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Is a Software Firewall Necessary?


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#1 JulieR

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Posted 04 July 2004 - 06:00 PM

Is a software firewall necessary if I have a router? Before I switched to DSL, I had Norton Personal Firewall and didn't renew my subscription when I switched to DSL. I thought I read somewhere that a software firewall was unnecessary if you had a router and/or would interfere with a router. Is this true? I have an Microsoft MN-700 router and Windows built in firewall is disabled.

#2 Nick

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Posted 05 July 2004 - 04:03 AM

Well, the one thing to keep in mind about routers is that they don't check outbound traffic, so anything that is on your cmputer can get out unchecked. Inbound protection is good, but every now and then I get an alert from something that gets past the router. The firewall built into Win XP also does not check outbound traffic.

I would recommend keeping a software firewall even with a router for those reasons. There are free ones avalable from Sygate and Zone Alarm, if you don't wish to renew Norton's license.

#3 cnm

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Posted 05 July 2004 - 09:51 AM

Kerio also has an excellent free firewall. Many of us prefer 2.15 to their version 4 and higher.
http://www.kerio.com...kpf2-en-win.exe

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#4 JulieR

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Posted 05 July 2004 - 01:23 PM

Pardon my ignorance but what type of outbound traffic could be harmful if not checked? I think I understand about inbound but a little confused at outbound.

Also, are firewalls suppose to prevent spyware and adware? I'm trying to do everything possible to keep all this crap off my system.

Currently I have:
Security settings set at custom (prompt for Run/Download signed Active X, disable unsigned Active X/Script not safe, etc)
Privacy tab set at prompt for 1st party cookies, block 3rd party.
Running SpywareGuard
Running Spyware Blaster
Using SpyBot
Using AdAware
Using SpySweeper
Norton Anti-Virus
And I always check for Windows Critical Updates

Even with all these I manage to find a couple of items during the scans. Is it inevitable even with all the prevention above?

Although my system is pretty clean, my sister has a pretty bad problem with spyware (I've posted messages for help) and since then I've been trying to educate family and friends about all this. In the past 2 weeks (trying to fix her problem) I've learned so much about spyware and adware but still find myself unable to answer alot of their questions, such as which cookies should be accepted when prompted, when to run active x when prompted, etc. What exactly does spyware do. I find myself mumbling with the answers.

I did download Netscape to try it out; this helps the Active X problem but not cookies, correct? How harmful are cookies anyway? Does Active X install the spyware/adware or do cookies?

Sorry, I meant to make this short but more questions keeping popping into my mind. Most of my questions are probably not appropriate for the Firewall forum, I probably should post them somewhere else.

#5 Tuxedo Jack

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Posted 05 July 2004 - 04:41 PM

If you have spyware, it sends outbound traffic. That traffic is harmful, isn't it?

Netscape isn't quite as good as Firefox. There's a link to it in my signature. Firefox allows you to block cookies very selectively - by site - and doesn't load ActiveX at all.
Signature file is under revision. This will be back shortly.

#6 JulieR

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Posted 05 July 2004 - 06:30 PM

I understand now about the outbound traffic; I just had to think about it a little bit. I have been reading about Firefox the last few days and have been intrigued. I think I'll give it a shot. Thanks for the info.

#7 Paranoid

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Posted 06 July 2004 - 08:51 AM

Definitely give it a try.
Please note that the software I recommend above is entirely based on only my own experience and testing. In no way should my comments,opinions and endorsements be construed as an endorsement by the forum, nor do they reflect the advise or recommendations by the experts or helpers at spywareinfo.


#8 JulieR

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Posted 06 July 2004 - 01:40 PM

I installed Firefox last night and really like it. I'm spreading the word at work, especially those who use IE and do their banking on line.

Now I'll have to try one of the suggested firewalls.

#9 MaytagMan

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Posted 13 July 2004 - 02:44 AM

If you have a hardware firewall (ie. router), and it is properly configured to let in only the ports you need, you are relatively secure from outside attack. A router will not stop spyware from being installed. Nor will a software firewall. It is simply there to prevent people outside the router from attacking what lies behind it. Much like a gate that prevents wolves from entering a sheep pen or something. The only use for a software firewall is monitoring what programs are trying to get out to the internet. For instance, if you notice a new program trying to chirp off data to some strange website, you can be suspicious and disallow this to happen. Most good routers have logging features that perform the same function, and keeping dilligent with adaware will eliminate most need for cheesey software firewalls like zonealarm and blackice.

#10 Paranoid

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Posted 13 July 2004 - 06:54 AM

I did download Netscape to try it out; this helps the Active X problem but not cookies, correct?  How harmful are cookies anyway?

Cookies are not that harmful really.

First the function of cookies.

Basically because of the way http works, there is no way for the server to remember unique visitors. Basically you go to one page, request the page, it gets sent the connection is broken. When you go to the next page linked to that on the same server (usually domain too), you will need to connect again get sent the page, and the connection is broken again...

Obviously the server doesn't know if you are the same user since you make mutiple connections. Even IP addresses are not fool proof because of NAT and other systems where multiple users share the same IP or on dialup where ips are rotated.


This can be a problem if you visit password protected pages. After you log in, the server has to have someway of identifying you, otherwise it will need to keep prompting for passwords.


Cookies solve the problem by acting like tokens or strings of info that identify the user and are stored on your computer The cookies can then be used to identify who you are ,store your prefered settings, passwords etc.

This is generally okay, though of course, another user at your computer will have access to the very same cookies, so you might want to clear them if you are not the only user of your computer.

Cookies normally are also fine since they are restricted to one particular domain, eg cookies you get on google.com can only be read by google. Google might know what you are doing on google.com, but it has no idea what you are doing on say yahoo.com

A privacy issue arises when being fed so called "third party cookies". These are generally by advertising companies. When you visit site X, you don't only get fed cookies from that site, but also cookies from Ad-based companies, the most famous of which is doubleclick. Owners of site X are paid of course or rewarded in some way for that use.

When enough sites, on the net do the same, you can essentially be tracked by them, say doubleclick, as you move from site to site. Eg You move from site X to Y, both of which host doubleclick cookies, your doubelclick cookies are then amended to note that you have visited sites X and Y, and more importantly , what type of topics you are interested in.

With time , if you do not clear the cookies, a profile of you as a user, can be built up.

This is a privacy concern, though not a security one.
Please note that the software I recommend above is entirely based on only my own experience and testing. In no way should my comments,opinions and endorsements be construed as an endorsement by the forum, nor do they reflect the advise or recommendations by the experts or helpers at spywareinfo.





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