Monday, November 02, 2009

Is Windows Firewall by itself on a modern machine providing sufficient protection from hackers?


An article in Switched on Wireless Security, one that I linked here on Oct. 29, says that you need a second package if you use Wireless, at least without secure connections (https) or if you use free coffeeshop services. Is it really OK to rely on Windows Firewall?

I found another article back in 2005 that explains how Windows Firewall works with McAfee, Norton, and particularly ZoneAlarm, that the user can check out here. The PC Today article is titled “Does Windows Firewall Measure Up?: We Review The Competition So You Can Decide For Yourself”.

Can you use different anti-virus packages together? On another machine, that has gone slow, I found that Spysweeper Anti-spyware and McAfee scans were locking either other out, but only because the machine has other problems (it is a 2003 Dell) which I am about to take to Best Buy/Geek Squad soon for diagnostics and repair. I suspect that they should run together OK, as they had before the machine turned too slow.

On Vista, the Windows Security Center explains the Windows Firewall, and discusses “network location” concepts: Private Network, Home Office, and Public. Some of the Microsoft documentation suggests that Home or Private network locations need additional firewall protection when connected to wireless (encryption), because the Windows settings already allow network discovery, which could apparently allow a drive-by hacker to pick up outgoing communications. I am not sure that this is the proper understanding of how it works in 2009. The only network location available on this laptop as purchased from Best Buy seems to be “private network”.

In practice, a home computer that is stand-alone that does business only through https and uses Windows Firewall and at least one major anti-virus (and that does not intentionally indulge in known risky behavior) is probably properly protected. (Note that Gmail uses https).

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