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6/3/05 Is a firewall absolutely necessary?

A sincerely thank you to all of you who contributed to this past week's Q&A topic on Firewalls.

Grandpa Stanley, I hope these members' awesome explanations and recommendations to your question give you a solid understand of how firewalls work and why it is important to utilize one. I wish you nothing, but good luck in finding what works best for you and if you have a moment please swing by and give these members a good pat on the back for their time and incredible efforts for sharing the knowledge they possess.

Members, if you have additional advice for Grandpa, please feel free to post them in this thread below. Have a great weekend!

-Lee Koo
CNET Community


Hi, I'm really new to computers and the Internet. I keep
hearing people say I should use a firewall on my computer to
prevent Web nasties, but I'm confused as to what a firewall
is and if it's absolutely necessary. If you say I need
one, which one would you recommend? I want one that I can use
and easily understand without pulling out what's left of my
hair. Understanding my antivirus app was difficult enough,
but I'm always willing to learn new things given a chance.
Any advice to a grandpa who's just starting to explore the
computer world is sincerely appreciated.

Submitted by: Stanley M.


Stanley, a firewall acts as a gatekeeper between your computer and all the other machines that make up the Internet. Why do we need such a gatekeeper? It's because the nature of communication across computer networks allows for a loophole that can be exploited by malicious hackers. I'll use a telephone analogy to make the aforementioned points clearer, then make a recommendation...

If you call your telephone service provider, you will inevitably be greeted by an automated voice and a menu of options, and your call will be forwarded to the appropriate extension line based on selections you make. But imagine if that customer service number was a single, direct line to a single representative instead of to any number of extension lines connecting you with different departments and many employees. Disparate calls to report problems, pay bills, upgrade and downgrade services, and general inquiries would all go to the exact same phone line, so that thousands of customers would be simultaneously competing to get through at any given time. Such heavy traffic would not only tax the phone line and the employee at the end of the line, it would eventually overload the circuit to the point that it might cease to work altogether. Not exactly a model of efficiency, and the reason multiple lines and extensions, and even those dastardly automated menus, exist.

Communication across a computer network works in a similar fashion. Your computer is identified by an unique number - known as its Internet Protocol (IP) number or address - that allows it to transfer information across the Internet. Think of the IP number as your computer's telephone number. But as we just saw in the example above, if every instance of communication involved a single "line," competition among different processes or programs would slow things to a crawl, and essential processes like your antivirus updater might never get through!

To avoid this nightmarish logjam, computers use what are known as Internet ports. These ports are not physical entities like those used to connect hardware such as your mouse or a scanner, but rather "numerical addresses" that act like multiple lines or extensions necessary to keep things running in an orderly fashion. When a remote computer "dials" your IP number, it also specifies a port. This is like dialing a known party's extension at the main automated menu. To keep your system running smoothly, different processes in your computer listen for "calls" coming through specific "extensions lines" or ports. When a call comes through the appropriate port, your computer responds by providing whatever information is being requested, usually in the background, without your knowledge. And therein lies the importance of having a firewall.

A port is considered to be "open" when it can be detected by remote computers, which then are able to exchange information with your computer. While many ports must remain open to permit legitimate processes to access the Internet, most don't, and their exposure merely provides an invitation for trouble. Hackers can easily scan for available open ports, and when a computer answers, they have found a machine they might be able to break into. They can request all sorts of sensitive information, and your computer will gladly send it over.

A firewall "closes" ports by preventing unauthorized "calls" from getting through. Because your computer doesn't answer, a hacker will assume no computer exists at the particular IP address, and move on. A good firewall practically makes your computer invisible to hackers, while allowing for legitimate programs to access the ports needed for flawless performance.

By now you might be thinking "But there's nothing worth stealing in my computer!" Perhaps, but a hacker might break into a computer with intentions other than to steal sensitive files like financial information or Social Security numbers. (And don't fool yourself, your computer might already have far more personal information than you might suspect!) Malicious hackers can act as vandals and delete information from your hard drive and corrupt system files, essentially rendering your computer useless. They can also remotely control your computer, turning it into a zombie machine used to send viruses or spam, or even launch denial of services attacks to companies like Microsoft, Google, CNET, and - severely slowing down Internet traffic. So, you see, an unprotected computer represents a potential risk to all of us!

Fortunately, a firewall can prevent these and other headaches. The choice between installing one, and trying to explain to the FBI why your computer is disseminating child pornography over the Internet, is no choice at all.

Firewalls come in two flavors, so to speak: Hardware varieties, which are installed between your computer and your Internet gateway, and software firewalls. Hardware firewalls monitor access to your computer, but do not prevent programs already in it from accessing the Internet. In contrast, software firewalls monitor both incoming and outgoing traffic. Thus, if you accidentally download adware or a Trojan, your software firewall would keep these programs from "calling home" and carrying out many of their devilish tasks. Keep in mind, a firewall by itself won't protect you from all "web nasties." While a vital component of PC security, a firewall needs to be complemented with antivirus and antispyware software.

While it would be ideal to have both a hardware and a software firewall protecting your computer - you'd be having an extra line of defense - a quality software firewall is arguably more than enough for most of us. If you are running Windows XP, you already have a basic firewall installed in your computer. If you installed Service Pack 2, this Windows Firewall was turned on by default, and should be protecting your computer right now, unless you opted to disable it. The Windows Firewall acts like a hardware firewall, that is, it controls inbound traffic but not outgoing communications. Thus, you are better off upgrading to a better firewall, one that monitors both incoming and outgoing traffic.

Fortunately, there is an outstanding software firewall that happens to be extremely simple to install, configure and run - ZoneAlarm. Best of all, the personal version of ZoneAlarm is free! I encourage you to visit the Zone Labs website ( and download a copy. A ZoneAlarm User's Manual is also available for download in the website's Support section.

After you install and configure it - a process that is very quick and user-friendly - please go to the excellent Shields Up! website ( to test the newly-installed firewall. This website features very clear and thorough information on how firewalls works, why they are necessary, which ones are worth getting, etc., so you might want to bookmark it and explore it at your leisure. (It is also a good idea to go back and retest your firewall from time to time, especially after software upgrades.)
After you install ZoneAlarm, you will have access to all of the features of the premium version for 30 days, including technical support. Take advantage of this trial period to determine whether the extra features might be worthwhile for you, and to have Zone Labs' support answer any questions you might have.

I am certain that you will find ZoneAlarm extremely easy to use. Don't let the fact that it is a free download make you wonder about the quality of the software. ZoneAlarm is a very powerful firewall, and it can be made even more so if the need arises. But chances are, you will not have to tweak much (if anything) after the initial setup.

There are other firewall choices, many of them packaged as part of "Security Suites." Symantec's Norton Internet Security (, Trend Micro's PC-cillin Internet Security (, and ZoneAlarm's Security Suite ( are among the best. The advantage of these suites is that they integrate antivirus, firewall, antispyware, privacy and other utilities in one place, which not only is convenient, but tends to simplify things and prevent conflicts between software from different manufacturers. The three products just mentioned offer free trials, so if you think one of them might be the right solution for you, by all means check it out.

Best wishes,

Submitted by: Miguel K. of Columbus, Ohio

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Honorable mentions

In reply to: 6/3/05 Is a firewall absolutely necessary?

*** Honorable Mentions ***


In order to gain an understanding of firewalls, a brief overview of how information enters and leaves your computer is in order. Computers use what are known as "ports" as a means to enter information in and transfer it back out. This is similar in nature to what ships use as their means to enter and leave their docks. They do this via what is known as "shipping ports" and are just a way in and out for the ships.

Computers on the other hand don't have ships entering and leaving them but they do have electronic information that enters and leaves. Some of this information will be stored on your hard drive and in a lot of cases can be sensitive in nature such as your personal banking account particulars etc. This is the kind of personal information that you don't want anyone from a large giant network such as the Internet having access to for obvious reasons.

Some ports on your computer are physical in nature such as those that you connect the keyboard , monitor, and other hardware to. However, there are also ports that are not physical but are electronic in nature. These electronic ports are what hackers target to gain entry into computers and networks. For example "port 80" is a main electronic port used on the Web. There are many others and hackers don't normally care which one it is as long as they accomplish their objective: gain illegal entry into your computer.

Now if the world was full of completely honest people there would be no need for police, no need for a military etc. By the same token if the Internet was populated with completely honest people there would be no need for anti-virus protection, firewalls ,etc. However, back to reality.

Please meet the "port scanners" of the world ! Also known as hackers. These are individuals or groups who use as one of their methods a process known as "port scanning". It is simply "electronically listening" across a network for a "busy port" on someone's computer so they can enter it. In most cases they are listening for very busy ports ( a lot of information entering and leaving) as this may indicate a computer of greater importance and a lucrative place for them to hang out. However there are also those that just like to wreak havoc on the vulnerable by just coming in and messing up their systems. In either case it causes many problems that could of been avoided if there was a way to make their computer ports appear to be "quiet" on a network. Introducing the "firewall" !

A "firewall" is a computer program that makes your computer appear "invisible" to the outside world, and in this case, the outside world being the Internet. Now relax, it doesn't really make it "invisible" to the human eye so don't worry, you're computer isn't going anywhere.

It is simply a program designed to make you computer appear to be "quiet to electronic ears" that are listening for busy ports on it which can provide the hacker a way in. Those that are always connected to the Internet such as via a cable connection are more vulnerable than those that are connected via a dial-up telephone modem. However, they are not totally free from the risk of intrusion. The risk is the same when they are online as those that are always connected. So basic firewall protection makes good sense for all that connect to the Internet.

There are a variety of firewall programs available with more popping up everyday. Norton's Anti-Virus and McAfee now both have firewalls available. One that you might want to give serious consideration to is Zone Alarm by Zone Labs available at . Their specialty is firewall protection and is one that I personally use. Although I use the paid version, they do have a free version available which will provide you with good basic protection against hack attempts.

Hope this helps a little Happy
Best regards,

Submitted by: Alex R.



A firewall is a barrier to keep destructive forces away from your property. In fact, that's why its called a firewall. Its job is similar to a physical firewall that keeps a fire from spreading from one area to the next.

A firewall is a program or hardware device that filters the information coming through the Internet connection into your computer system. If an incoming packet of information is flagged by the filters, it is not allowed through.

Everything you do on the Internet?from browsing Web pages to downloading MP3 files?is managed by specific applications (programs) on your computer.

Hackers exploit this fact by planting "malware" on your computer. Sometimes they send out malware as e-mail attachments with innocent names like "screensaver.exe." If you open the attachment, you install the malware on you computer without even knowing it. Other times, they convince you to download the malware from a server by making it masquerade as an update to a legitimate program.

Once on your machine, malware can wreak havoc in a variety of ways. It can raid your address book and send itself to everyone in it, or it can listen for connection requests from the Internet. The hacker who distributed the malware can then contact it and give it instructions, effectively taking control of your computer.

Some operating systems come with a firewall built in.
A software firewall can be installed on the computer in your home that has an Internet connection. This computer is considered a gateway because it provides the only point of access between your computer and the Internet.

With a hardware firewall, the firewall unit itself is normally the gateway. An example is a Cable/DSL router. It has a built-in Ethernet card and hub. Your computer connects to the router, which in turn is connected to either a cable or DSL modem. You configure the router with a Web-based interface that you reach through the browser on your computer. You can then set any filters or additional information.

Hardware firewalls are incredibly secure and not very expensive. Home versions that include a router firewall and Ethernet hub for broadband connections can be found for well under $100.

Some firewalls offer virus protection, it is worth the investment to install anti-virus software on your computer. Even though it is annoying, some spam is going to get through your firewall as long as you accept e-mail.

One of the best things about a firewall from a security standpoint is that it stops anyone on the outside from logging onto your computer. Putting a firewall in place provides peace of mind.


Software Firewalls

F-Secure, BlackICE, McAfee, Kaspersky Anti-Hacker, Symantec Norton, Zonealarm Pro, Sygate Pro.

Hardware Firewalls

Belkin, Linksys, Netgear, D-Link.

Submitted by: Bob W.



Simply put, a firewall is a virtual barrier between your home computer and the internet; letting things you want (such as web browsing) get through while automatically blocking things you don't. They are mainly there to provide protection from hackers ? who are people attempting to access your computer from the internet without your consent and knowledge, either to steal information or just cause havoc. All software firewalls also provide protection from malicious programs such as Trojan horses and spyware, some of which attempt to use your computer to send spam email or to attack other computers. Today, firewalls are absolutely necessary: every few minutes, computers without a firewall are broken into. Some are broken into to steal information, like bank details and addresses. Others can be controlled by the hacker to do anything they wish ? not a pleasant thought. No computer is safe without a firewall, no matter what model or the way it connects to the internet.

