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A firewall is used to protect a networked server from damage by those who log in to it. This can either be a computer equipped with security features, software protection (called defensive coding), or both. A firewall allows only certain messages from the Internet to flow in and out of the internal network. So, basically, it's a lot like a wall of fire. Whatever.

Note: What many homeusers call a FireWall is actually just an IDS (IntrusionDetectionSystem) or a so called "Personal Firewall".

Like for example the popular Windows tools ZoneAlarm and BlackIceDefender.

A real firewall is a piece of hardware independent of the system that is to be protected.

For Linux you should look into iptables.