What Is the Role of a Firewall, and How Does It Secure a Network From Unsafe Traffic?

To understand firewalls, basic understanding of how networks function is requisite. Deep down, how do the packets of information that you send reach the intended receivers? How do the messages intended for you reach you safely? And how does it all function like clockwork? Let's understand the basics of firewalls and see how a firewall secures the traffic in and out of a network.

Consider this scenario for getting an understanding of how firewalls work. Say, you open up your browser to book a flight ticket for your upcoming vacation, and your computer is conveniently insecure without a firewall. Let's say you come across an intriguing email that gives an offer you can't refuse. You open the email and click a link, and bam! An unwanted piece of spyware is installed on your system. The spyware then proceeds to sit on your system tray, hidden from your eyes, tracking the keystrokes you make, reading the top-secret files you have, and looking for potentially rewarding information, such as your credit card number.

The spyware, once it obtains the necessary information, opens a tunnel to its creator, passing all the relevant information it receives - silently. You may realize that someone else has your bank passwords or your credit card number after you get your hands on the next statement, and by then it will all be too late.

The role of a firewall is to essentially block this kind of anonymous installations, tracking, and hacking attacks.

The firewall protects your computer from hackers, malware, and viruses. It allows only the benign traffic to pass through, protecting the important data you have on your computer.

So, how does a firewall work? How tangible is it really is? For a home computer, a firewall can be as intangible as any regular software application. It resides on your hard drive and runs on your RAM, providing real-time protection. However, there are also hardware firewalls.

Hardware firewalls come packed in broadband routers similar to the one you use at your home. Hardware firewalls are generally used by businesses and are effective out of the box. They are used to protect the entire range of machines in a network. Software firewalls on the other hand are mostly intended for individual and home users who do not have a large network to protect.

Unified Threat Management

Unified threat management (UTM) is a new paradigm in enterprise security that includes all products required for the security of a network-intrusion prevention, antivirus, anti-spam, load balancing, content filtering, etc. A UTM solution is essential for businesses of all kinds that deal with data and computers. There are a large number of UTM solution providers in the market, including Cisco Systems, WatchGuard, Cyberoam, Fortinet, Sophos, Comodo, among others.

What Qualifies as Unsafe Traffic?

As we have gained an understanding of what a firewall essentially is, let's delve into what is typically unsafe traffic and how you may come across it.

The threats you may come across while you're online can be in ten prominent forms as detailed in the table below.

Threat Key Characteristics Sources
Virus Copying itself by attaching itself to applications File downloads, email attachments, USB drives, CDs, DVDs
Worm Standalone program, spreading itself through emails and other means USB drives, rogue websites
Trojan Non-self-replicating; carries out specific actions and opens a backdoor to the creator Rogue websites, file downloads, USB drives, emails
Spyware System monitoring, data gathering, keylogging, installs by deceiving the user or through software vulnerabilities File downloads, advertisements, emails, rogue websites
Adware Automatically displays vexing advertisements Through software downloads, cloud services, mobile apps, etc.
Rogue Security Software Masquerades as genuine security software and compromises the system, demands ransom for rectifying the damages caused Social engineering, advertisements, frauds, rogue websites
Spam Unsolicited & undesired data in large quantities, acts in denial of service Email, web traffic
Phishing Attempts to fool users into providing sensitive information by mimicking genuine services Email, websites
Pharming Redirects genuine traffic to rogue sites to steal sensitive information Hacking, hijacking genuine domains and ISPs
Keyloggers Resides in the system as a hidden process and listens to the keystrokes, transmits logged keys to the creator Rogue applications, downloads, websites

As we understand what qualifies as security threats, it's your primary responsibility to steer clear of such threats. A firewall is an essential piece of software that will help you fight all of these threats. You need to install a good firewall on your computer in order to secure it perfectly. If you want to know about the best of firewalls, please visit a security software review service such as AV-Test.org.

Keep your firewall updated by connecting to the Internet and turning the firewall's auto-update function on. The automatic update will keep your security software up to date on the latest threats and will continue to protect your computer.

Antivirus and Internet Security Software for Apple Macintosh

Mac affected by virus

Are you a fan of Apple Macintosh computers? Do you run Mac OS X Lion or Mountain Lion? Are you planning on upgrading to Mavericks? You should be wondering about the viruses, malware, and Internet security on Apple Macintosh systems. It is appalling to know that there are many threads online talking about antivirus on Mac, and some so-called ‘experts’ say there is no need for an antivirus on Macintosh.

They couldn’t be more wrong. Although there are very few viruses affecting Mac in comparison to PC, there are. Viruses and malwares are increasing in the Mac domain as well, and Apple is getting concerned about them quite a bit. Hence, it is imperative that you install an antivirus and Internet security application on your Mac computer. Recently, NYTimes Bits posted about widespread virus attacks on Macintosh.

