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NetBarrier X 10.1 review: NetBarrier X 10.1

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The Good Transparent, set-and-forget functionality; powerful tools for advanced users; ease of use and reliability for novices.

The Bad No interactive help system.

The Bottom Line NetBarrier X 10.1 offers Mac OS 9.x and X users an easy-to-use personal firewall at a reasonable price.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9
  • Support 6

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Review suammary

With the introduction of the FreeBSD-based Mac OS X, Mac users can no longer count on "security through obscurity"--that is, the invisibility that has historically freed the platform from the security exploits that plague the Windows world. Now that OS X opens the Mac to Unix-based Internet flaws, Mac users need online protection. Intego's NetBarrier X offers three lines of defense--a software firewall along with antihacker and personal privacy features--to protect your home network and keep data on your computer safe as well as block out specific cookies, pop-ups, banner ads, and more. While Mac OS X ships with Apple's version of the Unix firewall, called ipfw, enabling it requires mastering an arcane syntax. NetBarrier X, on the other hand, offers an easy-to-use interface for a powerful and customizable set of tools at a reasonable price ($60). As with most Mac applications, installation of NetBarrier X is a snap. Double-click the installer, OK your way through the standard Mac OS X installation screens and license terms, reboot, then enter the registration key. That's it. Since Mac OS X is, at its heart, a multiuser system, you'll need to be logged in as the root or administrator of the system to install or make changes to NetBarrier.

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Available in a brushed-metal flavor, the basic interface for NetBarrier X is easily navigable. However, the Customize option is for experts only.

NetBarrier X starts in a default mode that should be sufficient for most home users, although more powerful features are available under the Customize option. Overall, first-time users won't be intimidated or overwhelmed after a quick perusal of the manual. Nor will advanced users be frustrated trying to unveil its power features.

The NetBarrier X interface should be immediately comprehensible for most Mac users. The major functions (Firewall, Antivandal, Privacy, Monitoring) can be accessed from buttons along the left side of the NetBarrier window, with tabs sorting out features. NetBarrier X obeys all Mac user interface guidelines, such as selecting and dragging items in lists; you can even switch to a brushed-metal look (à la iTunes) if that's your preference. Finally, NetBarrier's live-updating traffic gauges are fun to watch. NetBarrier's firewall filters incoming and outgoing data transparently, providing protection against malicious access. If you don't want to delve into details, you can leave the default setting alone and be reasonably secure with the well-defined presets. In other words, install and go. For more control, you can edit and refine sets of rules easily. By comparison, you can download configuration interfaces for ipfw, but none come with NetBarrier's extra features. You can save firewall log files at user-defined intervals as text or as HTML, even to a shared folder on a network for remote access.

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NetBarrier's interface makes it easy to turn on and off various security features; ping sensitivity can be adjusted right on that graph.

A feature called Antivandal works on top of the firewall, scanning the content of incoming and outgoing data. It can run in stealth mode and alert you of attempts to send passwords and the like by posting alarm messages or even e-mailing you at another computer. NetBarrier will also record the addresses of intruders and can add new addresses to its Stop List, which automatically blocks further attempts. It's simple to control access rules for your most common Internet-enabled applications, such as your browser and e-mail client.

NetBarrier also blocks cookies, pop-ups, and banner ads; as well, it filters out spam for most e-mail applications such as Mail and Entourage. You can even drag an ad to NetBarrier's window, and the firewall will block that specific ad server. In addition, data filters can be set to prohibit transmission of credit card numbers, passwords, your mother's maiden name, and so on. We ran NetBarrier X against Steve Gibson's ShieldsUp port tester. In stealth mode, our PC was invisible to the world, which is good.

NetBarrier X
for Mac


Port 21-FTP
Port 23-Telnet
Port 25-SMTP
Port 79-Finger
Port 80-HTTP
Port 110-POP3
Port 113-IDENT
Port 135-RPC
ShieldsUp
Port Probe


Stealth
Stealth
Stealth
Stealth
Stealth
Stealth
Stealth
Stealth
NetBarrier X
for Mac


Port 139-NetBIOS
Port 143-IMAP
Port 443-HTTPS
Port 445-MSFT DS
Port 5000 UPnP


LeakTest
ShieldsUp
Port Probe


Stealth
Stealth
Stealth
Stealth
Stealth


Passed

We began with IP Agent, a free utility provided by ShieldsUp that determines the test machine's current IP address, then contacts the ShieldsUp Web site to begin testing.

Next, the Port Probe utility tested our system's defense against Internet port scanners. The test originates from the ShieldsUp server and attempts to establish standard TCP/IP (Internet) connections on a handful of commonly exploited Internet service ports on the test computer.

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