I’ve always been very careful to make sure my firewall is working right, I don’t like using advanced firewall software like what yuo get from Norton or other vendors. The software they provide is very bloated, comes with things you don’t want and is guaranteed to slow you down.
Since Windows XP was released in 2001 I’ve used the firewall that comes with Windows and nothing else, here is why and what I do to make sure it works the way it should…
Connecting to a properly configured router instead of directly to the internet has the side effect of acting like a firewall, this shouldn’t be relied on but is still an important benefit.
First off windows firewall is probably the best way to protect your computer without slowing you down, however since it’s what comes with windows it’s probably the most vulnerable to compromise. But don’t panic, when I say compromise, i mean that a program that YOU run does something to the firewall to create an opening, good computer habits will almost always prevent this.
Windows ships with it’s firewall turned on, so unless the company that sold you the computer turned it off (and hopefully put a different firewall on) you should be protected from day 1, unfortunately day 1 doesn’t last long. When you install or use a program you might be changing firewall settings you were never aware of.
To check what the firewall is doing you need to navigate the windows control panel and open up “Windows Firewall”. The first thing you should notice is a screen telling you if the firewall is turned on or off, make sure its on and change it if it’s not. Depending on what version of windows you have you will need to look around and find a list of programs that are “Allowed Through Windows Firewall” this list is my favorite part. Look over the list, uncheck items you don’t recognize or don’t use, most likely if you do something wrong here, the program that your effecting will fix itself, or let you know later, so don’t worry and have at it!
Now to my main point!
Now that we have a simple but effective windows firewall working, how do we know its REALLY working?
The Gibson ShieldsUp Firewall Test!
Having a router will prevent the test from giving you information about your specific computer but is still a great way to determine how secure your network is.
The firewall test is what matters most, some might say that a better test is x or y, but I say: 1. I can rely on Gibson as an independent party with no interest in harm or profit and 2. I don’t have to look at ads, sign up or click through a dozen pages.
That’s It! click the link, press proceed, perform each of the tests (“Common Ports” & “All Service Ports” are the most important) and then watch it scan you from the outside world, so you can see what everyone else can see.
Look over the results and then review what your firewall or router settings if you find any openings.
The one issue I’ve found is that by default Windows Firewall and some routers so allow for pings (aka ICMP Echo). While not inherently harmful, it will make the basic fact you exist known. Can you imagine knocking on a door and hearing “no one is home”.