Here is an image showing the major malware and viruses on Mac.

virus and malware distribution on Mac

 

In this time, you very much need to get a very good antivirus and Internet security application for Macintosh. One of the best out there is Intego Mac Internet Security 2013 .

Intego has a number of products to protect from viruses, malware, and web-based attacks—Internet Security Suite (involving antivirus), Family Protector, and Virus protector for iPhone’s iOS, etc., are a few.

The application supports Macintosh systems, OS X 10.6 or later (Snow Leopard or later). Needs 1.5 GB of hard disk space and installs in French, German, Japanese, and Spanish besides English.

The application should be updated frequently over the Internet as well.

Mac Internet Security is also available as a free trial option.

Features

 

The application provides protection against not only Mac viruses, but also Windows viruses, Trojans, Worms, hack tools, spyware, adware, keyloggers, and fake security applications.

Since it detects and prevents Windows viruses as well, it prevents your Mac from being a carrier of Windows viruses and thus infect other Windows computers that connect to it.

Other standard features of the application include scheduled scans, real time protection, frequent virus updates via the Internet, scanning options on file attachments on Mac mail, etc.

There is a special iOS edition of the antivirus, that can be installed to your iPhone or iPad to protect them from viruses and malware.

It can work exactly like an Internet Security suite on Windows and can scan all the installed programs on your Mac and find out any suspicious application behavior. This keeps a log of rogue applications, if any, and keeps monitoring all installed and new applications to make them work properly.

Conclusion

 

Intego has a number of personal and business security products priced very reasonably. If you have a Macintosh computer, you are fortunate that you won’t have too many viruses or malware. However, this is no consolation at all. Every day Mac is getting more and more popular, and hence virus coders and hackers are getting interested in the OS.

They have been successful in finding several security holes on the OS. Hence, it goes without saying that you should secure your Mac operating system with an antivirus.

Five of The Best Android Security Apps

Do you have an Android smartphone? Within the Google Play store, you can and should get a very good security app. The app should have the following features—antivirus, antimalware, antispyware, internet security component, and optionally an anti-theft component. The internet security apps may cost you some money, but they are well worth it. Here, we have a list of apps that you can try. You should also check out our article about worst security apps in Android that you should avoid.

5. McAfee Antivirus and Security

 

McAfee mobile security

 

As you know McAfee is one of the premier providers of virus protection among PCs and laptops, it is quite safe to assume the quality of the product. Within AV-Test antivirus tests conducted a few months ago, McAfee was one of the apps that have passed all of the antivirus tests.

I can hear people raising complaints about its slightly uninspiring interface though. However, you should understand that it is a highly effective virus killer. Also, McAfee does provide an app called WaveSecure that adds an anti-theft component to your phone.

4. Kaspersky Mobile Security

 

Kaspersky mobile security

 

We have two versions available of Kaspersky Mobile Security—Lite and the full version. If you have a tablet, there is also Kaspersky Tablet Security application. It is a complete application suite to protect against viruses, malware, etc., including web protection and anti-theft feature. Kaspersky has high reputation on the desktop computer market as well.

With amazing results at the antivirus tests conducted, we believe it rightfully earned the fourth position in this list.

3. Dr.Web Anti-virus

 

Dr. Web antivirus

 

Dr.Web’s Anti-virus Light (no, it’s not Lite) app is just an antivirus. It does have a paid option that gives you complete protection with anti-theft and internet security features. In antivirus tests, we have found this suite to be highly effective. The antivirus’s anti-theft feature is available only on Android platform and not other mobile operating systems.

2. Lookout Mobile Security

 

Lookout mobile security

 

By far, this is the second best solution within Google Play store to secure your smartphone and tablet. This app has all the components necessary built in. It is also highly rated by the users. Within AV-Test results, Lookout has performed extremely well.

1. Avast! Mobile Security

 

Avast free mobile security

 

By far, Avast! provides the best antivirus and internet security option for Android. Within our report of anti-theft apps also Avast! had its place. It is pretty much a complete security suite you can get to protect your smartphone.

Conclusion

 

Those were the important security apps in the current market. You have to pay for the full version of these apps, but it is well worth it. If you read our previous article about mobile security, you will understand the need for these apps, even though Linux (Android is based on Linux) is an extremely secure platform.

How Are They Hacking Your Smartphone? An Infographic

Thousands of smartphones get hacked every day. It has actually become sort of a problem today, and there are a number of apps that have been released to protect smartphones from theft.

Here is an infographic I created that details the various methods the smartphone hackers are using to attack your device. The graphic is based on data found at Lookout.com.

