Firewall

What is a firewall?

When it comes to computer tech speak, the term ‘firewall’ is old-school – it was first applied to computer technology in the early 1990s. And when a word has been kicking around for some thirty years, we’re pretty much all familiar with it. But do we all understand what it means? What exactly is a firewall?

Defining a firewall

In building construction, a firewall is used to protect one part of a building from a fire in another. Using this as an analogy, a computer firewall is used to protect one (trusted) part of a computer network – generally your home computer or your business network – from another (less-trusted) part – ie the internet or a wide area network (WAN) such as across a university or across government departments. The firewall – either a piece or software (or hardware, in the form of an external unit) – filters all network traffic between the ‘inside’ (safe) and the ‘outside’ (likely not safe!).

So what does the firewall do (and not do)?

The job of a firewall is to enforce rules about what network traffic can enter or leave your personal computer or company network. Generally the rules are designed to let the ‘good’ traffic through (that important email you’ve been waiting for! that video of dogs home alone you’ve been told about!), while keeping the ‘bad’ traffic out (hackers! malware!). A large part of setting up a firewall can be configuring these rules. For a personal computer this may be relatively straightforward, but setting up the rules for a larger business, with a number of servers, users and/or departments, can be far more complicated.

Most firewalls also include a reporting mechanism of some kind – logging external and internal network attempts to penetrate the system.

This all sounds great, of course, but it’s important to remember that a firewall cannot scan the system for malware or perform actions with virus-infected files. Various anti-viruses are used for these purposes. And it is very important to remember that the firewall cannot protect your computer or network from computer viruses that come from infected media – an infected program on a USB flash drive, for example.

What now?

A firewall, if implemented correctly, can essentially make your computer or business network invisible to the ‘internet bad guys’. So:

  • Ensure your firewall is up and running (check in Control Panel/Security in Windows or System Preferences/Security on a Mac). Get in touch if you have any questions!
  • If you’re shopping for a firewall to protect your computers and the information on them, you want the firewall software and/or hardware to be effective and appropriate for your requirements. Talk to us about a system tailored to your needs – our certified IT specialists can walk you through the options and partner your business going forward with IT support and managed server solutions.

With decades of IT experience – yep, we were there in those early days of the firewall! – our local team at Geelong Technology Group are here to answer your questions and to take your business to the next level (safely and securely). We are conveniently located in Belmont, Geelong, and we also offer on-site support to the Greater Geelong, Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast and surrounding regions, or remote support if you’re further afield. Contact our experienced IT technicians on (03) 5244 3030 or email sales@geelongtechnology.com.au for quality advice about your personal or business computing needs.

  

Phishing

Spotting & Avoiding Phishing Attempts

We might just about be settling into the ‘new normal’, but you’ve probably heard the warnings that financial scams have been on the rise during the coronavirus outbreak. Indeed, according to the ACCC’s Scamwatch site, thousands of scams exploiting our anxieties over Covid-19 have popped up over the past 12 months. Of course, it’s not just fake Covid-19 cures we need to watch out for, but all of those other attempts to obtain our sensitive personal information (user names, passwords, and bank account or credit card numbers), too. Sometimes, though, when you’re going about your daily life, it can be hard to make a snap judgement about what’s a scam and what’s genuine.

What is phishing?

Phishing is one of the most common attacks performed by cyber-criminals. It involves a scammer contacting you – often by email, but also via social media, a phone call or a text message – and pretending to be from a legitimate business and asking you to verify or update your personal details. Alternatively, the message may notify you of ‘suspicious activity on your account’.

Remember: Phishing messages are becoming ever-more sophisticated and if you click that link, you’re likely to be taken to a website that looks like the real deal (but that will have a slightly different address).

The Australian Cyber Security Centre lists various scam types – including fake fine scams from law enforcement bodies and fake bill scams from power or gas utilities companies. It’s a good idea for you and your business to keep up with what is out there and the various scams that are doing the rounds.

Remember: Scam emails can also be attempts to install malware or ransomware on your computer. For more on malware attacks, read up on our prevention tips here.

Don’t be a victim!

  • Never – never ever – click a link to your bank or financial institution from an email. Actually, many security experts would argue that you should never click links in emails, ever.
  • Don’t give out your passwords: your password is not something individuals or companies should ever ask for directly. (Oh, and when it comes to passwords, please make them strong – abcd1234 is not an option.)
  • If you are at all suspicious about a message, contact the person or business directly – they’ll let you know if the correspondence is legitimate.
  • Ignore scary-looking website pop-ups that say you have a virus (and get yourself an adblocker to avoid these annoying, anxiety-provoking scams).
  • Use a spam filter to block the majority of email phishing scams from ever reaching you.

Remember: If you think you’ve given over confidential information, contact your bank or financial institution immediately. We also recommend that you report scams via the ACCC Report a Scam page.

Need more help? 

Geelong Technology Group have experienced IT technicians ready to help you avoid (or – if it comes to that – deal with the fallout from) phishing emails and other computer scams. We can tailor a security suite – including antivirus software and anti-spam filtering – to your business requirements, design multi-layered back-up solutions and provide virus, spyware and malware removal. Helping homes and businesses in Geelong, Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast and surrounding regions with their computer security is what we love to do, so give us a call today on (03) 5244 3030.