Fortunately, there are a few different ways to prevent these 'nasties' from causing you grief. The number one thing to do now, is to make sure Windows is up-to-date. If you are using Windows XP (characterized by a blue taskbar and green start button), then visit The website will take you through the process of updating your computer, step by step, and will automatically select the most important updates for you. Even if you are using older versions of Windows (98 or Me), you should still visit Windows Update to be on the safer side. If you use Windows XP and updates to do with "Service Pack 2" appear, I would strongly encourage that you install them. This major update installs a basic firewall for you, as well as allowing your computer to automatically download and install updates.

Once you have run Windows Update, the next step is to decide what type of firewall will suit you best. There are a couple of different options, but most boil down to how much money you want to spend.

If money is not a major factor (spending $40-60):

I'd recommend a good brand-name Firewall package from the computer shop. Something from the big players like Symantec (Norton) or McAfee is always a good bet, and both are equipped with automatic wizards to help you set up the security. The deciding factor here is your Antivirus software. If you are running McAfee VirusScan, then buy the McAfee Firewall (or if you use Norton AntiVirus, use Norton Personal Firewall) ? you will find the two products work together and often let you control both from just one of them. This can be very helpful in making them easier to use, and you won't need to spend lots of time finding your way around a different looking screen either.

If you are reasonably confident with computers (perhaps in the future, or if you want to add another computer) and are looking for better security, you may want to consider a hardware firewall also. This is a physical device that plugs into the wire between your computer and the internet while hiding your computer from the rest of the world. They are very effective, more secure and require little maintenance; most can even let you share your internet connection with another computer if you have more than one in the house. I wouldn't recommend one if you aren't too happy about playing about with cabling; if you do not have broadband (cable internet); or only have one computer ? simply because this isn't necessary for a casual user or novice. They generally retail for about $40-60, such as this one, which allows you to connect up to four PCs to the one internet connection. The important thing to note about hardware firewalls is that they only protect you from incoming attacks; they cannot control programs on your computer from connecting to the internet. For this reason, it is best to have a basic firewall application (like the one included with Windows XP Service Pack 2 or one of the below free options) too.

If money is a major factor, or you don't want spend any:

You can still get very good protection by spending absolutely nothing and downloading a free firewall program. I (and many millions of internet users) recommend ZoneAlarm. This is fairly basic, but will provide all the protection you need against all the internet nasties. The only problem with it, as it is free, it may not be quite as easy to use. While I'm confident that it is easy enough to set up, if you'd rather have a program that configures itself automatically to keep you protected then go for one of the two paid options above.

Based on what you've said, I'd personally recommend you buy one of the brand name firewalls, like Norton or McAfee. There are several advantages with these to a new computer user like yourself: you will get full printed instruction manuals to help you set up the program and use more advanced features later on; you usually get access to a few months of phone support to help you out if you encounter problems; they will also feature automatic guided set-up tools to make the whole experience easier and less daunting.

I hope this isn't too complicated or technical for you, and wish you all the best with your computer. If you have any questions about this article, please reply to the post and I'll be more than happy to help.

Submitted by: Jamie T. of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom



A. I could just answer your question simply and directly, but that might leave you with the impression that there is little to worry about and little responsibility on your part to prevent future problems caused by unwanted company that attaches itself to programs, files, cookies, or that just plain sneak in and play havoc in your system because you were not prepared.

Although you asked about firewalls, I suspect that you - as well as many users - consider anti-bug (or bug remover) maintenance to be a nuisance and a time consumer that is regarded about on the same level as cleaning out the oven and cleaning out the refrigerator cooling coils. Nonetheless, I must stand upon my soap box and dwell upon your answer as well as a more complete understanding of the seriousness of the need for thoroughness by stressing tolerance, patience, and being more observant, concerned, and responsible in keeping your hard drive clean through thoughtful housekeeping procedures and software.


A firewall can be designed in a hardware device, such as a router, which attempts to prevent unwarranted entry into your computer system from the internet. Sometimes, however, it is not as effective as would be desirable and so there are software programs that go a step further and communicate with you about rules that it would like you to make regarding who can and cannot come in to your computer system from the internet. This software firewall can also request you to apply rules as to who can and cannot go to the internet from your computer. Such as sneaky software that managed to convince you to install it into your system on false pretense. Once installed, these sneaky programs will attempt to send information back to the internet to various recipients. In some cases this may cause you to be the recipient of unwanted email or updated software you do not need or want that may cause system problems or overwhelming junk mail.

If you have the latest version of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and subsequent updates, just make sure the firewall is turned on. To find out, open Network Connections, right click on each connection icon, select Properties, select Advanced, select Settings, and select ON (recommended).

If you find this procedure a bit more confusing than by the number, consider the strong possibility of joining a local computer users group for help and personal growth in the use of the various programs you might enjoy being involved with. Contact your local newspaper and library for assistance in obtaining contact individuals and meeting dates and times.

Again, assuming you have a relatively new computer with Windows XP, make certain that you have the latest version Service Pack (SP2) and subsequent updates. To go one step further: if you have dial-up service, I would advise you to utilize access to the internet via high speed broad band cable or DSL - at least for the XP Service Pack update since it is so large and time consuming. In the event that you do not have the latest version and you plan on updating to it, it is imperative to follow certain procedures not only prior to this update but for most program installations. So, with me to answer your question is like my seeing your hard drive as a loaded gun with a hair trigger. I need to cover more than one base for your question.

Anti-Spyware, Anti-Virus software, & House Keeping

You need to make certain that there are no virus, worms, Trojans, or spyware on the drive. You also need to make sure that you have cleaned out all unnecessary cookies, temporary files, and temporary internet files. All the procedures are quite easy and straight-forward once you have the most appropriate software in place and procedures set up. I have created a set of instructions on creating a House Keeping folder that incorporates all the necessary steps for keeping the bad guys and bad stuff out of your system at no or low cost. It is available for anyone who is interested.

Choosing the right anti-spyware programs and anti-virus varies from expert to expert and user to user, but for Windows XP I use (in this order) the latest engine and profile versions of SpywareBlaster, Spybot, Adaware, and Microsoft Anti-Spyware Beta 1 and follow their procedures as outlined in their Help files.

Most of all, I can't emphasize enough how much being a part of a computer users group would be a benefit to you to help you accomplish this with a minimum of frustration and anguish, let alone avoiding having to deal with the cost to hire someone to fix your system who could still botch the job and leave you worse off than before.

And just in case you ARE a member of a computer users group and haven't found the time to attend the meetings and some of the fascinating special interest groups meetings - make the effort. It will pay dividends many times over. I know.

Off the soap box. Once the system is clean, be sure to disable the antivirus and antispyware software during the XP update procedure. Once the update is complete and the computer reboots, the system should have everything enabled back to normal.

Here is a parallel to your House Keeping routine: In order to drive your car and keep it running, you know you need to keep the windshield clean. You need to change the oil and filter. You need to check the battery, brakes and tires on a regular basis. And if you don't keep your air and gas filters clean, the car just won't run right - if at all.

Same with your computer. Just keep things in perspective. You need to keep the bad guys out, block, disable, and/or remove the bad guys that got in - (firewall, anti-spyware, anti-virus). You need to keep an awesome and sometimes overwhelming amounts of junk files that build up over time when installing programs, uninstalling programs and surfing the net. And every once in a while you need to make sure that once everything is clean and healthy, there are files that are heavily used and modified and may be fragmented into pieces and need to be defragmented - to enhance the system's performance. Maybe once a week. There are many methods for making this very effective, and I have covered a discussion of a technique I use which is available for anyone who is interested.

Being aware of the problem is a good thing. Doing something effective about it on a regular basis is another good thing.

Don't limit your perspective to just "firewall" and "antivirus". Become informed. Once informed, pass your knowledge on to your friends. You become better at your efforts and gain strength and confidence in your ability to handle the problem.

Submitted by: Dennis S., member and program director of the Tampa Bay Computer Society, Clearwater, FL



Hi Stanley M,

A firewall is similar to the position of a doorman at an exclusive nightclub; it acts as a filtration device. It will allow those that are good company into the club and those that aren?t out based on instructions given by the club manager, but in a PC sense, a firewall monitor both entry and exits. In this analogy the door man is the firewall software or hardware that you plan to use, the club manager would be yourself as the end user and the people trying to get in and out of the club would be your PCs network traffic. For starters, if you are not making a connection to the Internet or an external network outside your Local Area Network (LAN), a firewall would not be necessary. If you have a LAN, where more than one computer is connected together via a network, the statement aforementioned is presuming that all computers in your LAN consists of users that are trusted and are not of any malicious nature. For if this was the case then a firewall would be required for each computer inside the LAN, most probably a software one. Firewalls are really a security precaution with concerns to network traffic being received from external sources outside your PC, if you only have one computer, or local network, for a number of computers. Any connection to the World Wide Web (WWW) or Internet is considered external to your PC or LAN, meaning that your computer/s at home has established a connection with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and will be assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address, currently in a dotted quad format similar to ?, that will identify your computer on the World Wide Network. If your IP address were to be compromised to a malicious user on the WWW, they will be able to make attacks at your computer, or in the analogy?s case, try to get into the club. The firewall will try to sort out network traffic and allow only those with high integrity or trusted sources in and out of your computer. How do people find out my IP address? Well every time you access a website, the web server will log your page request and the network address that the request was made from. A connection will be established between the Web Server?s to your computer, exchanging network packets, finally, after time, allowing you to see the web page. This is just an example of obtaining IP addresses, any web application has the ability to do the same as a web address from the web service and client are required for any network activity to commence, and thus allow the web application to function as intended. is a familiar web address, and easy to remember, but behind that domain name is an IP address similar to that one you received when connected with your ISP. A Malicious element on the WWW doesn?t need to obtain your IP address, as there are some who make random attacks, and you may just be the unlucky one that has the matching IP address. I have always used Norton Internet Security that comes with my motherboard, so it comes free with the purchase of my computer and allows me to update it free for 6 months. I find it easy to use, and am very fond of how it lets you customize what programs are allowed to access the internet and restrict which websites are allowed to execute scripts and what not. Of course if you don?t want to cause your brain a meltdown you can always allow the program to automatically configure each program?s Internet access by default. Though if you were to encounter an application that didn?t run as expected on the Internet, it is probably due to the automatic configuration, and a little intervention is needed. I refer to my MSN Messenger games that I tend to play with my close friends over the Internet. I set the program to prompt me of any unique network activities, it identifies the program, and if it?s a program I use often I choose for it to remember the choice I made. The good thing about software firewalls like Norton is that you get to choose which programs has access to the Internet, so any network activity outside those set by yourself, will be blocked. Norton also has a block all activities feature in the task bar, which I rarely use, but is a great way to isolate your computer from any network activity. Also if you plan to run a web service, like for a website. Norton will detect any incoming traffic and will set this up as well. There are other firewalls like ZoneAlarm, Mcafee Firewall. After upgrading my OS to Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, to get an idea of the look and feel for the AMD64 Windows, I have lost my Firewall protection as Norton is yet to release a 64-bit compatible version. So I will have to settle for the firewall Windows XP comes packaged with, which if enabled will block any suspicious network activities, I think updates to later versions allow a little more customization as to which programs are allowed to access the internet, I?m not too sure as I haven?t invested much time in looking through the features. In my experience, Windows XP prompts me that a program is trying to access the internet, and then I give feedback of yes or no. Hopefully Norton will release an x64 compatible version soon.

Hardware firewalls are similar to software firewalls in function; it filters off suspicious network transmissions. I own a router that has a firewall built in. It will examine all headers of network packets, headers contain information of who the activity is sent from and who it is intended for, in brief. Once analysis is complete, data will be forwarded to the computer on the LAN that originally made the request. Say my computer wants to access, my browser will make the request, my router will pickup the request and forward it to the ISP attaching the computer details from which the request was made, a request will be made for the IP address equivalent of the URL (conversions made via Domain Name Servers), which will then return a notice of the requests success back through my ISP to the router. The router then analyses the transmitted data, stripping it of the computer details and forwards the reply back to the computer which the request originally came. A network connection will be established and data transfer of the home page and other web elements will be transferred using a similar method above. This is a very brief explanation of the process by which a router forwards both requests and data received. Of course setting up a web service on one of the computers, required the configuring of the router and its port redirection feature. Say I wanted to setup a personal Web Server, just viewable to my trusted friend, whom I would be willing to share my IP address. I had to configure, using the web interface, and make all incoming network transmissions on port 80 be forwarded to the LAN network address on the computer that is running the server software. Typically ?192.168.0.*?, this method also identifies how an inbuilt firewall that comes with routers blocks all incoming network transmissions, bar the requests made through the routers forwarding system. Port 80 is the standard port for network transfers made under the hyper text transfer protocol, the standard protocol for websites. Of course opening up port 80 to be redirected to that computer, will expose the computer to attacks that use port 80. Different web ports a required for different web application standards, FTP uses port 21, secure SSL sites use port 443, and of course there are many varying port values up to 9999. Games being played online use different ports, unique ports aids in organising network traffic, one could imagine a lot of cars trying to get to different places on the same highway. It would take awhile and can be confusing. The fewer ports you have open the less likely you can be attacked, a firewall minimises traffic to only use the ports that you will require, generally determined by the applications that you use.

