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A firewall protects your computer or a local area network( LAN )from external intrusions. It may be a hardware device or a software program running on a secure host computer. In either case, it must have at least two network interfaces, one for the network it is intended to protect, and one for the network it is exposed to. More than one type of firewall can be used to provide extra network security. A firewall can also screen internal traffic on a network, separating different departments or branches of a large company. In some cases, a business will configure a proxy server to block employee access to certain types of Internet content, such as streaming audio or video.

A firewall examines all traffic routed between the two networks to see if it meets certain criteria. If it does, it is routed between the networks, otherwise it is stopped. A firewall filters both inbound and outbound traffic. It can also manage public access to private networked resources such as host applications. It can be used to log all attempts to enter the private network and trigger alarms when hostile or unauthorized entry is attempted.

Firewalls can filter packets based on their source and destination addresses and port numbers. This is known as address filtering. Firewalls can also filter specific types of network traffic. This is also known as protocol filtering because the decision to forward or reject traffic is dependent upon the protocol used, for example HTTP, ftp or telnet. Firewalls can also filter traffic by packet attribute or state. If your home or business computer uses DSL, a cable modem, or some other type of always-on Internet connection, a firewall is extremely important.

There are two access denial methodologies used by firewalls. A firewall may allow all traffic through unless it meets certain criteria, or it may deny all traffic unless it meets certain criteria . The type of criteria used to determine whether traffic should be allowed through varies from one type of firewall to another. Firewalls may be concerned with the type of traffic, or with source or destination addresses and ports. They may also use complex rule bases that analyse the application data to determine if the traffic should be allowed through. How a firewall determines what traffic to let through depends on which network layer it operates at.

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