Third Parties

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-06-15 Print this article Print

This is a good example of how Microsoft has been forced into the security business. Its in a classic damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-dont position. If it provides a good firewall as part of Windows, then its using its "monopoly power" to foreclose a third-party market. If it doesnt, then its providing an insecure operating system. The trick is to make Windows Firewall good enough that users can run it without problems, while still leaving a clear competitive advantage for third parties.

I asked Zone Labs about the gaps between Windows Firewall, and it has plenty of arguments to make. The biggest one is that Microsoft claims its firewall is much more sophisticated about outbound protection, which means protection against outbound communication by potentially unauthorized software on your system.
Windows Firewall does have some protection against this, but it also comes configured with exceptions for some prominent applications, such as Internet Explorer. Doubtless there will be many testing stories soon looking at the practical differences in real-world use.

Manageability can be another big difference. Windows Firewall will be manageable through group policies in Active Directories, but other firewalls, such as the Sygate Secure Enterprise personal firewall, have much more powerful management features and are not tied into Active Directory—although AD integration is good for a lot of people.

Too bad that just by providing an adequate firewall, Microsoft is foreclosing third-party markets to some degree. People are cheap, and some number of users wont buy a third-party firewall because the Windows one is good enough. This is bad for everyone in a way, but in the big picture its just necessary that a good firewall—but not too good—come with Windows.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at for the latest security news, reviews and analysis.

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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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