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Firewalls


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#1
astrosoup

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My experience with software firewalls mostly involves frequent pop-ups and endless annoyance. I used ZoneAlarm for a while when it first came out, and had a Kaspersky firewall a couple of years after that. I was never impressed with either of them, since my philosophy is that security should discreet and computer users should not have to deal with constant annoyances from either malware/intrusions or their own security programs.

I see the value of a strong firewall on a direct PC-Internet connection, but when the computer is sitting behind a router, I don't really see it as a necessary component of a PC's security system. This is mostly from my own experience not just with elderly users like my grandmother constantly calling me asking what she should click on the box in the corner, but more frustratingly, with firewalls mysteriously resetting themselves and forgetting their port settings, thereby completely blocking internet access on the machine until I get around to fixing it.

What exactly are the advantages of running a software firewall when the machine is already behind a router? And how shunned from the general society of well-intentioned helper-geeks should I be for recommending that people simply turn them off, provided the internet connection is passing through a router first?
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#2
Johanna

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Firewalls will pop up the first week or so, while they are being "trained" and that is a good opportunity for new users to become familiar to their software. Your grandma may not catch "paypals" for "paypal" or know an exe from a txt file, so I say to install the software, and teach her how to use it. That will free up your time in the long run. Try to get user friendly default behavior software for a less experienced user. Computer Associates makes a good Internet Security suite, so does Norton.
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#3
Chopin

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She's right... your firewall is basically a bouncer between you and the big world out there. It controls what gets in and out, which is in essence a good thing, but usually checks with you first, which can be an annoyance.

My dad disabled my Comodo Firewall because of that, with the recent upgrade and all, it just got on his nerves :)
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#4
Tal

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Oh yes, I hate it when firewalls nag me. However, some firewalls have an 'auto' function - they allow windows processes and only ask you to allow other processes. But it's still annoying , especially in games.
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#5
Troy

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I used to have the Trend Micro Internet Security Suite, and it had a very quiet firewall... In training, it asked me 2 boxes, that was it.
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#6
Tal

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Maybe it wasn't a good firewall after all, troy :)
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#7
ScHwErV

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I think the gist of the original post is being missed. He isn't asking if its worth while to have a firewall, he is asking about the difference or benefits of a software firewall if there is already a router in place.

While its true that a router can keep incoming traffic out of your network (to some extent, depending on the router), a router will not stop outgoing traffic created by an unsavory Malware program (password stealer, keylogger, adware, etc...). Not even a good firewall on the edge of your network will help with that because an exterior firewall/router will only see traffic. If its going out on port 80, then its ok. It can't tell what software sent the message.
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#8
dsenette

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I think the gist of the original post is being missed. He isn't asking if its worth while to have a firewall, he is asking about the difference or benefits of a software firewall if there is already a router in place.

While its true that a router can keep incoming traffic out of your network (to some extent, depending on the router), a router will not stop outgoing traffic created by an unsavory Malware program (password stealer, keylogger, adware, etc...). Not even a good firewall on the edge of your network will help with that because an exterior firewall/router will only see traffic. If its going out on port 80, then its ok. It can't tell what software sent the message.

indeed. though some of the newer routers are comming with better SPI (Stateful packet inspection) based firewalls which can (sort of) detect the nature of the traffic.... the downfalls of both systems make for a great arguement for having both a software and hardware firewall in place......if you've got a hardware firewall watching all the incomming traffic then your software firewall can concentrate on outgoing traffic which will help it's performance...
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#9
astrosoup

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I get the incoming/outgoing idea, but my general issue with software firewalls is that they obstruct the normal/desired use of a user's application. The firewalls mentioned in my first post seemed to accomplish this by asking the user to acknowledge and approve every action, at least for a period of time, then block any new connections afterwards, requiring manual permission settings. More recently, I've installed Webroot's firewall which seems to block everything until I give it a green light, and ESET's firewall, which has yet to block anything from what I can tell.

The problem seems to be that firewalls have a hard time discerning between illegitimate and legitimate traffic, requiring a good degree of user interactivity. This is fine for more experienced computer users. But people who are just learning how to use a computer have a hard time trying anything new if they are required to navigate firewall settings to allow their programs to have internet access.

The large part of my experience with internet security is setting up systems for less experienced computer users. It seems to me that incoming traffic is the largest security concern on a personal computer and if you are in a position where outgoing traffic needs to be monitored, then this is indicative of a breakdown in other aspects of your system's security.
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#10
Johanna

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The firewalls mentioned in my first post seemed to accomplish this by asking the user to acknowledge and approve every action, at least for a period of time, then block any new connections afterwards, requiring manual permission settings.

Astosoup- this has not been my experience with the Internet Security Suites I mentioned previously. They don't require much user interaction (Norton has a list of pre approved software it will never even ask the user about, for example) and the default settings are just fine for ordinary computer users. As long as the users leave the firewall alone, everything is is painless for the user. Then some kid comes home for the holidays and starts monkeying with mom & dad's computer...but that is a rant I will save for another day.
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#11
ScHwErV

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No security solution will ever be 100%. Even with a good antivirus, good antimalware, and good firewall, no one can guarantee 100% computer security. However, with all that in place, your chances of a security breach are greatly diminished.

I look at it this way with my own parents/grandparents. 15 minutes of training is worth it when a good malware infestation can take hours to remove.

As far as user interaction, until the current incarnation of AI improves significantly, there will always need to be some user interaction with a firewall. The computer cannot read your mind, so you need to tell it what you want. For my parents, I used Comodo firewall, its been nearly non-existent for my parents. Once you tell it to allow Firefox, the antivirus/antimalware, java, flash, and a few other things, its rarely necessary for any follow up interaction.
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#12
dsenette

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I've installed Webroot's firewall which seems to block everything until I give it a green light,

this brings up a common complaint about most firewalls "it blocks everything untill i tell it not to"...that's a sign that your firewall is working....in ANY type of security system (be that spam filters or firewalls) you should ALWAYS start at the most restrictive point possible (i.e. everything under the sun is blocked) then allow things through as you find a need to do so...if the doors started out open from the begining...then the firewall wouldn't work at all..
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#13
Chopin

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No security solution will ever be 100%. Even with a good antivirus, good antimalware, and good firewall, no one can guarantee 100% computer security. However, with all that in place, your chances of a security breach are greatly diminished.

I look at it this way with my own parents/grandparents. 15 minutes of training is worth it when a good malware infestation can take hours to remove.

As far as user interaction, until the current incarnation of AI improves significantly, there will always need to be some user interaction with a firewall. The computer cannot read your mind, so you need to tell it what you want. For my parents, I used Comodo firewall, its been nearly non-existent for my parents. Once you tell it to allow Firefox, the antivirus/antimalware, java, flash, and a few other things, its rarely necessary for any follow up interaction.

Surely not for Defense+? That goes berserk on my computer, even when I tell it to trust like everything.
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#14
ScHwErV

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Surely not for Defense+? That goes berserk on my computer, even when I tell it to trust like everything.

:)
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#15
Chopin

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I meant Comodo Firewall's built-in Defense+ feature. Although just about every program on my computer is set to "Trusted" and "Remember", it still pops up every five minutes (exaggeration) asking for confirmation. Darn computer security :)
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