Although I'm no authority ... my information is dependent on the advice and suggestions of others ...
a firewall that effectively blocks the action of any intrusive code aimed to your PC from the internet,
allows no unwarrented actions regarding connectivity, behaves in relationship with all other software,
and otherwise prevents connection of sites that are undesirable to it, is a good one.
It should also "cloak" the identity of your PC itself, so it's unique descriptive features are not detected by any internet-based sources.
Microsofts Firewall does these things.
Each connection to the internet you make is dependent on the functioning of applications and services running on your PC, to some degree.
Your browser needs to be able to function to visit sites. Applications need to run that will allow installation of software. The operations within media players, some video display functions, or those of the Windows Explorer involving file & folder access, for example.
You can modify how these "local" applications perform.
The use of a toolbar cookie-blocker is an example.
Using a host file modification to block URLs.
Enabling filtering applications of many kinds,
like Javacool's SpywareBlaster for ActiveX installations,
or parental-control software, you are making modifications
designed to provide an additional layer of control to the
"default" configurations present in the OS that deal with connectivity to the net.
Zone Alarm, being a third-party application, allows additional control & monitoring to be active.
It can block the operation of any particular application on your PC from contact with the net.
It can make logs specifically designed to record connectivity-related issues so additional
information is available for study ... a historical record of how your PC interacts with other PCs online.
It is obvious that a firewall can have significant impact on how your machine handles the internet.
It's within the blocking of programs from your PC outwards to the internet that ZA differs from
MS to a certain extent, I'm told. The integral MS firewall is not user-configurable in regards to
I interpret this to mean
"if no malicious software or code is present locally, that could establish a connection or modify the ones present from their safe, default settings within connections when they are established", and continue to maintain the status of identity shielding and specific URL blocking as provided by a firewall like MS firewall ... then I'm relatively safe.
If my PC is clean of malware to start with,
and no new instances of unsolicited code or program installations can get past my MS firewall,
then I can reasonable expect trouble-free performance.
I can expect no performance compromises due to third-party applications, either.
I also had ZA. I've tried Outpost. Kerio. I settled for Sygate as a personal preference among the freeware.
Having tested these and other "solutions", knowing others are available as shareware, I decided to use the built-in one exclusively for a while.
Throw my fate to Microsoft's updates and their firewall, so to speak.
I still routinely run updated versions of these:
A2 anti-trojan by Emsisoft ... v1.6 is just out, and I use the HijackFree as a "stand alone" application
Ad-Aware by Lavasoft ... v1.06r1, and I have several plug-ins available on my HD
Spywareblaster by Javacool ... v3.5.1, and I'm checking out their EULA Analzer
Ewido anti-malware ... v3.5, and I opted for it's use after trial period ran out
Spy-Bot S & D ... v1.3, and I'll upgrade it
MS Anti-spyware Beta ... and I anticipate a new version soon available.
AVG Anti-virus continues to run, and I also have Bit Defender & ClamAV installed, but disabled to double-check with.
No additional firewall besides the MS one.
I figured I never read the logs anyway, and spend enough time running & updating a half dozen programs.
One less thing to do, one less variable to consider.
It took a long time to settle on the layers of defense that are in place, since I have tried a dozen others too, and these seem to work well together.
I'm not gonna burst your bubble.
Edited by phawgg, 06 February 2006 - 11:15 AM.