XP's built-in firewall boosts 24-hour safety

Helpline

July 01, 2004|By James Coates | James Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

My son and I are having an argument over whether it's OK to leave our computer and Internet connection on 24 hours a day. I know little about computers, so I worry that leaving the connection active would allow malicious outsiders access to our computer. We have Norton AntiVirus, but that's all I know about our computer security. We have Microsoft Windows XP.

All of us need a firewall to ward off the thugs who bombard the Web with probes seeking out unprotected computers with always-on cable modem or DSL Internet connections.

This is particularly true for folks with just a single PC running around the clock because the router hardware used to share a cable or DSL connection among multiple computers includes built-in firewalls.

The easiest solution is to engage the Windows Internet Connection Firewall, which is built into Windows XP but is not activated by default. Like hardware firewalls, this software firewall keeps closed all of the ports that hackers can exploit to slip worms into a PC's memory and then use weaknesses in Microsoft's software to run damaging routines.

Open the My Network Places and select View Network Connections in the pane to the left. Find your Internet connection (probably the one called LAN) and right-click. A tab called Advanced in the display this summons includes a check box to turn on the Windows Firewall.

There are more sophisticated firewalls, including one from Norton and the hugely popular Zone Alarm, to fine-tune rules about which outsiders can access a PC, but the built-in Windows firewall works just as well by stopping all comers. That is about all most of us need.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. James Coates can be contacted via e-mail at jcoates@ tribune.com.

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