Once you own a firewall, it is very much your say on what you let in, and out of your personal PC, regardless of it being hardware or software. Though software ones are much easier to configure and come in a more presentable, easy to use, graphical user interface, in my opinion. If you are going to use the internet, I too would lean you towards getting a firewall installed on your computer. At times, even just a firewall will not be enough, anti-spyware, anti-virus and anti-malware software are good partners to firewalls in ensuring your computer will not be exposed to what is now an everyday problem when using the Internet.

Hope this helps.

Submitted by: Van T. of Perth, WA, Australia



Stanley, allow me to start by laying down that yes, a firewall is absolutely vital to Internet security. Understanding how a firewall works requires some knowledge of how the Internet works. Everyone on the Internet has an 'IP address.' (IP is short for Internet Protocol.) An IP address is something of an online name that your Internet Service Provider gives you. When you go to a website, you are really using a name that is easier to remember than four sets of three digit numbers. Anyways, whenever your computer 'talks' to another IP address, it opens a connection on a specific port. For example, when you visit a website, your browser connects to that website's IP address, on port 80 (which, again, is the numeral representation of http://). When you receive your mail, your computer 'talks' on port 110, and to send mail, port 25. All in all, there are 65535 ports. However, sometimes programs will open one of these ports on your own computer - sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Regardless, these ports being open can lead to what is called a security hole.

When a port is left open, it can be used by someone else maliciously to do various things. One of them is called a Denial of Service attack - the MSBlast / Lovesan virus is a classical example. The other kind of security hole is called a Trojan horse. A Trojan horse is a program on your computer that can do almost anything to your computer, and it is controlled by another person. . . at another computer. 'Subseven' is an infamous Trojan.

A firewall is like a bottle cap for these holes, so your computer doesn't 'spill the milk.' It will watch all of your computer's traffic, carefully looking for any suspicious activity. For example, ZoneAlarm, the best firewall around IMHO, will report subseven as 'attempting to act as a server on port [varies].' It will then ask whether or not you want to allow the program to do so. Because most of the time it is hard to tell if it is a malicious program or not, you can click on it's 'advisor' button, where it will open a web page explaining what is happening in greater detail.

While EVERYONE needs a firewall (though I have heard dial-up Internet Service Providers say otherwise), some people already have one, but aren't aware of it. If you have Windows XP, service pack 2, Windows has a built-in firewall already doing it's job rather effectively. Some dial-up providers actually provide their customers with their own free firewall.

Some of the most popular firewalls you may wish to try are 'Norton Personal Firewall', McAfee's firewall (the name of which is currently slipping my mind), and, as mentioned, ZoneLab's ZoneAlarm.

So, do you need to have a firewall? Absolutely. What does a firewall do?

It protects your computer, and all of the documents you have on it, from prying eyes. Do you need to go and buy a firewall? No, not necessarily.

ZoneLabs has a free version of ZoneAlarm available. It isn't as pretty or as easy to use, but it will do the job.

Hope this helps,

Submitted by: William H.



Well Stanley, think of it like this: your internet connected computer is like a large room. All internet traffic flowing into and out of your computer has to pass through ports, which are like the doors to this room. There are thousands of ports (65536 to be
exact!) that internet traffic can flow through, and certain ports are designated for certain purposes. The HTTP port (port 80) is the most common and heavily used port. When you type an internet address into your web browser, then view and navigate a new page or website, all that traffic is flowing through port 80.
Other common ports are port 21, for FTP (file transfers), port 23 for Telnet (remote computer administration), or port 110 for POP3 (email retrieval).

A firewall is a program that runs on your computer and effectively shuts and locks all these open doors into your computer. All traffic flowing into and out of your computer has to pass through one of the doors that the firewall leaves open. Most good firewalls will configure themselves automatically, so that after you install it, you won't really notice a change.
Sometimes if you use a new or unusual program, the firewall might have to be reconfigured. Most will do this automatically too, however, by simply popping open a window to let you know what's going on and asking you what you would like to do. A firewall is a must for anyone with a broadband connection. It prevents malicious people and programs from breaking in to your computer, and if you by chance get infected with spyware or other malicious software, it will keep that traffic from getting out and slowing down your internet connection.

Two good firewalls that can be downloaded and used for free are ZoneAlarm and Sygate personal firewall. Both are extremely effective and easy to use, and they don't cost a penny for personal users! I have used both and can attest to their ease of use and their quality. One thing to note, however, is that ZoneAlarm can interfere with some online games, so if you're into that kind of thing, you might want to choose a different firewall. Just download the firewall you like, double click on it's installer program, and they will install and configure in a snap. You're only a few clicks away from safer browsing, and possibly faster browsing!

Submitted by: Nick J.



A: Yes Stanley, there always seems to be a plethora of programs people should have running to help protect their computer. Having a firewall is no exception; a firewall with a good antivirus can be the difference between a happy computer or a flamb

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Firewalls and antivirus software

In reply to: Honorable mentions

I have found Panda Platinum 2005 to be an excellent combination of various programs that protect my machine from all of the malware and other attempts to attack. The program catches a fair amount of email that slips past the ISP's programs. Unfortunately, there are always some ingenious persons who send messages that slip through any protective programs or systems and try to con us into opening message attachments or to visit sites that will load some real problem programs onto a trusting or naive person's machine. Use a good fiewall, a good antivirus program and most of all, use your own best judgement as to what you open and what sites you visit. As a famous person once said, 'I know that I am paranoid, but I worry that I am not paranoid enough.' Trust, but cut the deck. Cordially, Red Bell

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Firewalls are for n00bs

In reply to: Firewalls and antivirus software

Gamers who know what they are doing hate firewalls. They just annoy and get in the way. If you have broadband, inteligence and a pimp comp, ditch the firewall.

I have a comp that has been connected to the net, DLing and ULing for the past 8 months about 95% of the time. Never had a spyare, virus or hack problem.

Why you might ask? Because I'm almost always online, my computer can get updates when ever it wants. So I always have the latest definitions. I am not a n00b about opening email attachments, I don't use outlook and I scan stuff from file sharing before I open it.

I set up AVG to look for and DL updates automatically and scheduled daily scans. Did the same for spybot S&D. I have autoupdates for xp going and I disabled all firewalls. Yay me!

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Well are u behind a router?

In reply to: Firewalls are for n00bs

Just cause u have updated virus definitions doesnt mean ur unhackable. Are u behind a router? Well if u are theres a tough hardware firewall right there.

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Additional advice from our members

In reply to: 6/3/05 Is a firewall absolutely necessary?

*** Additional advice from our members ***

If you have your computer directly connected to a cable modem or a DSL modem, a firewall is an absolute necessity. For the purpose of this discussion, I'm going to assume that this is how you are connected.
If you're dialing up to the Internet, these are still good precautions to take, for all of the reasons we will discuss here. By definition, a firewall basically stops connections to and from your computer that you don't authorize, and allows connections that you do. It's not always people trying to connect to (hack) your computer, but it could be viruses or worms automatically scanning the Internet for open, unprotected computers that they could replicate themselves to.

There are two basic types of firewalls available. Hardware-based firewalls connect between your cable or DSL modem, and are generally configured with your web browser. Usually, they work by utilizing network address translation (NAT) to identify Internet connections that you have made vs. communications that you did not request.
Software-based firewalls are by far the easiest to use and, in some
cases, are free. The most notable of these, and the best in my
opinion, is ZoneAlarm ( I mentioned above that firewalls allow connections that you authorize. Along those lines, ZoneAlarm will ask you when a program tries to connect to the Internet. If you recognize the program (i.e. Windows Media Player), you can allow the connection. It won't ask you again, so it's not constantly asking you questions. Once it does quiet down, you will only see notices when new software tries to connect to the Internet, or (potentially) if you have a virus and it tries to reach out to other computers. This prevents your personal information from making it off of your computer.

Other free firewall programs to look at:

-- Kerio Personal Firewall (
-- Sygate Personal Firewall (

An important note: while it may be OK to run multiple anti-virus software packages simultaneously, you should never run two software-based firewall programs at the same time. They could have unpredictable interactions with each other, and block all communications into and out of your computer. Therefore, if you're running Windows XP, you should disable the Windows Firewall component before installing a software firewall.

Once you have your software installed and running to your satisfaction, test it to make sure that it works correctly. Use a utility like ShieldsUp! ( which is free and very comprehensive, or Security Space Desktop Audit
( which costs $9.95 for one year's worth of unlimited audits. I highly recommend the ShieldsUp! page, as it is very descriptive and offers many detailed discussions of Internet vulnerabilities and is good reading for anyone, experienced or novice.

Submitted by: Bill S.




A firewall simply puts up a "barrier" between you and the Internet. Nothing comes or goes without your attention or approval. Its that simple. Windows XP has one available, but it is not a complete firewall. Most firewalls will protect the computer in both directions, inbound and outbound information. Win Xp's firewall only protects in one direction. A firewall is a "must have" item. I installed one when I got DSL and had intrusions blocked in just the first few minutes after installation. There are many unscrupulous people in cyberspace that are ever working, night and day, to see if they can get into as many systems as possible for less than honorable purposes. On top of this, there are businesses that would like to have unlimited access to your surfing habits so that they can bombard you with pop-ups, etc. The only firewall that I can recommend (because its the only one I've tried or needed) is Zone Alarm. It works very well and best of all it is free at I've used Zone Alarm for years and have found it to be very reliable and did I mention that it is free? I recommend Zone Alarm to everyone and did I mention that it is free. Zone Alarm is very user friendly, doesn't take hardly anything to setup, and did I mention that it is free? Zone Alarm Pro is available to purchase, but for the price, you just can't beat the free version. It is recommended by many IT people (Kim Komando, Wayne Cunningham, etc. Lee might even recommend it, but you'll have to ask him for sure.) By the way, a good pop-up blocker to get is Smart Pop-up Killer. It is small, works in the background, and is only present when IE is up. Good luck, Stanley (and did I mention that Zone Alarm is free?).

Submitted by: Mike



Stanley - Glad to see that the grandpas of the world are starting to use the Internet. But, like in the wild, wild west, you need to protect yourself upon entry. Here are some ways to decide what you need to do to protect yourself.

First, you should understand that there are two types of firewalls - hardware firewalls and software firewalls. Hardware firewalls are generally used to protect networks where there are many end users - typically at large companies, schools, e-commerce web sites, etc. They can also be useful for small office or home office networks that use wireless technology. But, from the tone of your letter, I believe your situation involves a single personal computer connected to the Internet via a dial-up modem, DSL connection or cable Internet access. In that case, you really don't need a hardware firewall. However, if you decide to get together with other grandpas in the future and start doing some online gaming using a wireless point at your house, you should probably submit another question to CNET.

So, what does a firewall do? Basically, a firewall acts as a traffic cop for your PC - screening and filtering data that enters your PC via your Internet connection. In simple terms, it keeps the bad guys - hackers - out of your PC. Although the Internet is a great place, remember - it is a two-way highway. You can go out and see the Internet world, but some portions of the Internet world will also try to come into your PC to visit you!

What can these hackers do to you? They can run scanner software to find computers to target for virus attacks, spam attacks (stealing your e-mail address to send fraudulent material out), denial of service attacks (flooding Internet sites with sign-ons to clog the server), etc. If you do not protecet your PC from them, it is vulnerable to attack. This is particularly true of PCs that are "always on" - ie, using a DSL or cable Internet access connection. As a good citizen of the Internet, it is your duty to protect your computer from these hackers and their tactics.

So, knowing that you need to protect yourself, how does a software firewall accomplish that? A software firewall is a program that you load into your PC to protect it. In simple terms, when properly configured, the software firewall will shield your PC by hiding its "address" from people outside your network - ie, Internet intruders. If they don't know you are there, then intruders cannot target your PC for attack.

Software firewalls can also have other useful features. Some can create logs of activity against your PC for your review. Some have additional built-in security features like anti-virus protection. Finally, some have other Internet security tools like anti-spyware and anti-spam software. If you don't already have those type of protective tools, you might want to check out a firewall suite that contains all of them.

