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the poll conducted in Broadband Reports' Software forum and it reflects the favourite choice of its visitors, it certainly does not mean it is “the solution”. As with anything in life, it is all matter of personal preference. There is no best firewall, and probably there will never be.
How many times have you stumbled upon a thread titled "Which firewall do you use/recommend/think is best?" while browsing forums? Almost daily? That is not surprising having more and more people use computers every day, and having high speed Internet access such as Cable and DSL being almost a standard today. Being online 24/7 allows us do shopping, chat with our friends, do business, pay bills, and so on. Sounds great? However, while Internet provided us with many new abilities it has also opened a whole new set of possibilities to others to intrude our privacy, collect data about our surfing habits, infecting our computers with malicious software… Reading so many reports about virus infections harvesting computers around the Globe, and many of us being the ones infected, it has encouraged many home users who did not think protecting your computer is important to find a solution to prevent infections and intrusions to your computer, and most important, to protect your data.
In the era of high speed Internet access it has never been so crucial to protect your computer than now, especially when there are reports that almost 80% of computers connected to Internet are infected with spyware. This represents a growing problem for many of us, and using tools such as antivirus, anti-spyware and a firewall is a must these days.
To answer your question which firewall is preferred among BBR members, we decided to conduct a poll. Results show that Zone Alarm is, once again, a clear winner with 32 percent of votes. While there are many solutions out there to choose from, according to our members Zone Alarm seems to be the most trusted and the most used solution. This is not a surprise since Zone Alarm has been preferred choice for the past several years. From the beginning Zone Labs has provided rather outstanding free version and pay version to those in need of more than a pure firewall. Combined with ease of use, in my own opinion never seen before, with stability, small footprint, and plenty of features it has won over many people. One of the reasons why so many people use Zone Labs’ solutions, according to their reports, as well as reading threads and results of polls on this and other forums is that they provide wide range of products. They cover basically anything a customer could wish for. Want a pure firewall, easy to use, and free? Then Zone Alarm Free is your choice. While it may not have all bells and whistles of most commercial solutions, it does what is made for and it does it excellent. Zone Labs has kept it up to date with latest enhancements and fixes as their commercial solutions, which is always appreciated by users rather than using outdated free version. While some other vendors limit their free versions drastically or provide outdated versions, Zone Labs has not neglected their non-paying users and has always kept its free version up to date. Zone Labs, as well as competition, has been adding many features to their Zone Alarm product to meet consumers’ demand. On this page you can find a complete list of products offered by Zone Labs and comparison between them.
Zone Alarm is outstanding firewall, no matter if you use free or pay version. All products made by Zone Labs use the same core and thus providing you with what probably is one of the best firewalls on the market. I personally like to combine several products to do separate things, rather than using all-in-one solution. There is no doubt components Zone Labs integrates in its pay versions are top notch, however I believe users can combine their outstanding free firewall with several other free product to protect their systems.
Description of Zone Alarm Free:
Easy-to-use firewall blocks hackers and other unknown threats.
•Systematically identifies hackers and blocks access attempts
•Automatically makes your computer invisible to anyone on the Internet
Windows 98SE/ME/2000 Pro/XP. Pentium III 450 MHz or higher. 50MB of available hard disk space. Internet access. Minimum system RAM: 48MB (98SE/ME), 64MB (2000 Pro), 128MB (XP)
Looking at results more closely we can see that while Zone Alarm got almost 1/3 of member’s votes there are other products worth mentioning as well.
Second choice is built in Windows XP (SP1 and SP2) firewall. This is a basic firewall, which provides good inbound (incoming traffic) protection. It does not provide outbound protection and thus is does not provide you with ability to block an application, which potentially could be malicious, from connecting to the Internet.
If you are looking for rules based firewall an older but still very much used version of Kerio Personal Firewall is absolute winner in this category. Version 2.15 has not been updated since May 2003, however its stability, configurability and low resource usage won over many users who are looking for a free firewall. Broadband Reports has Kerio – Tiny forum with extensive info about Kerio and Tiny products, custom made rules as a great starting point for all Kerio v 2.15 users, and other useful tips.
Sygate, next to ZoneAlarm, is one of the popular choices when it comes to application based firewalls. It ended up in second place on our poll, together with built in Windows XP firewall. Sygate provides both free and pay versions. Its free version should be sufficient for most users. Advanced users should consider purchasing Pro version. I personally would not recommend you to use Sygate if you use a proxy server to access the Internet. There is a known issue in this firewall, which allows any application to connect to the Internet without prompting you if you use a proxy server. Applications like Proxomitron, Ad Muncher, WebWasher and similar are examples which function in this manner. If you are part of the group of users who do not use a proxy, then you should consider using this firewall.
Other choices we reviewed (alphabetically):
•eTrust EZ Firewall
•Look 'n' Stop
•Norman Personal Firewall
•Norton Personal Firewall/NIS
•Omniquad Personal Firewall
•Webroot Desktop Firewall
If you happen to be a user who is not familiar with firewalls and you ask yourself what a firewall is, then below you can read very brief explanation and type of firewalls that exist.
Firewalls provide protection against outside attackers (other Internet users) by filtering malicious Internet traffic, and thus shielding/hiding your computer (from others).
There are two types of firewalls:
Hardware firewalls are external devices are positioned between your computer or network and your cable or DSL modem. They provide high lever of protection, and are usually used for protecting multiple computers. Many people use routers, which usually have built in firewall features. Their downside is that their cost.
Software firewalls are installed on a computer and are used as regular programs. Some systems, such as Windows XP (SP1 and SP2) come with built in firewalls that provide inbound protection. Software firewalls allow users to control incoming traffic (inbound protection) and outgoing (outbound protection). Filtering outgoing traffic, meaning which application can (not) have Internet access, is one of the main reasons to use one, even if you have a hardware firewall.
In the end it doesn’t matter which solution you choose. It’s highly recommend that you use one. Any properly configured firewall being hardware or software based should provide you with excellent protection from intruders. It is also recommended that you keep your Windows up to date by downloading the latest updates from Windows Update, and that your software firewall is up to date.
What is a firewall?
Which Firewall should I use?
What is the Best Type of Software Firewall?
When is an NAT Router Inadequate Protection?