Do you understand what a firewall really does? Most people would tell you that a firewall protects you from hackers out there on the internet. They’re right, but there’s a little more to it.
Every modern operating system has a firewall. Windows PCs are a special case, because they are specifically targeted by the dark forces out there. That’s mainly true because of the huge user base of Windows computers around the world.
Your firewall is meant to protect you from evil computers trying to access your computer without your knowledge (inbound protection). However, good firewalls also prevent your PC from broadcasting your private information or spreading worms, viruses and spam to other computers (outbound protection).
Many years ago, Windows shipped XP without any firewall protection turned on by default. That was a huge mistake and millions of people paid the price for it. The mistake was fixed by XP Service Pack 1, but many of us have never forgotten what happens when you don’t use a firewall.
Back in the days of Windows 95 and 98, I used a firewall called ZoneAlarm, because Microsoft didn’t even offer one at the time. These days, the Windows firewall for XP, Vista and 7 is adequate, but it doesn’t offer very good outbound protection. That’s why it may be a good idea to try out the newest ZoneAlarm Free. Here’s what the folks at ZA say about their product.
YOUR PROTECTION INCLUDES:
Monitors inbound and outbound traffic flowing through your computer
Requests from an unknown or unsolicited source are identified and blocked
Hides your computer from hackers
Leverages real-time threat data from community of millions of ZoneAlarm users to detect and block the latest attacks
All programs launched on your computer are compared against a database of known programs; malicious program are blocked and safe programs allowed, rare unknown programs result in a warning
Delivers stronger, quieter security
Warns you of phishing sites and spyware distribution sites
Uses signatures and heuristics to identify more fraudulent websites than standard protection
Securely upload/download files with User-defined encryption keys.
Retrieve data from any location – login via any web browser to your account and access backed up data.
Automated backup schedules the backup of data per your convenience.
Below, I’ll run through a typical install of ZoneAlarm Free, with screenshots and tips to help you get through it.
The download for ZoneAlarm’s setup file is about 45mb in size. That’s actually not too bad. Once you launch it, you’ll see the following screens.
If you want to be sure what you are getting, it’s always a good idea to place a check-mark in the Customize your installationbox.
As you can see below, you can opt out of installing the ZoneAlarm Toolbar and a change to your web browser’s default search service. I tried it knowing that I could disable ZoneAlarm’s Conduit toolbar if I didn’t like it.
Next, you’ll be asked if you want to register. Not wanted, and fortunately not required. Remove the check-mark if you don’t want mail from ZA.
I took the default quick installation option (below).
When ZoneAlarm completes it’s installation, it scans your PC to see what programs you have running and installed. This will keep it from asking you silly questions later, concerning those programs needing to connect to the internet.
Now that ZA is installed, I’ll show you what it looks like.
Normally ZA resides as an icon in your system tray. You can double click it to bring up the main interface, as shown above. There isn’t much you’ll need to do in there. Mostly, ZA will only bother you when it is asking if it needs to allow new programs to connect to the internet (outbound connections).
If you installed the ZA toolbar, you might be surprised by all the features it contains.
It has Site Check, which warns you about bad websites. It has an Email notifier, Facebook notifier, Weather report, online radio and more.
If you want to learn more, you can watch a short video about ZA Free, from CNET.
While looking around, I noticed that ZA was offering 2Gb of free online storage at IDrive. However, you can get the same offer directly at IDrive, so I won’t cover that here. All I’ll say about it is that it’s great. Try it out if you’d like to back up some of your personal files online for free.
Below are two download locations for ZoneAlarm’s free firewall.
Techie Buzz Verdict:
There is no disputing the fact that ZoneAlarm’s free firewall is better than what’s provided by Microsoft. That and the fact that it’s free, leads me to list it as highly recommended.
Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)