There are a number of different software firewall products available. A really good one is ZoneAlarm. A free version of ZoneAlarm is available at You can also check out Norton Internet Security at Better yet, just search the CNET web site at! You can find product reviews, ratings and cost information.

Good luck,

Submitted by: Jerry B. of Manchester CT



Yes, Stanley, for general users a firewall is necessary. Whatever one's setup, there's no good sense surfing without a software firewall.
Originally firewalls were designed to block unwanted intrusions; later, the capability to control network access of programs from one's own computer was added. This provided securtiy against some known possible problems with legitimate software and protected against the malware apps phoning home. Modern paid firewalls also now look at the data packets for suspicious acitivity (stateful inspection) and monitor memory to prevent applications memory space from being modified by another program.
For free personal use, you can start with Kerio, Sygate, or Agnitum's Outpost. IFF it works on your system, I can also recommend ZoneAlarm's free version. (The last one that worked for me under 98SE or XP SP2 was 4.559.x; I haven't tried the latest release.) They are all easy to set up, have a 'wizard' to guide you through setup, and offer learning modes - one gives permisiions as they arise. Be stingy - if something doesn't work because you've denied access, you can always easlily modify settings.
All the free personal-use versions offer online support via fora, user groups, FAQs, and often third-party unofficial support sites.
It's a bit more work, and occasional frustration, but I suggest you try a few and find the one that best suits your needs and fancy. Ditto for paid versions.
I suggest steering clear of all-in-one security suites, at least until they mature a bit - they tend to get large, unwieldy, and often step on their own cr - er, toes.
Please note, nothing is perfect, and a layered approach to system security is highly recommended: an anti-virus app (AntiVir and AVG are probably the two best free-version ones extant, by my usage); a firewall; a malware scanner (Spybot Search & Destroy, AdAware SE, Ewido Security Suite, A2 [A-square], use a couple and scan weekly - run 'em, minimize window, go on with your live - takes five minutes); and a malware blocker (SpywareBlaster.) I can also recommend Microsoft's Anti-Spyware Beta for now.
I know this may sound like a lot of stuf to deal with, but it's piecework <g> and once dealt with, clear sailing. Just remember to update and scan regularly.
For convenience, use a pop-up blocker. Pop-up Stopper from Panicware is still the best and comes in a free version.
Using the setup offered above, I've had _no_ infections or other malware for almost a year.
Please note, in making my suggestions I haven't meant to slight other good apps; I speak only of the ones I have tried, used, and found to work.
Sorry about the long post. I hope this helps.

I left out a coupla very important things. Run only _one_ firewall and anti-virus app at a time (you may have more installed, but chose only one of each to autostart and monitor your system.) Also, generally run firewalls in "stealth" mode.
Be aware of your system's security settings - file sharing, browser (Active-X, Java permissions, logon,etc.) Microsoft's website has lots of useful info, and I can well recommend PCPitstop for general use.
Do not be overly concerned with cookies. They are mostly (99% or so) innocuous, and often useful.
Use a good disk cleaner now and then. All kinds abound, some are simple and good, I can recommend Disk Cleaner from R. J. Moerland at,
Use lots of RAM and shy away from RAM defragmenters.
Ah, the registry. Can of worms; be careful. However, I broke down, saved up and bough TuneUp Utilities. Free, good, and useful also are RegClean from Microsoft and TweakNow RegCleaner.
Karen Kenworthy has a raft of useful utilities.
EasyCleaner by Toni Helenius has been very useful, but approach some functions with a tad of caution.
PCWorld, CNET of course (!), and others make good places to start for basic info and more; also for software, is hard to beat - that's how I found most of the utilities I use when I first started with my Intel-based machine.

oh, boy, just one more thing - defragment! The hard drive gets cluttered with bits and pieces of files scattered about - it's a fact of life. Defragmenting keeps things neat, fast, and helps prevent a slew of unpleasantries.
Use Windows built-in, or for best-in-class for home use, spring for Diskeeper from Executive Software. I did, and have never regretted it. (There are some high-geek defrag utilities that are very good, but I haven't figured out how to properly use them yet.)

Submitted by: Jonesy



Dear Grandpa:

Hey, if you've got your antivirus to the point where you can understand it, then a firewall shouldn't be too bad. Think of a firewall as just that. The thing in your '59 Mercury that kept the heat of the engine away from you in the drivers seat, especially in the case of a fire. That's what a "firewall" for your computer will do.....electronically. Basically, there are two kinds. Hardware and software. Because you have antivirus protection, you may already have the software kind. The most protection you can get is with both kinds. All you really need to do is buy a device called a "router" with built in firewall. I personally use a linksys for my home system. Typically, routers are designed to "route" more than one computer to your single internet connection to your internet service provider (your ISP, or network company). Routers have also the advantage of providing additional protection from the outside world of hackers (a "firewall") by making you invisible to them. Here's an "armchair" description of how a firewall works. Pretend like your computer is actually the house you live in. Mail comes to your house (as well as all other deliveries) by the street address you ask them to be sent to. Now lets say that you want to start a business. You don't want everyone in the world to know your home address. Well, with the Postal service, you would simply rent a post office box, and from now on, you would use that as your address. No one would know where you lived, and would not be able to send a "stinky bomb" to your home address. Okay, so your computer is the home address, and the router is your PO box, sort of. Now imagine that every time someone ordered something from your company, you could give them an entirely new PO box. Each and every time! That would really keep them from knowing your address, right?

O.K., now in computer terms. Your computer's "mailing address" that is visible on the world wide web, is what is known as an IP (internet protocol) address. You probably didn't assign this address, windows will do it for you, and it's something like 198.128.2. Well, everytime you go on the world wide web, your address is hanging out there in the breeze. If a hacker gets ahold of your address, they can get into your computer (without you even knowing about it) and do all sorts of nasty things. With a router in between your computer and your internet provider, you become invisible. You see, your router keeps your address invisible by becoming a different address for you. And it changes every time you connect. The routers address can be seen on the web, but the router contains no information of it's own, so a hacker trying to get into that address, won't get anywhere.

A firewall router is pretty much plug and play. The only work required may be talking to your internet provider and having them make an adjustment for your router so that they recognize you.
Have fun,

Submitted by: Greg



To Stan (or "Granpa," as he referred to himself):

We're never too old to learn, and the best first step is to ask questions and seek advice. There are a number of good PC related magazines as well as on-line arena such as C-Net.

I used to be a "power user" at a major corporation, and had responsibility for selecting, purchasing and installing PC's for our large department, as well as selecting and installing new software and helping the end users get started. However, I retired from that company while the Internet was still relatively new, and spamming, hacking, scamming, phishing, etc., were not yet major issues. We knew about the danger of virus infections, and knew that McAfee seemed to be the most "on-top-of-things," but I don't remember that McAfee was a retailed software package back then. Peter Norton Software had not yet been merged with Symantec, and the Norton name was more familiar to and respected by most users. Norton was brilliant, and his software was bug-free and powerful, while still user friendly. Many of us used one of these methods to check for, and clean up virus problems.

A few years later my personal situation changed, and I was without a home computer for several years. When I was preparing to purchase one recently, I decided to do a little research first, as to which brands and models were the most highly recommended, and eventually bought one that shall remain nameless, but is still highly recommended in C-Net and a PC World magazine comparison article. The term "Firewall" was new to me, as were the terms "Privacy Service," "Spam Killer," and "cookies."

Reading articles in the PC related magazines answered those questions for me before I bought my computer -- I had wanted to be prepared with good software (or knowledge of appropriate measures to take) BEFORE I ordered and set up my computer. One of the editors of PC World magazine "ripped" Symantec's "costly update fees," so I leaned toward the McAfee "Security Center" package, which includes 1) VirusScan, 2) Personal Firewall, 3) Privacy Service, and 4) SpamKiller modules which are integrated in the package, but can be installed individually and used selectively. A 3-month free trial of this package was also preloaded on the computer I bought, and I immediately extended it for 12 additional months for a very reasonable fee at time of purchase. I find it full-featured and powerful, yet easy to use, and so far, very effective.

A couple things I like about the product: Its recommended default settings are effective and fit most casual users needs; however, a right-click on its taskbar icon offer options to change any of its settings with easy-to-understand information and explanations, with "recommended for the novice" notations. It shows summary reports of current and past activity, as well as incidents of attempted hacking. During installation, one of the options is whether or not you want it to automatically check on-line for new updates to automatically download and install (it can do this without your assistance while you are connected to the Internet doing "your own thing.") An option sets it to "always ask you" before it does this in every instance, and you can even set how frequently it will do this. You can set it (an installation default) to automatically run its virus scans at a certain time and day on a recurring basis (such as in the wee hours when you are not using your computer -- but the computer must, of course, be turned ON). It automatically logs every time a possible hacker -- such as a porno or phishing website in Shanghai China -- tries to access my computer, and through which port. Further, it automatically reports these incidents periodically to, an organization whose mission is to protect innocent unsuspecting users by tracking these offenders down and reporting to government agencies, both in the US and the country of the offending user.

In brief, my experience makes it easy for me to be comfortable in highly recommending the McAfee "SecurityCenter" product without hesitation or caveats. I have found that their customer support is good, and their pricing policies are fair and reasonable.

I hope this helps, and best of luck and happy browsing to you!

Submitted by: Mac E.




In the very simplest terms...A (software or hardware), firewall is simply your own personal unpaid traffic cop (unless you choose a paid version usually called the "Pro Edition"). He (it) works for you to control whether a program may contact the internet &/or the internet may contact a program on your computer or network. (I don't personally consider Windows Firewall avail. in Windows XP a "true firewall" in my opinion, as it is only a one way gate that stops incomming traffic, but not outgoing traffic. And should you have a malicious program or data collecting spyware program installed on your computer, it allows the unseen call home feature to take place. A true firewall would allow you to see the action of that calling home, and a choice/chance to stop it from doing so).

Depending on how a firewall is configured, it may ask you each time a program requests internet access or server rights access, it may allow the action everytime access is requested by a program, or it may deny such rights everytime. But w/ every program, you choose what access those programs will have when it comes to internet access/server rights access.

Connecting to the internet is one of the most dangerous things we usually do to our computers, and attacks aren't a mere coincidence, they are a fact of life once connected. Once we plug in that connection, we open thousands of doors or ports that are completey unlocked. A firewall can lock those doors, and we can choose which doors to unlock or keep locked after we install one, based on our own personal choices & "Safe Needs."

Whether a Dial up connection, DSL or Cable, I personally wouldn't connect a computer to the internet without first installing & properly configuring a software firewall. Recent independent tests have shown as low as a 2 min. or less safe time period before spyware/virus infection or a hack attack will usually take place of an unprotected computer once you activate that "simple door unto the world," the internet connection.

I personally like & use "Zone Alarm Free" from as my firewall of choice (My chosen personal unpaid traffic cop), though there are many other good ones out there.

It's free, effective, easy to configure, and has a great easy to follow for the beginner & techie alike tutorial as part of the install process. I won't play on the net without the simple protection of a firewall, and you shouldn't either. Not for more than a minute!

In the past I have even been tipped off about a malicious program installed on my computer or a customer's computer by the simple firewall "pop-up request of internet access" by said programs. It helps today to have that gate keeper/traffic cop watching all your doors (ports), the locks on those doors, and maintaining the keys to those locks for you.

Configuring is really quite simple. Allow once (click Allow), Deny once (cick Deny), Allow always (check the box on the left & click Allow-Green Check Mark), or Deny always (check the box on the left & click Deny-Red "X")....Or ask each time internet access &/or Server Rights is requested (simply a Blue question mark). Most Instant Messengers will also need Server Rights Access to work, but most other programs will not.

I allow these programs constant internet access in XP; Internet Explorer (or your internet browser of choice- I personally use FireFox from, my AV update service (Live Update Engine Com Module w/ Norton AV), Windows Automatic Update service, Generic Host Process for Win32 Services, & MS Anti-Spy auto updating service.

All others are simply on an "Ask Me" per use/need/request basis, and I personaly like those pop-up's. This way I am in complete & total control of my computer/internet connection access...Not the "Net Nasties."

Good Luck.

Submitted by: Gary L.




I see three questions: 1) what's a firewall?, 2) why do I need one?, and 3) which one?

1) A firewall is a program or device that inspects the traffic traveling between your local computer(s) and remote computers (AKA, the Internet). In simple terms, your computer asks for information from a remote computer, and the remote computer sends it. However, there are also remote computers that try to send information that your computer didn't ask for. This information is frequently malicious, and can piggy-back other nasties such as spyware, spam and viruses. A proper firewall prevents unrequested information from entering your computer.

