The Security Angle

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-02-06 Print this article Print

But back to security: The answer to this was well-expressed recently with a minor industry "event," "Personal Firewall Day." Its a site and PR campaign from an industry consortium called "Everybody But Symantec." Of course, its not actually called that—it has no name—but I dont understand why Symantec isnt involved. The group consists of McAfee, Microsoft, Sygate, TruSecure and Zone Labs—recently acquired by Check Point Software Technologies.

Even though the name of the campaign referred to one recent day the consortium pitched as "Personal Firewall Day," in fact every minute of every day should be personal firewall day. The vendors named above and others all offer firewall programs that can protect users from the sorts of attacks that go bump in the night, whether youre at your computer or not. Whether you choose to turn your computer off or not, you still need to run a firewall, and the personal firewall is the best option for most people. PC Magazine recently reviewed several of these products, if youre looking to choose one.

Microsoft has recognized the importance of personal firewalls too. Window XP and Windows Server 2003 come with a rudimentary firewall called Internet Connection Firewall. ICF isnt a very useful firewall, although users running it are better off than users without it. The upcoming Windows XP Service Pack 2 will upgrade ICF and rename it "Windows Firewall." PC Magazine recently took a good hard look at it. Windows Firewall wont have all the features of third-party personal firewalls—for instance, it wont have tight control over programs on your system making outbound communications—but it will be turned on by default and will offer much more control over the security of your system than exists today in Windows out of the box.

Running away from a problem usually is not a good solution to the problem, and turning off your computer to avoid Internet attacks is the worst kind of running away. Its not even effective. Unless youre going to avoid the Internet altogether you will be attacked, and if youre attacked you need to have protection, and thats why theres personal firewall software. Not only will you have a fighting chance against the problem, but by making it harder for attackers youll be part of the solution.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Be sure to check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at for the latest security news, views and analysis.

More from Larry Seltzer

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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