In order to embed the infographic on your blog, use the following code:

<iframe src="http://infogr.am/How-are-they-attacking-you/" width="680" height="4130" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="border:none;"></iframe><br/>As found at: <a href="http://www.bluebugle.org/2013/01/smartphone-hacking-infographic.html"> Smartphone hacking | Blue Bugle</a> and <a href="https://www.lookout.com/resources/reports/state-of-mobile-security-2012">Lookout.com</a>

Facebook Account Hacking Website Scam

This is just an explanatory article, and we don’t intend to promote any illegal activities like spamming and hacking.

Google “Hack Facebook account” and you will get to this particular website: HackFacebookAccount.org. It is a website that supposedly offers a way to hack a Facebook account.

Now, anybody that has some experience with the Web knows it pretty well that this is simply a scam and there is no way a website like that can hack into Facebook accounts. Still, I would like to show you exactly how the service works to bust the simple myth that many people believe.

1. Go to the website and identify the account

 

First of all, I went into the website, and identified my own Facebook account to hack into. I was presently not logged into my Facebook account. Here it is.

Hacking Facebook account

 

I put in my Facebook account link, and the service correctly identified the account immediately. And it automatically started hacking the account (how very convenient, huh?)

2. Completed!

 

The hacking completed within two minutes right in front of my eyes. The procedure involved displaying various steps of hacking and progress percentage to keep you hooked! And the website promised me I will have access to the password right away!

My Facebook profile successfully hacked

 

I watched it with the ease of watching a movie. Yes! Now, I need to gather the password. For this, the website gave me a user ID and password to access the “limited” members area (not the Facebook password, just a random generated password for HackFacebookAccount.org). I played along, and took a note of this information.

Facebook hack members area

 

3. Retrieving the Password

 

After I logged into the members section, the website again hooked my interest saying “just one more step to go”. And what was that? Sharing!

The website generated a referral URL for me, and wants me to share it with my friends and others. I can get the password, by having at least 15 visits to the referral URL, or by completing a survey (actually an affiliate URL).

A misleading thing they tell you is thus: the site asks you to refer 15 people and then the password information will be unlocked to you. But to unlock it more quickly, you just need to sign up on one of those “surveys”! This is probably the first time I see someone calling affiliate signup links ‘surveys’.

Affiliate signup links

 

OK, so far I was feeling rather stupid, but I played along. I wanted to show you, my readers, where exactly this fraudster is leading us.

Next step: I first decided to do the survey signup, as you know sharing the link and having 15 people visit it is rather time-consuming. I clicked on a survey, and it went through a series of referral URLs to finally land me on a sign up page. I don’t know whether it is a legitimate one or just Phishing. But based on the experience, it is probably a legitimate affiliate signup link that gives commission to the referrer, in this case whoever started HackFacebookAccount.org. On the members area, there was a dialog supposedly tracking my signup.

Survey signup tracker (never updates)

 

I did sign up providing obviously fake information. The referrer will not get any financial benefit from fake information I submitted. I did however use an email address I specifically use for investigations like this. And guess what, even after I signed up and verified the thing, the members area did not update my signup. It simply gave the message

If you have spent more than 5 minutes on this survey and this page is still locked, please try a different survey.

I tried another, and that’s it. It never works!

I decided to do the referral visit thing!

4. Referring Visitors

 

I immediately visited the referral link, and checked the members area, and I found one hit.

Next, I fired up Firefox as I was on Google Chrome, my primary browser. I went into Hidemyass.com and fished out a few proxy IPs.

Hidemyass proxy IPs

 

I filtered the list for fast, secure proxies from all over the world. I put random proxies into Firefox, and started browsing to the referral page.

Proxy configuration on Firefox

 

As I went on, the members area of HackFacebookAccount started counting the number of visits I made to the link. It did apparently miss quite a few, but I was persistent.

Visit count on Facebook hack page

 

Now, about to crack to the 14th visit, I noticed something. The members area was reluctant to count the visits. It missed too many. I might have crossed about 20 visits, when the members area actually updated my visit count. I thought this was it! The members area will simply ignore my further visits.

But I was persistent. I did some 25 visits, and then checked back. It was there! 15/15 visits.

Final Visit count on Facebook hacked

 

Now, it’s time to see my own password? I clicked on the button that said “View Facebook Login Detail” and guess what? It went back to “complete the following survey” option.

What we understand is this. The website never gives you the information. It obviously misleads you saying you can immediately get the information needed by completing a survey, while if you choose the referral visit option, you are again gonna do the affiliate sign up. In essence, you are never going to get any information from them. With the referral promotion, you may simply give this scammer a few visitors to his website.

Conclusion

 

This is a fake web service simply trying to make some money on affiliate programs. Scams like this are all around us, and trusting users always fall prey for them. This is just one website, and there are others who deploy the same tactic to have you sign up on affiliate programs.

If you are a Facebook user, do not worry that these websites and programs exist. As long as you don’t divulge important information about your account to others, you are safe. Read how you can be smart on Facebook.

Related:

Recovering Hacked Facebook Accounts
Report Scammers!