102655149 4727e01cf3 m Computer Security
by Laughing Squid

 Enable The Internet Connection Firewall (ICF): Microsoft Windows XP – both Home and Professional editions- come with a built-in firewall. Unfortunately, it is not enabled by default so you have to know enough to go in and turn it on. For the record, I actually recommend that you leave ICF disabled and install a 3rd-party firewall such as Zone Labs ZoneAlram which has a version available for free for personal use.

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The advantage of using a 3rd-party product like ZoneAlarm is that it monitors both inbound and outbound traffic. ICF only monitors and blocks inbound traffic. That is great for protecting you from external hacking or malicious activity, however it will not protect you from situations where a virus or Trojan on your system attempts to initiate unauthorized or malicious network activity out from your computer.

In any event, ICF is better than nothing.

It is free and it is built in. So, if you choose not to download and install a 3rd-party product you should at least turn on the Internet Connection Firewall. To enable ICF you need to select Network and Internet Connections from the Control Panel. Then select the Network Connections icon at the bottom of the screen.

At this point you need to right-click the network connection you want to enable ICF on. For most home users there should only be one network connection present. Simply right-click it and select Properties. Click on the Advanced tab and click the checkbox next to “Protect my computer…”.

Once you enable ICF, the Settings button at the bottom of the Advanced tab will be enabled as well. If you click on Settings you can configure ICF to allow certain traffic through and what sorts of information you want logged. Most users will be fine leaving this on the default settings.

Whether you use ICF or some 3rd-party firewall, be aware that should you suddenly start experiencing problems connecting with certain sites, computers on your network or the Internet as a whole- your firewall is the first place you should look. Odds are there is some firewall rule that is blocking traffic you would rather allow.