The term “firewall” always makes me think of a literal “wall of fire” that nothing can get through. Another, perhaps better, illustration would be the locks on the doors and windows of your home to prevent intrusion. Think of a firewall as protecting your computer the same way locking your house protects what is inside. A robber breaking into your home can take valuables and do damage to the living environment. Likewise, a hacker can break into your computer and take valuable information and damage the computing environment. You could be a victim of identity theft either way…the home invader steals your personal information in the form of social security cards, mail, bank information, etc., but this same information is likely stored on your computer as well. Many people shy away from using the internet to its fullest capacity because of fear. Internet banking and online stores are great assets in this technology age and there is no reason to avoid using them.
First lets look at some firewalls you shouldn’t have. In my opinion, that would be anything you have to pay for. I know several people that will not use free products because they believe them to be inferior. Sometimes that may be the case, but not every time. Understand that I am not talking about trial versions but totally free (for personal use) firewalls. I’ll say more about this later, but under no circumstances will I ever endorse a major name “security” product. This will include Norton and Mcafee, among others. So, what are the choices in free personal firewalls? There are quite a few, but a little research will root out the best one.
My personal choice is Comodo Firewall Pro. Follow the link to download the latest version. This firewall is bundled with the Comodo Internet Security suite. Always choose the custom install instead of the recommended install or you will get their antivirus, safesurf, and a toolbar or two. I don’t use anything but the firewall and neither should you. I’m not necessarily against Comodo’s antivirus, I just don’t think it is the best. Instead of writing another review of Comodo firewall, I’ll simply link to existing reviews that I feel are unbiased and honest. The first would be from Consumersearch.com. This is a lengthy article but the link is to the relevant part concerning Comodo firewall (click on the “TOP 4 Best Reviewed” tab to see their top picks). Gizmo’s freeware has a concise article praising Comodo’s efforts amongst free firewalls. With 1.4 million downloads in 2 months from Cnet alone I can say this is a very popular firewall.
Several things must be done to complete the install properly. First, if you are running Vista you will have to run the installer in Administrator mode (I’m assuming you have downloaded it already…if not see the first link above). Better yet, turn off User Account Control from Control Panel and never use it again (that is one thing that makes Vista more tolerable). Double click the installer and follow the prompts. Choose the custom install mode and only install the firewall. Ignore any toolbars, antivirus, safesearch, invitations to share information, etc. Pretty easy, right? The install should be automatic from here. Once installed the program should prompt you to restart your computer. Make sure you don’t have anything open or unsaved that could be lost. After the reboot the firewall should start automatically. We want to start out in training mode in order for the firewall to get a feel for the system. Follow any prompts or instructions given. The final result will be to switch to “safe mode” for everyday operations. This firewall will give a pop up message when any unknown inbound or outbound connection is attempted. It will also keep programs from gaining registry or high level access to your computer. There are 2 options when an event is discovered and these are basically “allow” and “deny”. In order to keep your sanity check the box “remember my answer” for trusted applications that you allow (like firefox) or suspect applications you deny. A little research should give you the answers on what to allow and what to deny.
That’s all there is to having a perfectly capable, free firewall. One thing you must not overlook is to disable the windows firewall. Go to the Security Center (the shield icon by the clock in the lower left or in Control Panel) and disable windows firewall. I go a step further and stop the entire service. To do this hit ctrl/alt/delete at the same time and choose “task manager”. Go to the services tab and look in the description for “windows firewall”. Right click on this and click “stop service”. Believe me, there is no need for it now.