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Firewalls: You have probably heard a lot about firewalls if your spend much time on the internet. Perhaps you have wondered if they are of any real importance to individual PC users. The answer to that question is a qualified yes. I mean that a firewall can provide protection for any PC user who spends any time on the internet but it isn't critical if you use a dialup connection. If you have a high speed connection such as cable, you are a prime target for hackers.

The major difference between a dialup and most high speed internet connection is the type of IP address that is used. An IP address is the Internet Protocol address used to connect to the Internet Service Provider. With a dialup connection the IP address is dynamic. That is, it is different each time you dial into the internet. The IP address is assigned from a list of available addresses when you dial in. This means that it is difficult for a hacker to find your connection. It also means that even if a hacker finds you, he will lose you the minute you disconnect from the Internet. The next time you dial in your IP will be different. This provides some protection from hackers. I still recommend a firewall if you have any confidential information on your computer.

If you have a high speed internet connection you probably have a static IP. This address remains the same. To further complicate the situation, your computer is always connected to the Internet while it is running. This makes you a ripe target for hackers and once they have found you they can return again and again. They can simply observe all of your confidential information or they can manipulate it. In a worse case scenario, they can destroy or steal valuable information.

You can avoid this situation without great expense. There are many good, low price firewalls for individual computers. There are also some good firewalls available as freeware. You can simply download them and use them to protect yourself. One excellent free firewall product is called ZoneAlarm. It is readily available at the http://www.zonealarm.com web site. I have used this product and found it very effective. It not only protects you from hackers, it also protects you from applications on your computer that would connect automatically to the internet to download updates. Zone Alarm won't allow these applications to connect to the Internet unless you give them permission within the ZoneAlarm configuration page. The program is simply to download, install and use. Protect your computer and your valuable data with a firewall.

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