You can now test your firewall to make sure your private network is protected from unauthorized outside access by using an online firewall test such as Steve Gibson’s Shield’s Up! – http://grc.com, Sygate Online Services. Ideally, all tests should report that your gateway is in stealth mode, meaning to the outside world there is no visible host.
The gateway firewall will protect you from unauthorized access from the outside world, meaning it will stop anybody trying to gain unauthorized access to your home network from the outside. However, it will not prevent unauthorized traffic to the Internet, meaning it will not stop a trojan or spyware on your PC from making an outbound connection.
To protect yourself from such unwanted network traffic, you should install a software firewall that monitors outbound traffic. The best ones in this category are also free for personal / home use. Check out Zone Alarm – http://www.zonelabs.com, and Kerio – http://www.kerio.com.
You can test your software firewall against such “leakage” by running a leak test such as Steve Gibson’s LeakTest – http://grc.com/lt/leaktest.htm or YALTA – http://www.soft4ever.com/security_test/En/.
As mentioned before, depending on what gateway you ended up purchasing you might have some bonus features.
DMZ – Short for DeMilitarized Zone. It allows you to place a PC on the public Internet, but still protect it and control access to it through the firewall. This can be handy if you want to run any type of server, e.g. game server, FTP server, or web server (check with your ISP whether this is permitted).
Print server – Instead of sharing your printer from the PC it is connected to, which requires that PC to be always on, you connect the printer to the gateway to share it on your LAN.
Wireless access – If your gateway comes with a built-in wireless access point (WAP), you can equip a PC or a laptop with a wireless network card and roam around the house without a Cat5 cable.
Content filtering – Content filtering allows you to monitor and control what Internet content can be accessed from your LAN, enabling you to blacklist certain keywords and/or websites.
VPN – Virtual Private Networking allows you to establish a secure encrypted tunnel over the Internet to another network, e.g. your company’s LAN, enabling you to access company resources remotely from home. Check with the company network administrator for details on setting up a VPN connection.
A secure home network with Internet Connection Sharing is not that difficult to set up. The benefits of greatly improved security, savings by sharing your Internet connection, and convenience of accessing resources across the LAN make it more than worth the effort and the relatively modest investment. Last but not least, you are bound to learn a bit about networking and security in the process.
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