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A firewall is the guardian at the internet's gate to your home network and/or computer. Its job is to make your computer as inconspicuous as possible to others on the Internet and to plug every unused opening to your computer in order to reduce the chances of someone electronically sneaking in unaware.

Typically, a firewall is a part of a separate computer component called a router that sits between your personal computer and the modem connecting your personal computer to the Internet. The router supplies additional network connections off of the single connection coming from your network provider, and the firewall guards the network channels that those connections carry.

Installing a firewall is easy; connect the network cable from your cable or DSL modem to the port marked ‘WAN’ and connect the network cables from your home computers into any of the ports marked ‘LAN’ on the unit. Configuring a firewall can be a bit of a task, but as a minimum, check that remote administration of your firewall is disabled and change the administrator userid and password.

As an option, you may install and configure firewall software on your personal computer without the external network component; however, if you have more than one computer on your home network, it is easier to control one point of entry to your home network at the firewall rather than each firewall application on all of your home computers.

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