Network Security Tools - dummies

By Edward Tetz

As a network andministrator, you should use many different tools in your network security arsenal. Starting at your perimeter is your firewall. Other products you can consider in your defense toolkit are antivirus software, anti-malware software, spam filters, intrusion detection software, and vulnerability scanners. And, of course, you need to work with your network’s users to make sure they understand and follow basic safe practices.

Personal firewalls

Just like your network firewalls, you can run internal firewalls on your network, even firewalls on your network devices. Microsoft has been nice enough to provide OS-based firewalls for all operating systems since Windows XP. So the cost of using this firewall is very reasonable, and it gives you a layer of protection right at each of your servers and client computers.

Although you get a free firewall with your operating system, some people choose to purchase a third-party firewall (such as Symantec Endpoint Protection) to give them enterprise network configuration and monitoring tools that will be used with the firewall. In many cases, the extra cost is worth the investment because you get easy-to-use management tools. The cost is outweighed by the cost of your time.

Antivirus software

Antivirus software keeps growing to defend against new threats. Rather than get into every type of anti software available, the three most common categories of threats that antivirus software protects against are:

  • Viruses are small, malicious programs that get installed without your knowledge, and they have specific goals, such as remote management of your computer or forwarding sensitive data from your device to another system over the network.

  • Worms are small programs that tend to replicate over the network without much help from people to move them. Their goal is twofold: to spread and to accomplish whatever nasty business the worm writer intends.

  • Trojans are small programs that need the computer operator’s help to infect the computer or device. Trojans are applications that are not what they claim to be. A common one is that pesky Windows Security Center Trojan that tells you that your computer is heavily infected, and you should install the software to fix it.

    Of course, installing the software infects your computer with the Trojan. Trojans also get packaged into other applications, so that when users install that application, they release the Trojans on their poor computers.

Because antivirus applications prevent the spread of viruses, many viruses these days make their first task disabling your antivirus software so they have free access to the system.


Malware is software, hardware, or firmware that is malformed or malwritten such that it causes problems on computers or network devices. Malware are not viruses per se, but they are definitely undesirable and unwanted on any computing device. There is a bit of an overlap between anti-malware applications and antivirus applications, with antivirus applications typically ignoring code in the unwanted category and leaving that to the anti-malware applications.

Malware can slow a computer, give you unwanted pop-up ads, report Internet usage in the form of tracking cookies and other techniques, and do things that the world at large thinks is dodgy. Some applications make agreements to bundle malware with their products, and removing the malware could prevent the application from working. Some may say that is the price you pay for “free” software.

A variety of applications can help defend against malware and the sites that may try to push it. A couple that are used regularly are Spyware Blaster and Spybot – Search & Destroy. These two tools both offer the ability to immunize your web browser against a huge number of infections. Spybot – Search & Destroy is also capable of scanning your system for files and registry entries that you want to have removed from your computer.

Spyware Blaster is free if you do not mind doing your updates manually. To update your system, click Update in the Updates window and then go to the Protection Status window and click the Enable All Protection link.


Malwarebytes, is another tool that makes quick work of infections on your computer. The purchased version has auto updating and active protection against new infections Malwarebytes can run a scan of your entire computer and remove infections.


All these tools have been created with a lot of common sense, and it takes only a few mouse clicks to enable protection. Also with a few mouse clicks and several minutes of waiting, you can have the tools scan your system and then delete or fix any problems.