power of the hardware firewall is invaluable.

Evil Bad Guy Traffic

The hardware firewall effectively gives your computer a line of defense that is difficult to bypass (Not Impossible).  This hardware device places your computer in a “non route-able IP range.”  This is why the packets are discarded.  The computer does not know about anything on the internet except for your router.  The router is your guide to the internet, it protects you on your journey and keeps you from falling into places in the dark.

Because your device is electronic, it is more difficult to bypass using software.  The isolation that is provided by the device is the very condition we are looking for.  The very nature of the hardware is why my preference is to use hardware over software as a firewall choice.

In a prior article I recommended that a software firewall could be compromised and allow a person to gain access to your computer.  This is not a simple process but it is not impossible.  That is why when ever possible I recommend the use of both types of firewall be up and functioning.  A hardware firewall will protect you from the people around the world, but if there is a computer with a virus or a Trojan on it, then the threat is already inside with you.  That is why it is important to run the software firewall as well.

Travel Concerns

When I travel I will also carry a hardware firewall with me.  Many of the new devices have portable versions that are much more compact than the home based version.  I realize that you can’t always travel with one but if you have the room to pack it, it will give you a much improved level of security.  Hotel WiFi and Ethernet connections are a dangerous place.  If you have the ability to put your router between you and the rest of the hotel you are in a much safer condition.  There are times the hotel will not even have a hookup or that you have to log in to the connection then put your router up, but the additional safety is worth the little bit of hassle.

Summary

It is my personal opinion that a hardware firewall is a necessary choice.  With the cost of a wireless router starting in the $40 range, it is not difficult to justify the expenditure.  That being said, the hardware combined with the software firewall built in on a computer is the best way of staying protected.  The world is an unsafe place, do you want to be there without your best armor on?

Happy Surfing (and hopefully safer too)!!!

7 Comments to “Routers – Hardware Firewalls Vs Software Firewalls Part 2 Hardware”

  1. By Dell Gutschein, March 21, 2010 @ 3:46 PM

    Really well article but I doesn’t see a source?

  2. By Sergio Scripps, March 21, 2010 @ 6:39 PM

    I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post.

  3. By AnthonyGartner, March 24, 2010 @ 7:08 AM

    I will tell you, there is no source cited for one reason. I did this post entirely on my own experiences and beliefs. The only reference I used was the hardware definition for the firewall from Wikipedia which i did link back to. Hope that helps and thanks for looking at my site
    Anthony

  4. By Wes Telman, March 31, 2010 @ 3:01 AM

    interesting take on the subject, count me as a new subscriber!

  5. By Freddy Wedgeworth, March 31, 2010 @ 10:53 AM

    I love your take on this, could not agree more.

  6. By AnthonyGartner, March 31, 2010 @ 2:19 PM

    Thank You very much, glad you enjoyed it
    Anthony

  7. By AnthonyGartner, March 31, 2010 @ 2:19 PM

    I call them like i see them. the post’s are based on experience not on corporate policies