2) A proper firewall is a part of a front-line base defense against Web nasties. If you spend any time on the Internet, you need to do what you can to protect your computer. A firewall is one of several such protection mechanisms. You also need antivirus (which you already mentioned), anti-spyware, and anti-spam.

3) Here you'll find a lot of opinions, but here are some facts: many publishers (including CNET) evaluate competing products and present you with a list of the "cream of the crop." In my research, some of the names that get "Editor's Choice" most frequently are ZoneAlarm (
) for a stand-alone firewall program, and Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2005 ( ) for a package that includes firewall, antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, and more. If you have a local computer network attached to the internet through a high-speed ("broadband") connection, then the Linksys BEFSX41 router is recommended as a firewall device, but I'd still have either ZoneAlarm or PC-cillin on the computer(s).

Submitted by: Michael B. of Taylorsville, UT, USA



Answer. A firewall (sometimes called a desktop firewall) is a software application used to protect a single Internet-connected computer from intruders. Personal firewall protection is especially useful for users with "always-on" connections such as DSL or Cable. Firewall are good to have as they can detect any intrusions and can often block them. Having a firewall is a good thing to have as it is often the first step to prevent any one to break into your system. If you are using Windows XP with Service Pack 2, then a firewall application is already running on your system as Service Pack 2 has the firewall application built in.
Put it this way, Im sure at one point, you had installed Wall Socket Covers which prevented a baby to put his/her finger in the wall socketand thus not get electricuted. A firewall is just that but used for computers. I have a firewall since I have Cable and the one that I have been using is ZoneAlarm. I reccomended it as ZoneAlarm is free, get the highest rating by CNet, PCWold,ComputerShopper. I have been using ZoneAlarm for the past 4 years, and it has a very good intrusion detection and prevention system along with a complete "lockdown" which at times, can be used to disable the internet if your computer is really acting crazy. ZoneAlarm's installation is pretty simple and easy, it will keep asking a user if you want a certain windows app to access the internet simply click on Allow or Disallow on the question screen ZoneAlarm Shows you. Learning new technology is not often easy, but it is definately worth it.&n! bsp; You can always email me back if you want more help and I will be more than happy to guide you.
Submitted by: Viraj M.



A firewall in the simplest of terms is a device or application that controls traffic between a private network and the public Internet and using one to protect your computer is definitely the way to go. They can also help keep intruders from attacking your PC or worse, stealing private information.
Windows XP ships with Windows firewall which is fairly straight forward and will be managed for the most part by Windows. It lives right on your desktop PC and does a fairly good job of keeping the "nasties" out.
If you are planning to connect more than one computer to the Internet in your home, you might consider going with a router product from linksys. These not only provide basic firewall protection, but can also allow you to easily add multiple computers to your Internet connection.
Firewalls are a good thing to have between your system and the Internet, expecially if you have a highspeed connection that is always on (one you do not have to dial into). Setting this up could save you a great deal of cleanup work in the long run.
I hope this has been of some help
Submitted by: Derek S. of Chilton WI


Hi Stanley:

A firewall opens and closes communications channels called "PORTS", these ports are, depending on what is being communicated open and closes the port. Initially these ports are open, which means a hacker does not even have to knock, it is an open door and the hacker just walks in and takes over your computer. Lets see what kind of information you have on your hard drive? And as of late, there have been hackers that access your computer, take files and folders and lock them up via encryption. Then turn around and charge you for the encryption key to unlock them. Firewalls help to prevent this. Firewalls will only allow access to your computer, on your say so (you give it permission to do so) or (the really good firewalls) do not allow an application access to the internet without your permission. so the firewall leaves you in control of your computer, not a hacker taking control of your property. And yes, in this day and age, a person needs to have all of the protection they !
can get from a firewall.

Even with a dial-up nowadays a person should use a firewall. Even though dial-up ISP's by their very nature are a dynamic (always changing) address (IP number) and most people with dial-up's think they are secure, they are not. This is because with high speed broadband being accessible to the hacker they can more quickly detect an open address (IP) much more quickly. So with a dial-up get a fire wall.

Now if you are on a cable or DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) broadband connection it is even more imperative that a firewall be used as most addressing (IP) is static (does not change, even though some cable or DSL companies say that they are a dynamic address (I have one of those broadband connections , I have yet to see a new IP address) most are a static IP address. Most broadband connections are left turned on 24/7/365, hence it is easier for hackers to hack a broadband address.

These are the reasons for having a firewall. A hacker can and will scan for open ports find them and access them if the ports are not protected.

A final note. You should consider having these hmmm, might we say helper applications as follows (and they can be obtained at an absolutely pronominal price of, zero cost! all of the applications are for personal use only, non-business/non-commerical use, cut and paste the address' below to your broswer);

A firewall
ZoneLabs ZoneAlarm can be found at this address:
If you need further information CNet has reviews on ZoneAlarm. CNet rates ZoneAlarm very highly.

A Spyware/Adaware
There are two Spyware/Adaware applications that should be used together; Lavasoft Adaware SE and can be found at:

Search and Destroy can be found at:

An anti-virus application
Grisoft AVG anti-virus application
The best thing about Grisoft is that it updates its virus definition all on its own and requires no yearly subscription to keep the definitions up to date. They also notify a person of the updated application.

When it comes to knowledge about firewalls, CNet has a very good course that is free of charge and on-line. These courses are not always available right away, but you can when the course comes up for Firewalls, sign up for it at this address

If anymore information is needed go to the following address:
There are some articles of interest there on firewalls.

Submitted by: Rick B. of Warren, MI



First of all I think it's excellent that you are exploring the world of computers, it should open up a world bigger than you can imagine. Now to the task at hand, firewalls. Firewalls are not necessarily needed, at least in my opinion and here's why I think that way.
First, firewalls do block incoming web "nasties" as you put it, but they can also block traffic that you need to allow to your computer.
Secondly, they can be difficult to set up and for a new user you aren't going to go to the dark side of the internet much looking for stuff, so here's what I recommend.
You already have anti-virus which is a good step, I would also recommend picking up Webroot's SpySweeper, If you are not sure about how this program works and if you should buy it download the free-trial version to acclimate yourself to how the program runs and is setup. This program will keep you adware, spyware and trojan free. After you install SpySweeper make sure to update the definitions in the program which is really easy to do there is a big button in the options that will allow you to do this with one click. If you run scans I'd say 2-3 times a week you are guaranteed to stay clean, you can even schedule scans within the program to automatically run when you are least likely to be on the PC and therefore slowing down what ever work you may be doing on it. I would also recommend that you update your definitions once a week to stay on top of the latest threats. I use this program in conjuntion with a anti-virus program both at work and home and have very little internet browsing problems, and considering your experience this is a much simpler way to make your browsing experience both safe and entertaining.

Hope this helps you Stan, and good luck in your internet experience.

Submitted by: CK



Hi Stanley,

When your computer is connected to the internet, it allows you to connect to other computers around the globe to request information. You are already familiar with entering a website address and viewing the information contained there. The reverse is also true. Other computers on the internet can connect to your computer and request information. This being a less than perfect world means that there are people out there that will try to exploit this two way interaction, be it rogue advertiser's or even malicious hackers, that will try to gather information from your computer without you knowing it, or worse, even try to sabotage it. This is where the firewall comes in.

A firewall can be thought of as a mini fortress, with your computer in the middle, and the firewall as the fortress walls between you and the rest of the world, keeping unwanted invaiders out. At various points in this wall are guarded gates, that will allow legitimate connections to your computer through, but prevent dangerous ones. These gates in computer terms are called ports, and different types of information use different ports. For example, when you browse the web, the information from the sites you visit will generally arrive at port 80, incoming email usually arrives at port 110, and so on. There are many different ports for many different types of service, web pages, email, streaming video/audio, online games etc...

The role of the firewall is to monitor all these different connections and decide which ones are legitimate, and which ones present a risk and to block the potentially dangerous ones. As you can see, using a computer on the internet without a firewall potentially makes you very vulnerable to attacks. It's a bit like driving a car without wearing a seatbelt, should something hit you, you are in a lot more danger without it.

There are many great choices for firewall software, including: Tripwire and Zone Alert. You may find that your antivirus provider also provides firewall products. I personally use McAfee for both antivirus and firewall protection. I like the simple to use setup for both and they periodically update themselves for added protection from newer types of attacks.

Once you have your firewall installed there really isn't much else to do apart from enjoy a safer experience on the web.

Finally, I would recomend taking a look back through some of the great previous discussions on CNET regarding Anti Spyware/Adware software. By using all three (Antivirus, Firewall and Anti Spyware) you are protecting yourself as much as you can in an otherwise dangerous electronic world.

I hope that I have helped answer your question, and wish you continued happy and safe surfing.


Submitted by: Brian B. of Emeryville, CA



Greetings Stanley,

A firewall traditionally has been a physical structure erected between rooms in a building so that no matter what went on on one side, i.e. that part of the building burning to the ground, the other side of the firewall would remain unaffected.

That analogy has been applied to the world of networking With a connection to the group of worldwide networks known as the Internet through your Internet Service Provider (ISP), you can send and receive traffice from any other computer that also has a connection to the Internet. Unfortunately this internet connection is analogous to having a front door to your house without locks-if someone finds the door, they can just walk right via your Internet connection in with impunity and deposit unwanted software as well as compromise the privacy of your personal information stored on your computer.

A firewall in the network sense acts like a sentry at your door, checking everything that goes in and out. This can take the form of a software firewall that you would install on each computer just like you did your antivirus software, or a hardware firewall that you would place in between your DSL or cable modem and your computer (or switch if you have your own network). To take the analogy further, a software firewall is like having a a lock on each of the rooms in your house-someone can enter your house (private network), but needs to get by the firewall on each computer. A hardware firewall is more like a lock on your front door-it protects everything inside, and you only need one of them (this analogy assumes there is only one entrance and no windows!). I would strongly recommend a hardware firewall such as the Linksys BEFSX41, as they are generally more secure, are easier to configure, and you only need one of them.

In most cases you only need to configure the firewall with some basic settings that your ISP would provide and you're in business. If you have Windows XP and have enabled the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) service, Windows XP will open and close ports on this firewall as needed for some of the more esoteric services such as instant messaging, etc.

Submitted by: Ted L.




There are many ways that a malicious person can take control of your computer without ever actually physically touching it. One of these ways is to send you email or download to you (through a browser session) software that will send information from your computer to the malicious person. A personal firewall can reduce the liklihood of that happening. Major virus-protection software companies also sell personal firewalls. Once installed, it will tell you when some program on your computer is trying to access the internet, and ask your permission to grant it. If you don't intend for the program to connect to the internet, you can stop it from doing so. The personal firewall will also memorize the programs which you say are OK to allow to connect, so you don't have to answer the same question repeatedly.

Another type of "hardware" firewall is needed if you are using an ADSL broadband phoneline connection (this means using a service that gives you always-on connection to the internet using your phone line, but allows you to talk on the phone at the same time) or if you are using cable broadband (this is a service using the same cable that gives you TV). The "hardware" firewall is also called a gateway router or broadband router. This is placed between your computer and your internet connection, and prevents anyone from taking over your computer through your broadband connection. The takeover can be surreptitious - so someone can steal personal information without your ever knowing it.
A wireless form of broadband router is available, but I advise against it - it exposes you to malicious use of your connection if someone in your neighborhood, within about 2000 feet of your house, has a receiver and your wireless firewall isn't set up with security and protection. If you connect by a modem dialup (so you can't use the telephone for calls while you are on the internet) you don't need a hardware firewall.

Submitted by: Bert B.



Stanley, I can relate to not wanting to pull out any more hairs because of a computer. So my answer will head straight to the solution which, based on what you said, is best for you.

A firewall masks your computer from the outside world by creating a generic type of "address" that isn't, for all intents and purposes, your computer. Think of it as two doors in a security situation in a building, or to keep out the cold. You open one door, go into the space between doors, and that door closes behind you. Only then does the second door open and you are outside.

You will hear two types of firewalls described, hardware and software.
My answer only focuses on the hardware type, as given your situation you obviously want something that plugs in and works, you can then pretty much forget about it, and keep your remaining hairs! Software firewalls are, as the name implies, programs which are installed on your computer.
Unfortunately they will pop up boxes when certain internet events happen asking for your decisions, which is where you start pulling out hairs!

The simple answer is to go to a computer store and look for "Routers", read the box for a description of the firewall features to get acquainted. Unless you need the functionality of moving your computer around the house, avoid "wireless" routers. Make sure the router is designed to accommodate the kind of internet connection you use - dial up or high speed (DSL or Cable). Bring it home, follow setup instructions in terms of the sequence of plugging in wiring, and forget it Happy

Submitted by: dougjp



The best and most obvious answer for you is to buy an Internet Router. The advantages of having a dedicated machine are these:

1) It will remain up even when all machines on your network are down.
2) Most are pretty much 'plug and play', with scripted browser based configuration wizards that will "clone" your PC's MAC address if necessary to support your ISP, as well as set up your lan.
3) If you can access the WAN, the firewall is in place, unless you have explicitly disabled it.

