Understanding Firewalls for Gaming and Other Computers

March 23, 2022

For many computer users, including regular gamers, protecting both their computer and the network it operates on is a very important task. There are a few tools you may use for this purpose, and one of the most well-known, often used in conjunction with anti-virus and anti-malware software, is known as a firewall.

At Xidax, we’re proud to not only offer a huge range of gaming laptops and desktops, but also to offer assistance with protecting your machine and network at all times. What exactly is a firewall, what are the types available, and what are some important features you should be prioritizing in any firewall product you’re considering for your machine? Here’s a general primer.

Firewall Basics and History

Generally speaking, a firewall is a program that analyzes all incoming traffic to a given network or machine, using predefined rules for this analysis that allow it to filter traffic. Any incoming traffic that’s unknown or otherwise suspicious will be blocked from entering your machine, which helps keep it safe from malware and other threats.

Firewalls can be either external or internal to a given network. An internal firewall is installed on the network’s router instead of at each individual computer, while an external firewall is installed at the machine level. External firewalls are often considered more effective for this reason.

Firewalls first were established in the late 1980s in the form of “packet filter firewalls” that involved error messages to clients. By 1990, circuit-level firewalls had been created; just a few years later, Internet Engineering Task Force-approved firewalls, which are still in use today, made their debut.

Types of Firewalls and Their Uses

Broadly speaking, there are four types of firewall available on today’s computer market:

  • Next-Generation firewall (NGFW): One of the most comprehensive firewall types is the NGFW, which is a packet-based firewall that not only monitors incoming traffic but also filters outgoing traffic from the computer. This firewall comes with functionality that includes intrusion protection, traffic inspection, anti-malware and even DPI, which allows users to block malicious packets individually by inspecting their content.
  • Firewall proxy: Also called a proxy firewall, this format protects software and software users by filtering traffic at the application level. One system must make a request to another to get information; this means that proxy firewalls protect programs instead of computers. Proxy firewalls are often implemented in corporate networks, which is where the term “proxy server” comes into play.
  • Network Address Translation (NAT): These firewalls allow multiple devices with different network addresses to share the same IP address. This method’s primary goal is to conserve IP addresses by sharing a single address among multiple devices, which also helps to reduce the number of attacks that can occur from outside a network.
  • SMLI firewall: This is another application-layer firewall, one that enforces policies on network traffic by comparing new packets to ones that have already been permitted or blocked. SMLI firewalls are often used in conjunction with other types of firewalls because they don’t filter traffic themselves, instead of allowing other configurations to handle that task.

Firewall Features to Prioritize

If you’re considering various firewall options for your device or network, there are a few major features you might be prioritizing. These include:

  • Work with existing security systems: Whether you need a firewall for a single device or for a large network, it should be compatible with any existing security systems you’re using. If a firewall isn’t compatible with the current network infrastructure, it’s not going to be very effective. The firewall should be able to provide monitoring and management of any network, even a complex one, on a single interface that makes sense.
  • Automated security updates: New threats are always emerging, so any firewall you choose should be able to update automatically without requiring any input from the user. This is important for protecting against malware and other types of security risks.
  • Ease-of-use: Security shouldn’t stand in the way of productivity, so whatever firewall you choose should be easy to use. This means that installation, configuration, and administration of the firewall should all be fast processes that don’t take up too much time or effort on your part.
  • Blocking all potential dangers: There are a variety of dangers out there to computers and networks, from password-sniffing to denial-of-service attacks, and a firewall should be able to block all of them. With the growing frequency of cyberattacks, it’s vital to have a strong defense against these types of threats.
  • Handling various applications: Varying computer applications come with their own sets of rules and regulations when it comes to how content should be transferred. It’s important for a firewall to handle whatever types of applications you’re using, no matter if they’re standard or custom-made. Firewalls need to be able to determine which applications require higher priority and more security.
  • Work in conjunction with antivirus software: If you want the most comprehensive security possible for your computer, both an AV and a firewall can help protect against attacks and risks. These two types of security work well in conjunction, and shouldn’t be seen as competing against each other.
  • Can run cloud-based software/services: With the recent rise of cloud-based services, people are looking for security solutions that can work in tandem with the cloud. This is done by implementing a firewall that’s compatible with cloud-based software and services so your network doesn’t have to handle all of the security on its own.
  • Scalable: Finally, your firewall of choice should be scalable so that it can adjust to the growing size and/or complexity of your network. No matter if you need to protect a single computer or an expansive network, the security provided by the firewall should be able to grow with your device or system.

For more on firewalls for your computer or network, or to learn about any of our gaming computers or workstations, speak to the pros at Xidax today.

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