During my years working with businesses here in Traverse City and throughout Northern Michigan, I’ve needed to turn off the built-in firewall in Windows, dozens, if not hundreds of times. In the past, this practice was often commonplace, today it's a severe security risk.
Windows Firewall is a security feature in the Microsoft Windows operating system that places a virtual barrier between your computer and the network it is attached to. So, if your computer is on a new or strange network, the network computers and devices will not be able to communicate with your computer in ways that the firewall doesn’t allow.
It is not uncommon for programs to require your computer to communicate in ways that the Windows Firewall will block. The blocking of this communication will stop the program from working. Often the companies who write software will go straight to turning off the firewall to fix these problems.
Turning off the firewall is a lazy, or less technical, way of fixing software issues. The Windows Firewall can create special firewall rules for software that requires special communications. But, creating these rules can be complicated and confusing.
Your computer has several applications running on it that are potential security threats. These programs will ‘listen’ to the network, and if communicated with, will respond. This means that other network computers and devices can directly talk with your computer. The firewall is designed to ‘silence’ the communication between the network devices and your computer. Depending upon the situation, your computer may be completely silent to any communications that come from the network.
The programs that are running are often not ‘secure’. This means that they may have old or outdated software with vulnerabilities. Or they may function in such a way that if compromised can affect your entire computer, thus threatening everything on your computer.
The firewall is the last line of defense against threats to your computer. Even antivirus will not stop a threat if a firewall port is open and the threat agent is able to communicate with it.
What and where are the threats to my computer if I turn the firewall off?
The most dangerous place for your computer is public wireless (WIFI) networks. Coffee shops, stores, bars, libraries, are all places where you are at severe risk. This is due to the shared nature of the connection. You are sharing the connection with everyone who is using the wireless.
You should also be concerned if you are using WIFI at other businesses. Including clients and vendors. You are opening your computer to any other device that is on the network you are attached.
If you believe you may have disabled or were forced to disable your firewall you should enable it as soon as possible. If you find that enabling your firewall breaks things on your computer you need to work with your software vendor, and IT expert to create special firewall rules that will allow your software to work correctly.
Hey, guess what! ACS is hosting a free seminar and you are invited. Join us on October 10 at the TC Chamber for “20 TECH TACTICS TO SECURE YOUR BUSINESS.”
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