On the other hand, I have little faith in the PC software based "personal firewalls" that are available. If they fail to load, your machine is vulnerable. Ping attacks can slow or shut down your machine. If you plan on having more than one machine share your high-speed connection, PC-based solutions require something called dual-homing - this entails the installation of another network card, and then defining one as your LAN interface and the other as the WAN interface. Then you have to get a switch, etc,etc, etc. You get all of that and more in an Internet Router.

Non-firewall services that they provide include: DHCP server for your network, which automatically assigns IP addresses, as well providing DNS and router information to the systems connected. Most have built-in 4-5 port 10/100 Mbps switches to maximize peer-peer throughput.

Internet routers also have many of the features of a firewall:

- Network address translation (NAT) - a protocol that hides your machine from the outside world, so that ip/port scanners will not be able to inspect your machine for possible entry points.
- Ping suppression - a common attack is the PingOfDeath. This seeks to overwhelm your computer by inundating it with pings, and thus gain access to administrator privileges. By ignoring pings, as well as pushing WAN ping response out to the router, your machines are protected.
- IP. MAC, port, and protocol(UDP/TCP) restriction software to allow or disallow traffic between the WAN and LAN.

All of the home-grade internet routers I've seen do not allow for packet inspection, which more sophisticated firewall products provide. This allows the firewall to block packets based on their content. I doubt that most home users need or want the administrative headaches involved with this approach.

One thing to make sure to look for is something called "IPSEC pass-through", which will allow your home PC to connect to your company's VPN(Virtual Private Network) with the addition of some software usually provided by your company.

Internet Routers can be had for less than $30, given many of the discounts available. In fact, I've found that you can get a decent Internet/Wireless G router for around $20 after rebates. When setting up networks for friends, I frequently get them the wireless router and disable the wireless functionality unless they need it.

Submitted by: Rick D.



Hello Stanly

To make it simple YES a firewall is on of the most required piece of software you need on you're computer,

Lots of people think its fun to scan the internet to see if they can access some one else's computer , they use little programs and true these programs they access a computer who is not protected .
Once they have accessed to a unprotected computer they are able to steal information from you're computer , think of passwords, credit carts , you're personal information .
Some even think its funny to destroy a computer by making changes in the computer .
Now a firewall closes down ports so that a scanner is not able to access a computer and steal or damage,
A firewall das exactly what the word says, it puts up a wall of fire to protect you're computer from the outside,

Here is a site which gives you all the information about what kind of firewalls there are and the protection it gives

There are a lot of good free to use firewalls , here are some examples .
first of all there is the good old zone alarm ,

on this site you can down load a free to use firewall .also do a spyware check .
Spyware are little programs which get to you're computer by just looking on a site or using a program, they send information about you're internet behavior and use up you're bandwidth.

Then there is the very good free to use personal fire wall from Sygate .

On this site there is a lot of good information how to install and run the free firewall
Be save and protect you're computer


Submitted by: Dutchy



Stanley, you are like many of us out here in that you want to protect your computer with the least amount of learning curve involved with the task.
There are many software based firewalls out there that do an OK job and probably the best are those associated with the mainline companies such as Symantec or McAfee. They do however start to make things complicated in the options that you have to choose and if you allow them to provide full coverage you may find out that many things you want to do are blocked to you. What I would recommend to you would be a combination of several things to provide the necessary security that you want:

1. A hardware based Firewall solution in the form of a router. This device, which will cost you typically under a hundred dollars, assigns a secondary IP address to your actual computer and prevents most uninvited excursions into your computer. Typically you would use a router only if you have several computers in the house connected together and using the same internet connection but that is not necessary. A router is easy to hook up. I use a simple one from Linksys and this should provide all the firewall protection you need as it keeps your computer hidden with a layer of protection from your active IP address. IMHO, this is much better than a software based firewall solution and much simpler as well. but?.you also need to do more as follows:

2. Use a robust virus protection program and there will be many opinions as to which is best. If you stick with the big players in this field you will be ok. Don?t activate any firewall options with whatever you purchase as your router will be doing just fine for you. Subscribe to the virus definition update part of this as if you don?t any new viruses out there will have access without being scanned.

3. Further protect your computer with popup blocking and spyware blocking. This is crucial also as popup and spyware things will clog your computer?s memory faster than anything I know. I use Ad-Aware and Spybot Search and destroy and run them manually about once a week?. Even though I?m careful where I go on the internet it seems I always pick up something that can be safely removed?.I also have two teens that are not at all troubled by clicking on any type of link while online. I haven?t had any troubles at all since using those combinations above??it?s a maintenance issue that will require some time but it will help you learn about your computer and will guarantee trouble free internet browsing.

Finally, please remember, a couple bucks spent on this type of protection will keep you in happy computing much longer than hauling off and spending the bucks right away for that new program you want to try out.

Good luck to you !!!!!

Submitted by: Pat



The antivirus software helps to prevent malicious programs from doing things like deleting files and other stuff to mess up your computer.
The software can check your incoming emails and other programs that might run on your computer to insure that they don't match the pattern of a known virus. In order for a virus to run, it has to first get loaded on your computer, usually through an email, something that you loaded from a disk, or something on the Internet that you downloaded.

The firewall handles another kind of threat. In order for your computer to communicate with the outside world (primarily through your Internet
connection) the software has a limited number of places that it will permit incoming and outgoing messages (these places are called ports and are assigned to different numbers.) Normally, communication with your browser (e.g., Internet Explorer) takes place on port 80. There are other ports assigned for FTP and secure communication, among others.
There are people who run programs that scan the Internet looking for open ports where they may be able make a connection and run unauthorized programs on your computer. The firewall can hide these ports from the outside world, both through reassigning the address of your connection and by making the port appear to not be assigned.

There are a couple of ways that you can protect yourself with a firewall, and it is wise to use both for the highest level of safety.
First is a hardware device called a router that contains firewall capabilities. If you have a home network or use a home wireless connection you probably already have one of these. Secondly, there is firewall software (e.g., Zone Alarm) that runs on your computer that can
provide additional protection if someone gets by the first level.
There is some configuration that needs to take place, so as a novice you may want to ask someone for help, or at least make sure that you read the documentation thoroughly and have some understanding of how to set things up. If you use Zone Alarm, for instance, the default installation gives you excellent protection, but you need to understand what types of things you don't want the firewall to stop. For a router, you can also get away with the default settings for the most part, but you should at least assign another ID and password for administering it, since an intruder is likely to know the one that ships with the device.

Submitted by: Bruce B. of Dudley, MA USA



Welcome to the world of computers, Stanley. Since you're new at this, I'll try to keep it as simple as possible. Computers can be scary for "Newbies".

Let me just say that a firewall is absolutely imperative if you're going to be using the Internet. Anti-Spyware is another "Must Have". For starters, download and install Microsoft Antispyware from the Microsoft website. >> << This is a trial with the option to buy after July 31, 2005. I've been using it in conjunction with "Spybot-Search & Destroy" without any problems.

Assuming that you've just purchased a new computer running Windows XP SP-2, you should have a firewall already active. It comes with Windows.

To be sure it's working, click on the "Start" menu - Control Panel - Security Center.

In the Security Center window, you'll see the three main aspects of your computers security, Firewall, Automatic Updates, Virus Protection. They should all be "On". If the firewall is off, click on "Windows Firewall" at the bottom of the window. Another window will come up. Click it on.

Others may recommend that you use other software as well to further protect your system such as additional Antispyware and Firewalls. While these may be valid and very useful, I wouldn't recommend that to you at this point. It will only confuse you and you need to familiarize yourself a bit more to fully understand what all these security measures do. Right now, the best thing for you to be aware of is the "Security Center" and an easy to understand Antispyware utility like the one I suggested earlier. Those things will help keep your system safe and trouble free.

Submitted by: Robert K.




Imagine your house with thousands of doors on each wall. Anyone walking by can come in and anyone inside can go out without you knowing what is happening. Things can be stolen or bad things can be put into your home.
How would you feel?

Your computer is like such a house where doors are called "ports". For example, if you plan to run a web server, it will probably run on the port number 80. A firewall is a piece of software that just locks all the doors and you can tune it for letting access to specific port (i.e.
port no 80 for your web server). Microsoft firewall is "half" a firewall. It only blocks the ports one way: from the outside world. But any bug you might already have in the computer is free to communicate its data anywhere outside your computer. Microsoft firewall is better than nothing, but far from enough.

I work in the IT industry for several years now and installed the following firewalls on my customers' computers and on my own pcs:

1. Zone Alarm Free edition (get it from

This firewall is great, but if you have to connect to your computer from the outside world (remotely), using the Remote Administrator software, it cannot let you custom the port number for the connection. As an individual, you don't need the full blown professional version.

2. Sygate Personal Firewall (get it from

This is the one I actually use as I sometimes need to access my computers remotely and it is very good.

Both are great piece of software and will protect your computer as well as any firewall you could buy.

I hope this was helpful.


Submitted by: Marc Q. of New Zealand



Yes, you need a firewall, but maybe you already have one and don't know it! Imagine your internet connection as an electronic doorway between
your computer and the rest of the world. Imagine there are lots and
lots of bad guys roaming the Internet streets with nothing better to do than to rattle every doorknob they find just to see if they can open one and do some mischief inside. Any computer that dares to connect to the internet unprotected nowadays will be identified and attacked within minutes. No joke. Now imagine a firewall as the doorman or gatekeeper to your computer. At the very least, it should keep out the riff-raff and let into your computer only those you approve of. Better firewalls will also block bad guys from getting out of your computer and keep them from passing out information about you. The best firewalls will actually make your internet doorway visible from the outside only to those you invite in the first place. Firewalls do this by either comparing the network messages going into and out of your computer, or by checking the programs sending and receiving network messages, or both, and blocking those you did not give permission to. By the very nature of what they do, all firewalls can be at times inconvenient, either by asking you for permissions, or by blocking you from various websites and/or network activities. I know several people who feel that firewalls are just too much bother, and that is their choice. I strongly believe firewalls are one part of a suite of applications essential to responsible internet access, along with anti-virus, anti-spam, anti-popup, and anti-spyware. Depending on your computer, your operating system, and how you connect to the Internet, you may already have some or all of these protections. As you did not say anything about these, I can only speculate. If your connection is cable or DSL, it is possible your connection has hardware firewall features built-in. It is possible your computer has a software firewall already running. A good way to tell is to go to and run its Shields-Up! test. This website is an excellent source of information on internet security, if a bit technical. As for specific recommendations, again the information you provide is too general, but I am sure that won't stop other people from offering their solutions anyway.

Submitted by: Jim P. of Denver, Colorado, USA

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Another idea

In reply to: Additional advice from our members

How much of your remaining time do you care to invest in managing this issue? I'm not trying to be cavalier about this, but another perspective on this issue may be of value.

One reason PCWorld July 2005 says the best operating system is Macintosh OS X deals precisely with your concern. Zero viruses. Built in Unix firewall. Click System Preferences, click Sharing, click Firewall, click On.

If you care to invest your time tinkering, Windows will provide you with every opportunity for your remaining days. If you want to use a machine to enjoy this aspect of life with the safest, most secure, most useful, best operating system, PCWorld July 2005 has your answer - starting for as little as $500, buy a Mac.

Your call.

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Mac's need firewalls too

In reply to: Another idea

Don't let this Mac advertisment change the issue. All computers are vulnerable here, and the zero virus claim on the Mac should make you supicious, it's not true.

The reason that Microsoft is further ahead on this issue is because more than 90% of the US market is running Windows, those are votes with the check book. I've gone two years on 6 machines, and no virus, or other malware here thanks to strategy outlined at top of this thread. Well written.

In my opinion, adding Zonealarm is a much smarter decision than switching to the MAC.
You decide.

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Your point?

In reply to: Mac's need firewalls too

OK, name one Mac OSX virus...

Times up. There currently are none. That does not mean that there will never be one, but tomshaughnessy's statement is true at this particular point in time.

The main point is that the Mac requires much less tinkering when it comes to security. I use both platforms and I know this to be true. I am a geek. I can tinker all day and all night. When a "civilian" asks me what computer to buy, I suggest that they buy a Mac, unless they need some specialized software that is only available on PC. The simple fact is that we are the minority. The majority just want the thing to work. TVs and microwaves just work, so why not computers? I don't see anything wrong with that. I have found that an ever-increasing amount of my time is devoted to maintaining my PC as opposed to actually using it. Everyone I know that has a PC calls me up to come fix it.

