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Firewall security software is one type of computer program that aims to protect a computer from computer viruses. A firewall monitors traffic coming into an operating system and helps stop harmful programs that attempt to gain access to the computer user's personal information or hinder the computer user's use of that computer. Typically, computers will not only have a firewall, but antivirus and antispyware software as well. Firewall security software can be purchased separately, though today, most operating systems have firewalls built in.
The firewall is usually located at the entry point of a network or individual computer. When Internet traffic accesses a computer, firewall security software is the first thing that receives it, and it is the last to handle outgoing traffic. When a user starts an Internet-related program, such as an online computer game, the computer connects to another website and sends information about the user’s computer system. Before accessing the computer, however, the data has to pass through the firewall. If the user has set the firewall to allow transfers of data to this site, the data will be processed through.
One way security software protects the computer is through monitoring traffic packets. A packet is a small quantity of Internet data. It can include emails, file downloads, and cookies. Usually, the packets are sent in many batches and contain the information, request or command from the originating system. Packets also posses the source Internet Protocol (IP) address, the destination and the code by which the packet is to be handled.
Firewall security software can also help stop malware, like a trojan, or spyware from taking over a user’s Internet connection and sending out private information. Trojan horses are especially malicious, because they mask their functions and can go undetected by some security programs. Spyware secretly surveys a user’s online activity, collects and sends out information like visited websites, and can slow the computer's speed. Advanced forms of security software can monitor system files for changes and notify the user when any unauthorized operation takes place.
There are a few common problems that may result from using firewall security software. The programs may serve to block threats, but they may also sometimes block an Internet connection the user actually wants to make. Some websites may have their access restricted because they have been wrongly diagnosed, and sometimes users may experience trouble accessing email attachments. People trying to play games over a network often come across difficulties configuring the firewall so that it permits the game to function. Before attempting to adjust or disable the security software, however, it is recommended that users disconnect from the Internet to prevent harmful programs from getting in.