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Do I really need a firewall?
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:51
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
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Oct 2, 2008

In my home-office I use a wireless modem which is protected. Do I nonetheless need a firewall in my laptop machine?
I use ZoneAlarm, but in the event log I see no entries. Does that mean there were no attempts to entry my system from outside?


My system is Vista Business.

[Bearbeitet am 2008-10-02 13:19]

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Igor Anikeev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 20:51
English to Russian
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I believe you do Oct 2, 2008

I assume you are using a Windows machine. And then you need a firewall anyway, unless it's Vista (some people may disagree, but I've had a very nice experience with Vista and external firewall, which may be the way your "protected modem" is).

On the other hand, running a firewall is never a bad idea =) Regardless of the OS.


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Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:51
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It can't hurt, but it is up to you Oct 2, 2008


By wireless modem I'm assuming that you refer to a modem which is connected to a wireless router. Most of the new routers have a built in Firewall and they also have a NAT feature (which I won't go into rigt now but you can find a lot of information about it in the internet). If this indeed describes your setup you are pretty well protected from from attempts from outside of your home network (WAN). However, the router protects only from inbound attempts from sources outside of your home network, if for example your home networl comprised of a laptop and a desktop computers than they are not protected from one another. since they are both sharing he same network if one of them will get infected by a virus, other malicious software than it could spread easily to the other computer(s) on the network unless they are protected by a software firewall.
So basically I would recommend you to use a software firewall as another layer of protection if you have more than one computer on your network. The built-in windows firewall should do, but you can use other as well of course (Zonealarm, Comodo, etc.).
Another arguably important feature that most software firewall have is the outbound protection. The firewall in your router provide you only wih an inbound protection (according to its set of rules) but doesn't provide you with any indication about an outgoing traffic. I said that it is arguably important because some claim that it is very important to monitor which application from your computer tries to connect to the internet, thus enabling you to identify suspicious activity. Other (and I included) claim that most home users doesn't bother to check to much, and just approve anything since they just want things to work. I also thing that preventing in the first place from malicious entities from penetrating your computer is more important than monitoring their later outbound activity.
To conclude, it is not a bad idea to use a software firewall as an extra layer of protection (especially if you have more than one computer/device on the same network). But nevertheless never stop practicing the best line of defense, in my opinion, which is your common sense. take precautionary measures, surf the web safety, do not download or open suspicions files\attachments, etc because Anti-Virus, Firewall and all other softwares can't provide 100% protection.

Also you might want to free some system resources for your system by uninstalling your firewall. If this is the case there are much lighter options than Zonealarm (which from my experience is very good but tends to slow down the machine).

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Suzanne Blangsted  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
Danish to English
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McAfee Oct 2, 2008

I use McAfee's complete package for everything including maintenance of my desktop PC, and I therefore added it to my portable. McAfee has a firewall and all the trimmings for security including spamming.

I previously used ZoneAlarm but had too many problems with that one, as it took complete control of my PC causing problems with my DNS voice recognition system and my bookkeeping system, not allowing upgrades to be installed no matter how much i tweaked ZoneAlarm.

McAfee will automatically upgrade without extra charge.

I would definitely install a firewall even if the current system is stated to have one build in. Microsoft has one in their OS but I never the less added McAffee, and they work fine together, though I believe McAfee supersedes the one from Microsoft.

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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:51
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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A contradiction Oct 2, 2008

Heinrich Pesch wrote:
In my home-office I use a wireless modem which is protected.

Hm... Isn't "wireless" and "protected" a contradiction? Anybody in your neighbourhood can try to use your link and your resources. Of course you can password-protect the connection, but.... they try nevertheless and they have lots of fun trying. Some nerd around you could get access to your network soon. With a cable connection they have to manipulate your cable as the first step, and that is not an easy task as it is with a wireless connection.

Our equipment allows it, but we intentionally switched off the wireless mode both in the office and in our home setups.

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Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:51
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English to Hebrew
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SSID Oct 2, 2008

Tomás, wireless is not necessarily unsecure. It has it flaws and weaknesses just like any other networking protocol.
On the other hand it is quite usefull in many setups.
Another option instead of disabling the wireless feature altogether is to do the following:
1) Encrypt the network using the WPA or WPA2 algorithms and not by WEP which is fairly easy to break if you know what you're doing.
2) In addition most of the newer routers (access points) allow you to disable the SSID. The router transmit every couple of section the name and information of the network. This enables people to search and connect to the network. For example when a colleague come to the office and needs to use his Laptop he will search, find your office network and than connect (or you will give him the password if the network in encrypted) and use the internet. This also enable other people to find the network and try to break into it.
Disabling the SSID will not disable the wireless capability but would just prevent people searching for networks around them to even become aware that your network exists.
If all the devices in your home/office are already configured and usually you're not adding new devices frequently than it is recommended to disable the SSID if your hardware permits that.
3) You can also share the network only between specific MAC addresses. MAC address is a physical (in oppose to logical address such as an IP address) that each network component has. This way the network will only work with the configured MAC addresses and won't work with any other device regardless to encryption.
None of this is of course 100% safe, but so does a wired LAN.

BLANGSTED, It is not a good idea to run two software firewalls simultaneously on one computer. Can cause conflicts and this doesn't add any security benefit.

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