So, why is it that when someone relates information about a product that they have had good experiences with, it is an advertisement? I ran into the same idiotic line of thinking in one of these threads regarding Firefox, a free program. You know what they say about minds and parachutes...

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In reply to: Your point?

If your really a geek, then I bet you probably have upgraded to Tiger v10.4. Why so fast? Do we really need to cover the security holes that have been IDed this updated closes?

Then we have poor marc72 compaining ealier that zone alarm does not have a mac version and shame on software vendors for not recognizing every platform available.

and my point is, they are all insecure if you don't keep them patched. You will presenting the mac as if you can just doze off...

One of the advatages of Windows is you have a bigger pool of experts working on solutions, so there are more options and generally lower prices for similar functions.

It's not about the Mac, it's about the market share of Windows.
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Um.. that's a trojan

In reply to: Mac/Cowhand-A

No Tiger for me. I said I was a geek, not a masochist! Vulnerabilities are not exploits and trojans are not viruses. I should have been more specific.

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Which is more secure

In reply to: Another idea

My question is this. Which system would you trust more?

According to market researcher, Windows now controls 97.46 percent of the global desktop OS market, compared to just 1.43 percent for Apple Macintosh and 0.26 percent for Linux.

Hackers are more likely to target more popular systems. Hence which system has been tested more for security?

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Grandpa's using PC's

In reply to: Additional advice from our members

In a reply I read:

Stanley - Glad to see that the grandpas of the world are starting to use the Internet. But, like in the wild, wild west, you need to protect yourself upon entry. Here are some ways to decide what you need to do to protect yourself.

Lets not forget that it were our grandpas which started the original work on computers

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Firewalls and Anti-virus: Another question

In reply to: Additional advice from our members

I am running Win XP, sp 1, and have been reluctant to add sp 2, because it doesn't seem to be compatible with the anti-spyware (Spybot Search and Distroy){Pest Patrol), anti-virus (Norton updated daily), and firewall (Zone Alarm Pro, updates expired). I have used Windows Update to download all other critical updates, just not SP 2. Now my Cable Internet provider (Cox) is offering a free security suite of Firewall, anti-spy, anti-virus, parental controls, anti-popup, that is different from any of the above. What is the best to install or uninstall, without interfering with other essential programs?

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Advice from one Grandparent to another

In reply to: 6/3/05 Is a firewall absolutely necessary?

***Advice from one Grandparent to another***


From one grandpa to another Stanley. M, I have been using main frame computers for about 40 years and Desktop computers for 15 years. I hope that my nasty experience with Symantec and McAfee firewall software and my personal recommendation to buy a Router with a firewall capability, will help you in making the right choice.

Like you Grandpa Stanley M. I knew practically nothing about firewalls when I got involved in purchasing and installing a software Firewall, but realized the urgent need to use one to protect my computer from insidious intrudes who want to wreck havoc with my computer or even wreak worse havoc with my other things such as bank accounts, investments etc., through my Desktop PC computer.
To find out what a firewall is and what it does I suggest that you go to and type in firewalls . You will get a wealth of articles on firewall, from elementary to advanced. Linksys provides information on their website , as do other Router companies.
My recommendation to you is based based on a very real bitter experience with Symantec Norton Internet Security and McAfee Firewall software. I recommend that you stay away from any software type Firewalls. USE A ROUTER with built in electronic FIREWALL and you will get other benefits from your Router you progress with computing.
After the the Symantec and McAfee Firewall software debacle I asked a lot of people what they used for a firewall including manufacturers of hard drives and other computer equipment. Every one I talked to told me to use a Router Firewall. I did not know much about Routers then but learnt very quickly.
I purchased a Linksys Wireless-G 2.4 GHz Broadband Router with Speed Booster and a wireless PCI card for installation into my second computer for accessing it without wires. At first it was difficult for me to try and configure the Router with all the new terms and functions, IP addresses and other new strange requirements. The configuration instructions were not very good and somewhat confusing.

I telephoned Linksys technical support for help. It turned out very good, courteous FREE technical support and I was quickly on my way. Not only was I now protected by the electronic firewall in the Linksys Router, but my two computers also now communicated with each other and I could use either computer to print to my Laser printer.

I have had no problems whatsoever with using the Router Firewall and the two computers and printer functioned perfectly as can be expected in the mostly mediocre world of desktop computers, peripherals and software. All that for the half the price of the Symantec Norton Internet Security and McAfee Firewall that I had purchased.

Read on as to what happened after I installed the Symantec Norton Internet Security and the McAfee Firewall.

After I purchased and installed the Symantec Norton Internet Security as a firewall, my fast 3.2 GHz computer with 1 GB of Ram slowed down to a crawl. I uninstalled the Norton Internet Security software using the Control Panel Add /Remove function and reinstalled it. The same thing happened.

Symantec did not provide a telephone number to call in case there were problems with Internet Security and all my efforts to find a solution to uninstalling Norton Internet Security from Symantecs Support website proved fruitless. My Calls to Symantec Corporation Headquarters provided me with absolutely no help as a matter of fact they were rude.

As an aside I have used the Norton Anti-Virus software for many years and have not had any trouble with it. I don't know how Symantecs technical support is now for Norton Anti-Virus as I did not have to use it for many years

I uninstalled Norton Internet Security, purchased McAfee's Firewall and installed it. It would not install and I got a message that Symantec Internet Security was installed on my computer and I first had to uninstall it. Odd indeed since I had already uninstalled it.

It was obvious that the Add / Remove Program in Control Panel did not completely uninstall Symantec Internet Security. I found out later that remnants of Symantec Internet Security remain in the Registry and I could not even find them in order to delete them.

Eventually, several hours time later I located someone with Symantec in Dallas, Texas who gave me an 800 number and a Personal Information Number (PIN) to call Symantec technical Support. Otherwise I would be charged an outrageous sum for their technical support to talk to me.

I did get through to Symantech technical support and was told that I needed two uninstall utilities provided by Symantec on their website to completely uninstall the Norton Internet Security and Norton Anti-Virus. Why Symantec did not include them with their software is beyond my comprehension. The fellow I was talking to kindly told me he would send me an e-mail with the uninstall utilities that I needed attached. I had the foresight to ask him for the names of the uninstall files which he gave me. The E-mail arrived but without the promised uninstall utilites that I needed.

I called Symantec technical support again and was rudely told that I needed a new PIN number before they would talk to me. I called the fellow back in Dallas, Texas however I could not get him. I called Symantec technical support again, I believe it was somewhere in India, however they wanted me to pay in advance, I believe $30, for me to obtain technical support. I refused to pay a fee and they hung up on me.

I was able to find the two uninstall files on the Symantec web site with complicated instructions, downloaded them and sucessfully removed Symantec Norton Internet Security. I now was able to install the McAfee Firewall. Guess what, it was even worse than Norton Internet Security and I also could not uninstall it completely by using the Add/Remove in Control Panel.

I ran into the same problem when I called McAfee technical support. I was told that I needed a special uninstall utility from their website. They would not talk to me unless I paid them a fee in advance for technical support. I thought that was disgusting and refused to pay them. I managed to find the uninstall utility on their website.

I was not allowed not return the expensive Norton Internet Security and Mcafee software to the store where i bought them from as I had opened the boxes and used them.

I learnt an expensive lesson from all of this and to mistrust anything that the computer, computer peripherals and software companies try to sell me with all of their vaunted claims and marketing hoopla.

This is not an indictment of the whole industry. there are some wonderful companies out there such as Executive Software developers of the Diskeeper defragmenter software and others who treat you well. I have just become more very cautious and investigate as fully as I can before I buy anything.

The mediocre Desktop PC computer technical support situation and software situation in general leaves a lot to be desired based on this and other nasty situations that I have repeatedly encountered with other software and hardware, as I am certain many of you have also.

With best regards,

Submitted by: Arthur B. of Walnut Creek, California




If you are using Windows XP, you have a built in firewall, you just need to turn it on. Now, what is a firewall? A firewall is like a bouncer at a night club, he checks everyone who wants to enter the club and keeps out those who do not meet the requirements of the owner. One of the best firewalls out there is Zone Alarm. Iit has a FREE version that
is good enough for your needs. Zone Alarm acts just like that bouncer, only he asks you to approve everyone who trys to enter your system. It is a fairly easy program to set-up. If you are on DSL, and are using a router like Linksys, they also have a built in firewall. I hope this helps, from one grandpa to another.

Submitted by: Dennis L. of Woodland Hills, CA



Being a new granpa myself I know what it's like when you're trying to get to grips with all things PC so I'll try to help out. A firewall is like a wall that sits between your pc and the internet and it's job is to prevent suspicious/malicious files and intruders from accessing your pc and files and it is really essential these days especially if you have a broadband/always - on connection.
There are many firewalls of differing complexities out there, some expensive and some free of charge. One of my favourites is Zone Alarm which has a free version which you can download at: This is an easy to use - set it and forget it if you like - once installed you can check the log to see how many intrusions have been prevented - I think you'll be surprised.
Well I hope that's some help, good luck!

Submitted by: Jak



THis is from another Grandfather who has messed a bit with these contraptions.
You need a firewall that self configures itself, and the one I use is ZoneAlarm. Perhaps the moderator will redirect you to the download site, if not I'll happily provide it, as I'm not sure about plugging a product rules here.
ZoleAlarm has a free one, so lot of bang for your buck here.

Submitted by: Kyle



As another Grandpa that only understands some of what I do on this #*#$ computer. My Son, the software tester, isn't the one to get answers from, he has no patients. So if I want to do something new, I ask my 9yr. old Grandson. He took pity on me and told me how to get what I needed for my computer besides a .357 magnum.

He help me to install a "Fire wall"- Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm, a free dwnld at Then an ad ware/cleaner from AdAware and SpyBot for Spyware as additional safety. I had a lot of trouble with Internet Explorer's popup blocker. When bill paying online or some links in my E-mail a popup would flash and I'd lose everything back to my desk top. To cure this I downloaded "Fire Fox" as a much better browser for me. I didn't have any trouble with links after that.

CNET's is the best source I can find that gives me enough information to choose the best programs when there's 15 dozen to try.

Submitted by: Anthony C. of Seattle, WA



A message to Grandpa from a Grandma who is also trying to understand all this computer "stuff". Maybe I'll get laughed right out of here, but I wanted something that would do a lot of the job itself and thought that buying a router would be worth the money if it did a good job of protecting my and my husband's little network. We talked to a computer salesman as well and he said it would also be a good idea for another Grandma type friend of mine who only has her own computer hooked up and is not even on a small network. We are on a fixed income, but we figured the cost of the router
might save us a lot in the long run! Maybe that is something that you might want to consider........ We have had this now for about 5 years, and we've not had any problems so far!!!!!! (Maybe we wouldn't have had a problem anyway, but I like feeling safer and with being on cable felt it was the only way to go. I still also run Norton's Internet Security as a backup. I'm maybe only as good as a wet paper bag, but
I feel like I'm Fort Knox..........

Submitted by: Susie Q.



Hay Stanley! First, I am a grandpa ( at 54 years) six times over so "I know of whence ye speak"! My question to you is "what specifically are you going to do with the computer as far as the internet is concerned?" If its that "standard" stuff like e-mail, exchange of "funnies" and images and so forth, and you are not "nerdy" enough to bother with a little continuous self-education (and honestly a LOT of us aren't, hence Windows' popularity) then any of the freeware or shareware firewalls will do. I can't recommend a a specific one because I took a little different approach. I have a machine I use extensively at home fro 3-D animation,CAD drafting and some programming. It is dual boot, Windows 200 on one side and (currently) Knoppix 3.8 a "flavor" of linux. On the Windows side, I have been absolutely obsessive about keeping updated with all of the various security patches from Microsoft as well as using several different spy-ware utilities. Since 2002 when I got this machine, I have had NO virus, trojan or spy-ware problems, NONE on the Windows side and I'm on-line an average of 4 hours a day, exclusive of work. Of course, I do essentially the same thing on the linux side with no problems but that is whole different issue.
Hope this "observation" is food for thought for you!

Submitted by: Sam L.



Why do you need a FIREWALL... Well, you don't, if you have a dial-up connection, altho one would'nt hurt... If you have a Cable or DSL connection, then you are constantly on-line, & are vulnerable to attack by the hoardes of evil-doers.. Therefore you do need a FIREWALL...which is just what it sounds like, protection from without... One form of firewall is to use a router, which in itself, is a firewall.. Also, Microsofts XP operating system software has a built-in firewall.. Zone Alarm can be downloaded & installed for added protection. It is FREE, & is highly rated... There are many others too.. Keeping current with your Anti-Virus updated is mandatory... A SPYWARE software is now almost a requirement.. It works much like the old ENEMA... Keeps cleaning you out... And don't forget a Registry Cleaner software.. This also straightens out & cleans up your Registry files, which are very important... I too am a GRANDPA (5X), in my seventies, & also struggling to understand an always changing medium... Good Luck, mamav... PS... I've done all of the above, & have had little /none problems, to date....

