Tiny Personal Firewall 3.0 review:

Tiny Personal Firewall 3.0

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good New sandbox technology traps Trojan horses; settings let you tweak firewall rules; hides all ports so that hackers can't see your system.

The Bad No longer free; support is virtually nonexistent; cryptic dialog boxes and confusing alerts.

The Bottom Line Tiny Personal Firewall has a lot to offer, but it's hard to use if you're unfamiliar with firewalls. Unless you're a security guru, stick to ZoneAlarm or Norton Internet Security.

7.0 Overall
(Updated 6/19/02)

Tiny Personal Firewall now includes state-of-the-art, sandbox technology that stops malicious scripts--but for a price. Unlike past versions, 3.0 costs $39 after the 30-day free trial. Alas, Tiny Personal Firewall isn't very tiny, either. Version 3.0's download is 6.7MB, a big jump over the 1.35MB for version 2.x. And although Tiny Personal Firewall remains a solid choice for advanced users, the lack of preconfigured settings makes it too complicated for most of us. If you're just getting started with firewalls, try the easier setup of ZoneAlarm Pro or Norton Internet Security instead. (Updated 6/19/02)

Tiny Personal Firewall now includes state-of-the-art, sandbox technology that stops malicious scripts--but for a price. Unlike past versions, 3.0 costs $39 after the 30-day free trial. Alas, Tiny Personal Firewall isn't very tiny, either. Version 3.0's download is 6.7MB, a big jump over the 1.35MB for version 2.x. And although Tiny Personal Firewall remains a solid choice for advanced users, the lack of preconfigured settings makes it too complicated for most of us. If you're just getting started with firewalls, try the easier setup of ZoneAlarm Pro or Norton Internet Security instead.

Easy or Advanced?
The biggest change in Tiny Personal Firewall 3.0 is the interface. The Administration tool, where you configure applications for Internet privileges, now offers two modes: Easy and Advanced. Easy mimics the hands-off attitude of Norton Internet Security and ZoneAlarm by including settings for a few preconfigured applications, such as Internet Explorer, Outlook, Outlook Express, and Lotus Notes. Unfortunately, the list of preconfigured applications is woefully short compared with ZoneAlarm's or Norton Internet Security's. Advanced mode, on the other hand, allows you to tinker with specific settings for any application. For instance, you could make Outlook ask permission before accessing newsgroups via port 119 while extracting mail through port 110, the port traditionally used to pull in messages from a POP3 server.

To access Tiny's overall status display, called the Personal Firewall Agent window, right-click the program's system tray icon. There, the Activity tab shows all current connections between your apps and the Internet, while the Firewall tab displays which applications are "listening" to specific ports for bits from the Internet. When an unauthorized app tries to communicate through a port on your PC to the Internet, an alert window pops up. Unfortunately, the window lists the application only by filename, such as svhost.exe, which is confusing. And when installing new apps, Tiny Personal Firewall pops up enigmatic dialog boxes. For example, when we installed WinZip 8.1, this message wanting our approval popped up: "Spawning unknown application SU4_Default." Would you know what it means?

Playing safe in a sandbox
Because worms, Trojan horses, malicious ActiveX Controls, and other malevolent code can still get through firewalls, Tiny has added a built-in sandbox, a script-stopping environment that runs code in a safe setting until it determines whether the code is malicious. Within Advanced mode, sandbox settings can, for example, specify which file folders Internet Explorer is allowed to access, or it can forbid all apps from writing to the Registry. Users of other firewalls can purchase a standalone copy of this sandbox feature, called Tiny Trojan Trap 3.0, for $29.

Also new to 3.0 are tools to filter content (blocks offensive Web sites), manage a browser (automatically scrubs the browser cache so that there's no trace of where you've been), manage cookies (deletes old cookies), and an e-mail filter (prevents you from sending e-mail containing words such as confidential or top secret except to designated users).

Hides your PC from hackers
To test Tiny Personal Firewall, we used Gibson Research's ShieldsUp, which scans the ports on your PC, and LeakTest, which tests whether Trojan horses can force data through a firewall. Under ShieldsUp, Tiny achieved stealth, that is, it hid all ports, rendering our test computer invisible to hackers. Tiny also passed Gibson's LeakTest.

Support? What support?
Unfortunately, Tiny's technical support stinks. What's posted on the Web site is a PDF-file manual. There is no online support, no searchable FAQ files, no support phone number, and no e-mail address. When we tried using an e-mail address listed in the Enterprise support area, our messages bounced.

Tiny Personal Firewall's cutting-edge sandbox is a welcome addition and offers solid protection against Trojan horses and worms. But this firewall is better left to advanced users who know their way around Net security and love to fiddle with access rules.

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Whenever an application tries to access the Internet, Tiny Personal Firewall alerts you with cryptic dialog boxes that don't contain enough info.

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