When most people think of firewalls, they envision a digital barrier between a network and the internet that filters bad traffic. All firewalls are designed to filter bad traffic. They analyze incoming traffic — and in many cases outbound traffic — while blocking data packets that are potentially malicious based on a set of rules. While most firewalls are, in fact, located between a network and the internet, some of them are designed specifically to protect individual computers.

What Is a Personal Firewall?

A personal firewall is a type of firewall that’s designed to protect an individual computer from malicious traffic. Also known as a host firewall, it differs from traditional network firewalls in one major way: A personal firewall only analyzes and filters traffic for a single computer. In comparison, a network firewall analyzes and filters traffic for an entire network, such as a business’s Local Area Network (LAN).

How Personal Firewalls Work

Most personal firewalls work on the application layer of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) Model. As a result, they are considered application layer firewalls. When using a computer with a personal firewall, the firewall will analyze incoming and outgoing traffic on the application layer. Data consists of packets that are transferred to and from the computer. The personal firewall will check these data packets against a set of rules to determine whether to reject or allow them.

Benefits of Using a Personal Firewall

Using a personal firewall will protect your computer from an array of cyber threats. Malware infections, for instance, are less likely to occur if your computer has a personal firewall installed on it. Most instances of malware originate from the internet. If you browse or otherwise use the internet on a computer, it may become infected with malware. A personal firewall can prevent malware from reaching your computer.

Another benefit of using a personal firewall is access controls. You can use a personal firewall to set access controls for individual users. Assuming you use it for business purposes, you may want to install a personal firewall on your computer for access controls.

You can also use a personal firewall in conjunction with a network firewall. Personal firewalls and network firewalls are oftentimes used together to achieve a higher level of security. A network firewall will protect your entire network from malicious traffic, whereas a personal firewall will protect your computer from malicious traffic. Using both types of firewalls will essentially create two barriers of protection rather than one.

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