Submitted by: Bob M.




Submitted by: Ronnie G.



Hi Granpa

If you have survived so many years without looking at a PC, why do you want to aggravate your remaining years with a PC ? Give it as a gift to your nephew and tell him what you want and take a nap while he searches your want.


Submitted by: Licari I.

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tech support with McAfee

In reply to: Advice from one Grandparent to another

I had the same eerie experience described way above there in this thread-namely the call for support, which lands you in India, where you must ask the person ( 6 different ones) to repeat what they said; and still, the issue of Mcafee not working at all, (in spite of the automatic debit for their services from your bank account!) the complex thirty step process did NOT fix the problem. And worse...I was billed $50 for that phone call to India! So forget McAfee, and Norton too. There are software companies with anitvirus and firewall and spyware who are easier to deal with and whose programs are very good. I guess there is something to be said about companies who become too successful...and say " hell with those idiot customers of ours...we don't need them" awful lot of folks are saying to hell with them today!

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I agree with McAfee's lack of support..

In reply to: tech support with McAfee

I spent 3 hrs yesterday on their "CHAT" with customer services and tech support with them sending me back and for. All I wanted to do 5 days ago was change my e-mail address with them on the Virus Scan program and keep updates current. HA! HA! their system would let me in with my password by then when I went to change my account info it said my password was invalid. It took 5 days of e-mails and 3 hrs of being shuffled back and forth between services and tech support on there "CHAT". Both of them telling me it was a problem that the other had to solve. Most of the time I felt like they never read what I wrote to them and I was treated as if I was extremely dumb. I was the one that finally figured out what they did, not them. I'm not a total novice and even a novice should never be treated like that. Some how my password for the account had become capitalized but the sign on pass word was not. Of course when I asked for my password to be sent to me they sent me only the sign on version. It wasn't until the 5th employee sent me what he was showing as my passord over the "CHAT" connection and that I spotted the problem my self, and checked with him that the account password was capitalized and the sign in password was not. Every body else was saying if I could sign in with that password it should work to change my account they even accused me of having my CAPS key on when my password was NOT all capitalized and it was causing my problem. No where on their site does it indicate that sign on and account passwords may differ and they only send you the sign on password when requested. I do not know how it got changed but I do know it was not by me, since I never set up anything but the registration, and had not entered their system again. Also by the end of 2 hrs I was demanding a refund on the program stating 1)I no longer had faith in their program to work properly if they couldn't fix a SMALL thing like an access problem. 2)I had not only been asked for my password multiple times but was given my password through the CHAT window which says to me the password was available to a whole lot of people who should not have it. Is this the way a company who sells Virus and Firewall programs treats confidencial information and sends it over the internet!?! Not one I'm going to use. I got no where with demanding the refund because I solved my own problem, thus there wasn't a problem, thus no refund. I have removed as much of my info from their system as I could and changed the password on what I could not, but come on this is just plan BAD. Glad I have a router for a firewall, but what does one due for a good Virus scan program. Norton I didn't care for. It took over everything and slowed by system badly that's why I was trying the NEW 2005 9.0 McAfee. Not much help from Norton on my problems either. Anyone have a suggestion on an alternative Virus program.SL

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Anti-virus software

In reply to: I agree with McAfee's lack of support..

I have had good luck with GRISoft's AVG software, personal edition. That is free, but mind you, there is no support. For that you have to pay and get the commercial version. However, so far AVG Free seems to have kept my PCs in good shape.

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If you want to monitor your computer...

In reply to: Advice from one Grandparent to another

I use my router with firewall but to monitor the outgoing info on my computer I have not found a better firewall (and I tried zonealarm and blackice defender) than sygate personal firewall.

It is especially good when installing a program that may slip on a bit of spyware or such, or try, when installing, as sygate lets you see what is trying to connect to the computer.

This way my computer is secure and invisible incoming and outgoing.

To test your firewall check out gibson research corporation at and use his shieldsup program. That will show you how vulnerable or secure you are.

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Shrink-Wrap Contract

In reply to: Advice from one Grandparent to another

As for not wanting to return a software you're dissatisfied with, you should seriously consider reading the EULA or having your lawyer read it for you, because you should definitely have the right to return a piece of software that did not fulfill your expectations.

Shrink wrap contract
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Shrink wrap contracts are license agreements or other terms and conditions of a (putatively) contractual nature which can only be read and accepted by the consumer after opening the product. The term describes the shrinkwrap plastic wrapping used to coat software boxes, though these contracts are not limited to the software industry. Web-wrap, click-wrap and browse-wrap are related terms which refer to license agreements in software which is downloaded or used over the internet.

The legal status of shrink wrap contracts in the US is somewhat unclear. One line of cases follows ProCD v. Zeidenberg which held such contracts enforceable (see, e.g., Brower v. Gateway [1] ( and the other follows Klocek v. Gateway, Inc., which found them unenforceable (e.g., Specht v. Netscape Communications Corp. [2] ( These decisions are split on the question of consent, with the former holding that only objective manifestation of consent is required while the latter require at least the possibility of subjective consent.

In April 2004, a ruling [3] ( in California challenged the practice of including EULAs within shrink wrapped software. This forced major software companies and retailers, including Microsoft and Best Buy, to accept returns of opened software, and to provide EULAs on their website for consumers to read before committing to the software.

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It's good to see other grandparents out there trying

In reply to: Advice from one Grandparent to another

this new-fangled stuff. While I am not a grandparent yet, I try to deal with my childrens' grandpa (my dad) on this stuff. He started using his just for email to his granddaughters, but, like most of us, he just keeps finding ''neat'' things it will do...

He has worked with his hands all his life, and is easily frustrated with his computer because he can't ''take it apart and see how it works''.
So many of the tech support people (IF you can contact them and IF they understand English...) assume you know more than you do. He frequently threatens to give his computer away, do it bodily harm, etc. I'm able to walk him through a lot of stuff over the phone, and I always spend some time with him and the 'puter when we go back for a visit.

The biggest help I can give anyone is to find someone who is willing to talk to you at your level,and ignore how old/young your ''teacher'' is. Continue to ask questions, and keep asking until the answer makes sense to you and the way you think. Understand that there are some things you just have to take on faith that they will/do work; don't be concerned with ''how''. Don't underestimate the neighborhood kids as teachers--many of them are just ecstatic to be able to show what they know, and seem to have an innate joy in helping others. It will be a learning experience for both of you.

The only down side to any of this could be that being a ''student'' again makes you much more aware of what kind of ''teacher'' you were to your kids years ago. Sometimes it's not always a good realization...

Have fun, relax, and let someone help you out. Then pass it on to others in the same fix.

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In reply to: 6/3/05 Is a firewall absolutely necessary?

Miguel K mentions different firewalls but never the one that is part of windows xp. Why is that?

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In reply to: Firewall

Re-read the answer. there was a paragraph talking about the firewall that came with Windows XP.

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In reply to: 6/3/05 Is a firewall absolutely necessary?

No one explained that with a software firewall you will have to go thru a teaching period, telling it what programs to allow in and out of your computer. The first time a program wants to access the net, you will be asked to allow or block the access( there is a block to check so the firewall will remember your choice the next time the program is run ). For great protection and ease of operation I like Sygate's firewall.

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In reply to: 6/3/05 Is a firewall absolutely necessary?

I think that the need of a good firewall is very well explained. The thing is I agree with zonealarm, I think sygate is great but I unistalled norton off all my 3 computers. It slows incredibly any system, causes frequent crashes, I I really don't understand why it is so famous. I ran it in 3 different systems (windows 98, ME and XP) and in all it caused me problems. It was also the only one I paid for, sygate and zonealarm are free, avast and avg anti-virus are free. No norton in my computers any more

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Norton again and again and again!

In reply to: norton

I heartily agree. I don't know WHY everybody buys Norton products unless it's because they don't know better. I won't allow ANY Norton products on our home or business computers. They are horrible resource eaters and the support is woeful. I work in the community helping (mostly disabled) folks with computer access and I tell them the same thing.

I had one client who is blind and his daughter installed the Norton Suite without setting an adminstrator password. We could do nothing to change the setings afterwards. Technical support would have been VERY expensive so we spent hours searching their web site and others for an aswer before we found one.

Nobody has mentioned it yet but I have been using Black Ice for years without problems. It is hard to find in stores anymore but on line you can find it at
Good Luck!

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Norton - Yeah get real

In reply to: norton

I can't believe there are people out there still recommending this BS piece of garbage. Norton, in my opinion makes one of the most intrusive pieces of software I know of. I would not mind the intrusive nature of their software if the thing would do what it is supposed to.

90% of the tech support calls I get are because Norton has been installed on the user's computer. I have yet to find a system that has been installed with Norton Antivirus and used for 6 months that did not have a virus on it when scanned by a different antivirus product.

Norton is just like Microsoft. Just by the name alone they know they are going to remain in first place in the security market, why should they try harder to make their product actuall work?

For the last two years in our office of 150 users we have used Panda Antivius and we have yet to get a single virus on our network with any of these users. What do you think I recommend people buy?

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NORTON and its own firewall

In reply to: Norton - Yeah get real

Hello everyone,
I can't seem to find any mention of the fact that when you install NOrton's antivirus 2005, that you are asked to "UNINSTALL" or disable the firewall that comes with windows xp. I have had to disable mine and feel very nervous about it, but Norton's will not function if I don't.
Also lots of email has not been scanned. Some email has been returned to sender and some email that I have tried to send repeatedly, also came back.

My question: is it safe to keep Norton's, now that I bought the 2005 edition or should I go for Zone alarm? How does anyone feel about PC-illin? I always understood that was a good one?

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Totally agree!

In reply to: Norton - Yeah get real

You hit it perfectly. It is such a shame that marketing wins over performance. The people buying Norton are not as technically proficient as you and must be just playing follow the herd. Peter Norton actually had some innovative software back in the 1980's with his 'System Tools'. He sold the company a long time ago. Now it is part of Symantec and makes ill-behaved pervasive bloatware almost as bad as Microsoft. I have been programming for over 25 years and I am simply amazed that this company has even lasted, let alone near the top. This is all because of their name and not their products.
Like you I also swear by Panda Antivirus products. I use a router with NAT and SPI along with Panda Platinum on all my home computers and it simply works great. Panda is based in Spain and they stay current on a global scale. I have had automatic updates up to 6 times in one day and these only take a second while Norton does updates once a week and takes several minutes to do it. I never get viruses and I know my protection is very current. This is becoming more important as viruses exploit announced vulnerabilities faster all the time.
I suggest to everybody to try the free Panda Activescan. It frequently finds viruses on computers that are 'protected' by Norton and other products.
I believe Panda and CounterSpy are the current leaders in antivirus protection, not Norton and McAfee.
Panda is getting into antiSpyware as well. I hope they continue their high standards there too.
I especially recommend Panda to all my non-technical friends so I don't have to clean up their computers all the time.

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In reply to: norton

I am amazed by how much Norton-Bashing you people do. I have worked in the IT department of a major corporation for 15 years. Our division alone supports more than 34,000 desktop and laptop computers, not to mention all of the servers. Norton applications have never been a problem, when configured correctly. I will agree that out-of-the-box they can sometimes slow down a system, but that is because they try to err on the side of caution, which is excellent for novice users. As users become more knowledgeable and more proficient, they can tweak the application however they like.
Most of the bashing seems to come from those who rely on free software. There's no problem with free, but the really good free programs are few and far between. And, if you look at the history of such programs, you will find that most evolve into for-purchase programs, simply because you can't continue to provide a great program with no funding to back it up.
Anyway, that's my opinion.

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cuz it dont werk

In reply to: Norton-Bashing

Actually, I haven't heard any complaints about enterprise level Norton software. I guess if you want to buy a new version every year, and all you do MS Office, you're fine. I work for a small company and we were running Norton AV Professional 2003 until I got a virus a couple of months ago and it took Norton out. Upon re-installation I got insurmountable errors. I know that Symantec would just tell me to buy the latest version. I switched to Panda Titanium 2005 and now I'm covered like never before.

Yeah that's right, I was running Norton, the def's were up to date and I got slammed with a virus. I might not have even known about it if it weren't for Panda's Activescan. It turned out to be an old virus too. The only downside to the switch was that Panda Titanium takes quite a bit more RAM. A fair trade for total protection, me thinks.

Hey Norton! There's the door!

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