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  From the April 2015 Issue of Prestwood eMag
 
Windows Users:
Optimize your Windows Firewall
 
Posted 14 years ago on 9/12/2005 and updated 12/13/2006
Take Away: This is Windows Firewall 101. It is essential today that you have some type of personal firewall properly configured.

KB100282

by Vicki Nelson

I hope your computer is running faster and more smoothly since you've been following the steps in this series of articles.  In case you missed any: 

Disable Unused Windows Services
Clean Start Menu and Registry Entries
Cool Windows Key Shortcuts
Boot Failure in XP

This month’s article discusses increasing security with Windows Firewall.  It wasn’t that long ago that if someone mentioned the word “firewall” to me I was very impressed.  This person, I thought, must be an advanced geek (as compared to a regular geek like me).  Now, more than ever, with the millions of viruses, worms, spyware, adware, and malicious intruders on the Internet, it is essential to not only know about firewalls, but have one properly installed and running on your computer or network.  Windows Firewall is free – it comes with your operating system.   

What is a firewall? 

A firewall is a combination of hardware and software that provides a security system to prevent unauthorized access from the outside.  It prevents or allows direct communication between your computer and external computers by routing the communication through a proxy server.  The proxy server determines whether it is safe to let a file pass through to your network or computer. 

When someone on the internet tries to connect to your computer (a “request to connect”) the firewall software traverses through a set of rules and either allows the connection or disallows it based on these rules. 

How to turn on your Windows Firewall 

First of all, you don’t have to use Windows Firewall.  There are a number of other firewalls available.  My recommendation is to research several firewalls and select the one that best suits your needs and the level of security you want.  If you use a third party firewall, disable Windows Firewall.  Windows XP Service Pack 2 comes with Windows Firewall automatically turned on.  Some computer manufacturers choose to turn it off, so it’s best to check. 

Click on  Start / Settings / Network Connections / Local Area Connection
Right click on
Local Area Connection / Properties
Select the Advanced tab



Click on the Settings button. You will then see the following screen:



The screen looks pretty simple – there are only three options: turn off, turn on, and turn on but don’t allow exceptions.  I like the “don’t allow exceptions” button.  You can select this option temporarily, and you don’t have to go to the exceptions screen and uncheck each checked selection. 

Don’t Allow Exceptions

When you select the “don’t allow exceptions” button, all requests to connect to your computer will be blocked, even if their box is checked in the Exceptions screen.  This setting is for maximum protection and should be used when you are connecting to a public network such as Kinko’s or a hotel.  You can still use email, instant message, and surf the web. 

 Allow Exceptions

There are two ways to allow a connection to your computer.  The first and easiest way is to click on the Exceptions tab and check the box next to the program or service you want to allow.  If the program is not in the list, click the Add Program button and add the program from that list.  You may have to use the Browse button to find the program if it is not in the list. 

Add a Port

The second way is to add a port, often called “poking a hole through your firewall”.  Under the Exceptions tab click on Add a Port.  Specify a name, unused port number, and the protocol you need to use.  Remember to close the port after you are done using it. 



  Log File

If you want to see a list of the traffic to your computer, select the Advanced tab and click on the settings button next to security logging.   Check both boxes: "Log dropped packets" and "Log successful connections".  You will then be able to open the log file and see a list of the traffic to your computer.  Windows Firewall only writes allowed connections to the log file.  There are other firewall programs that will log all attempts, so you can see in the log file the IP addresses that attempted to connect but were blocked by your firewall.



Whether you choose to use Windows Firewall or another firewall program is up to you.  You are taking a huge risk if you don’t have any firewall running.  Windows Firewall is free and it’s easy to turn on and set up. 


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