Slecting a firewall for your computer

Howdy and welcome back to another fun and exciting edition of The Weekly Geek!

In this article I want to go over how I select firewalls for use in protecting my and my customer’s networks and computers.

Gathering the data: How I find out about products.

Just like with Anti-virus products, my list begins with…

  • Magazines test of different packages. I fear a little bias however I try to keep my checks and balances in place.
  • Students.
  • Walking through the electronic and office supply stores.
  • Forums.

Testing the programs

As with the testing of anti-virus programs, testing out of firewalls is of utmost concern. I have tried many freeware and a few pay for versions and those that cannot stop or at least notify the user of an attempted access to or from your computer should be chunked out in the garbage or recycle bin. The next important thing is ease of use, if I cannot figure it out, then it isn’t staying on my system. Finally there are updates. No firewall is perfect and those that have not issued changes since 2001 don’t even get downloaded.

There is a lot of hype on this brand or that brand in magazine articles, and many rate some of the same features I do but come up with totally different conclusions, how I don’t know. Once a program is installed I install GRC’s Leaktest and give it a whirl. Next I go to several different web sites that are designed to prod the firewall. They are…

  1. Sygatetech
  2. Audit My PC
  3. Qualys They want your personal information, if you don’t want to give it up then skip this company.
  4. GRC Go to the “Shields Up” section
  5. HackerWatch
  6. TruSecure Corp’s ICSA Labs You will need to register with their site.
  7. PC Flank

Once I have found several programs, I download them on various versions of Windows and give them the “Household” test by letting my family loose on the internet. After some time (usually about a month) I run full security scans of the various computers and see what sneaked through.

My Experiences

So yeah fun and all that stuff, “What does all of this mean for me?” Well, now you have the ability not to be a drone and follow the pack but instead you can test recommended firewalls yourself.

  • I have had miserable issues with Norton’s firewall in versions 2001, 2002 and 2003. E-mail downloads were horrid and Juno internet services would not even work.
  • I found McAfee Personal Firewall uses a lot of RAM and CPU time, as well it has not passed all of the above tests. Again I have not used version 4 or 5 because of this.
  • Zone Alarm Pro is a highly recommended program BUT… I have NEVER had it install correctly (version 4.x) I have tried the same copy and multiple other copies on many machines (no, not pirating) and all have failed. E-Trust / Computer Associates uses Zone Alarm and it has installed correctly BUT (notice that word again) it has never (for the last two versions) updated the firewall. I am requested to pay again for this.

As for freeware firewalls, I have used Kerio, Outpost, Tiny, Sysgate, Neowatch and a hand full of others. The only two I use are Kerio and Zone Alarm free. Kerio does not give updates to free users but if you cough up some dough you will get them and Zone Alarm has kept my personal desktop safe and secure for a long time.

If you want to have some fun, go to too leaky and put your system to the test. It is not on my main list because it is a bit discouraging.

Well, until we meet again, have a virus free and geeky day.