Vista compatible firewalls

Part of my daily routine consists of visiting online message boards for IT and technical classes for instructing online courses for companies that currently include HP, Sony, Radio Shack, and Motorola (I’ve also taught online courses for Symantec, IBM, Forbes and Business Week, and others). One topic that I’ve built courses for and teach regularly has to do with Windows Firewalls, not to be confused or conflated with the Windows Firewall Program introduced with SP1 on Windows XP, and now included with both Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Because I grapple regularly with Windows Firewalls of all kinds, I’ve become something of a sleuth after and connoisseur of Windows Firewall related resources and Web sites. There are three to which I refer constantly during my teaching, and I’d like to share them here, too, because they

  1. Come in pretty handy from time to time
  2. Offer good places at which to point others in search of software and information

The first of these is known as the Home PC Firewall Guide, even though its URL is www.firewallguide.com. This site offers a lot of good basic PC security information and also includes coverage of anti-spyware, anti-virus, anti-spam, anti-phishing and other types of security software for PCs, as well information about wireless routers, back-up and storage, mobile security, and a range of other topics likely to be of interest to PC owners.Alas, however, the Home PC Firewall Guide site recommends a specific freeware firewall (Comodo) against which my next resource inveighs for older versions because it includes a well-known and widely reviled adware toolbar (Ask Toolbar, in the guise of Surfsafe Toolbar). That’s why you’ll want to cross-check their recommendations against my next resource before deciding on any particular personal firewall software for Windows Vista. This is the list of “Vista Compatible Firewalls” at blogspot.com (http://vistabookmarks.blogspot.com/2007/03/windows-vista-compatible-firewalls.html). This list is much more comprehensive than the one at the Home PC Firewall Guide and provide some valuable leavening for the information there. Interestingly, they point out that the free version of the Zone Alarm firewall also pre-checks installation of the Ask Toolbar (in the guise of ZoneAlarm Spy Blocker) much like Comodo. With the latest version of either product, though, those in the know can elect not to makes this toolbar part of their installations if forewarned.

The source for the information in this list of Vista compatible firewalls comes from Matousec.com, a well-known firewall research and testing outfit that offers firewall testing tools and information, as well as a well-maintainedFirewall Challenge that ranks and annotates ongoing results of firewall testing against a long list of Windows software firewall products. Of course, this makes Matousec (pronounced ma like the shorthand term for mother, toe like the digits on your feet, sec like the first syllable of the word “security”) my third resource, which in many ways is the best resource of the bunch. That said, it’s less approachable for neophytes and less adorned with helpful information, so only those with a serious security jones to satisfy will probably find it as interesting as I do.

The free Comodo version that earns the top spot in the Matousec firewall challenge is 3.0.22.349, followed closely by ProSecurity 1.43 and Outpost Firewall Pro 2008 6.0.2302.264.0490 (both of these are commercial programs). Number two in the freeware category is Online Armor Personal Firewall 2.1.0.131 Free (but alas, no Vista version of this tool is available as yet). Download the Comodo software fromwww.personalfirewall.comodo.com, or the Online Armor firewall for your XP systems from www.tallemu.com. I’ve also had good luck myself using the freePC Tools Firewall Plus (but hasten to point out that an older version gets fairly low marks from the Firewall Challenge, even though it caused me no discernable security problems and my security scans while running the tool all produced uniformly positive analyses).

If you know of other good Windows firewall resources or programs I’ve failed to mention here, or test results that contradict my current findings, please share them with me. I’m always glad to learn about new resources, and to put my understanding into a broader or better frame of reference when possible. Those interested in learning more about Windows Firewalls might also want to check out the HP SMB Learning Center, for whom I developed and regularly teach a course on this subject (it’s not currently offered, but usually pops up every other month, so keep checking back in the IT professionals section if you don’t see it offered when you visit the site).

–Ed–

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