The Internet is not a place for the weak hearted, or so the saying goes. And it has become even more dangerous, in these times of Always-On, broadband internet connections. Virus threats, DOS attacks and zombie networks have taken over the internet and there is no running away from all this chaos. The point is that if you have a computer connected to the Internet in any way, a firewall is something that you should install even if you only use the computer for a couple of hours a day.
A lot of the attacks and exploits that take place on the internet everyday target Microsoft Windows and some might even be inclined to believe that Windows is really the most insecure operating system around. I like to take such statements with a pinch of salt, though, and to be fair to Microsoft, they have been shipping a half decent firewall with Windows atleast since the XP days. While there are a number of commercial and freeware firewall utilities available for windows, not many people are aware that Windows Vista actually ships with a very capable 2-way firewall for free.
The advantage that a 2-way firewall has over a regular firewall, such as the one bundled with Windows XP, is that a 2-way firewall not only monitors incoming connections to your computer, it also keeps track of all outgoing connections from your computer. So, the users can, for example, control the ports/IP addresses that all the applications on their system have access to, in addition to controlling the ports that an external application can access on their computer.
The basic firewall interface can be launched from the Control Panel.
This icon will give you the regular interface which looks exactly like the one in Windows XP and while you can do a lot of things with it, this is not what we’re interested in. To launch the full fledged firewall management console, open the Control Panel and go to the Administrative tools. Double click on the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security option.
You can take a look at and modify all the inbound and outboud rules by clicking on the appropriate links in the left sidebar.
When you see a rule you’re interested in modifying further, double click on it and a Windows will show you options to tighten (or loosen) the rule as you see fit.
So, you see, even the humble Vista has a few tricks up it’s sleeves. You only have to look around. The built in firewall might not outclass some of the commercial firewalls available in the market, but it does what’s it’s intended to and if used with a little bit of common sense, can actually prevent almost any major attack that a home user might be subjected to.