The firewall Apr17

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The firewall

This is the strange tale of the over zealous firewall who liked to hide.

I have a thing about security. Ever since I first installed ZoneAlarm (free) and discovered that I had previously been listened in on from remote PCs, I have had duplicate and triplicate security precautions on my PC, given that it is my primary means for earning an income.

I had Norton Antivirus installed when I first got my laptop. Then as a freebie-hunter, I installed ZoneAlarm as a firewall. I did the port scans at GRC.com to see if I was invisible to random scanners. I upgraded to Norton Internet Security. I turned on the Windows Firewall when it came out. And there was a firewall on my wireless router. Plus I would run both AdAware AND Spybot’s Search and Destroy, to see if anything had managed to get through.

So I felt pretty secure.

Then I started work with a new (truly excellent) web company – Webqem. That used BitDefender as their Antivirus/Firewall software of choice. And it had a temper tantrum about co-existing with Norton.

Norton rightly blocked a MyDoom virus attempting to piggyback on an incoming email. Happily warned me, and quarantined it prior to deletion. And then the fun started. BitDefender then laid claim to finding it as well, and wanted to delete it from the Norton Quarantine area. Somehow they got into an argument, with around 500-1000 warning messages alternating between programs saying they had found a virus. And I had to click OK to each warning message. That kept me busy for a while.

I downloaded Norton’s MyDoom killer. Unfortunately that took elapsed 10 hours to scan and clean my PC. Interspersed with more warning messages from BitDefender and Norton.

The MyDoom killer said no virus was found. But to be sure (and before I was allowed to connect to the work servers) I had to run a BitDefender complete system scan. Another 10 hours elapsed, when I couldn’t go online.

To stop this happening again, I chose to uninstall Norton Internet Security, and rely purely on BitDefender. And I turned off ZoneAlarm as well. That took a few more hours. I was tearing my hair out. (But given my big hair, no-one actually noticed).

BitDefender was now happy, and I could connect to the internet at work. But it didn’t end there.

I had previously successfully run Web CEO – an excellent SEO tool for submitting and analysing websites. And it no longer worked on my home PC.

I tried everything known to man and womankind. Checked that Norton and ZoneAlarm weren’t running. Checked Windows Firewall wasn’t running. While under the work firewall, and under the watchful eye of our ultimate tech guru, I briefly turned off BitDefender’s firewall. No can do. It seemed personal.

Then today, when updating the latest version of Firefox, something invisible stopped me from connecting to the internet. From memory, when executable program versions change, a new firewall rule used to be prompted for, in Norton and ZoneAlarm.

So on a hunch, I TURNED ON ZoneAlarm again.

Firefox started working.

On another hunch, I started up WebCEO.

It worked !@#$%^&*()

Despite not being listed in the “processes running”, ZoneAlarm had blocked WebCEO from working, because WebCEO had changed since disabling ZoneAlarm.

Adding a firewall allowed me to run my program. It just doesn’t seem right.

I know ZoneAlarm had been turned off. There were no ZL programs running, nothing in the taskbar. And when I started it up, it had to be configured. Yet it still stopped a program from accessing the internet, without giving me a courtesy message.

Sorry for such a long post, but given that it cost me a week of firewall-fighting, it kind of had an impact on me.

Stay safe