XP SP-2 security: Good, but not good enough

by Preston Gralla

At the TechEd conference, Microsoft is banging the drum very loudly about its new-found security chops, touting the upcoming release of SP-2 as prime evidence of how closely it'll pay attention to security from now on.

It's true that SP-2 is a big step forward. The new pop-up blocker is a very well-designed piece of code. There are a variety of new security features under the hood. And the newly renamed Windows Firewall is now a usable, functional piece of software, while previously it was well-nigh worthless.

But ironically, at the same time that Microsoft was crowing about the security built into SP-2, Zone Labs was releasing a new version of its ZoneAlarm firewall and security suite that is far superior to what's in SP-2. I've been using the beta for a while, and also using the beta of SP-2, and the ZoneAlarm firewall beats the new Windows Firewall hands-down. It blocks more dangers, it's easier to use, it offers advice about which programs you should block and which you shouldn't (the Windows Firewall offers no advice), and is far more configurable.

In addition, there are features that keeps people from eavesdropping on your instant messaging conversations, and that will block instant messaging attacks and instant messaging spam. SP-2 does none of this.

So yes, it's nice to see that Microsoft is paying more attention to security. I hope they keep it up. But even after SP-2 comes out, if you want a great firewall, you'll have to look to ZoneAlarm, not to the Windows Firewall.

Is SP-2 secure enough for you? How about the Windows Firewall? And what do you think of ZoneAlarm? Let me know.


2004-05-26 06:40:03
Good enough?
This article just reminds me of the Microsoft Catch 22: if they create a firewall that's better than 3rd party software and bundle it into the OS...everyone screams "Monopoly" like Baltic Ave just disappeared.

However, if they don't, everyone screams about how Microsoft is still not as secure as Linux.

Gotta tell you, I'm glad Zone Alarms makes a better product. Microsoft's "flaws" are ISV's gains...

However, I'm also glad that Microsoft took the initiative to make something that should work on the majority of systems out there.

2004-06-07 13:30:12
Good enough?
Actually, you're completely wrong.

If they bundle a good firewall, everyone with half a clue will yell at them for adding crutches on top of an already hole-filled system. If they don't, they'll only get yelled at the for the hole-filled system.

We've seen numerous security bulletins for this or that personal firewall, the very software that is supposed to protect you, having a vulnerability. What makes you think the MS firewall will be any more secure?

See the Personal Firewall Security FAQ for the blunt version and "Personal Firewalls" are mostly snake-oil for a more verbose explanation.

2004-06-25 06:48:24
Zone Alarms
Too bad during this Zone Alarms promo that nothing came up on how their latest upgrade crashed and created hell with Norton Anti Virus software. And poor testing and no patch in sight made us go back to older versions to get back up and running.
2004-06-26 22:48:41
MS -verses Zone
I have used Zone alarm pro for two years,when they came out with Zone Security Suite I jumped on it, got rid of my Norton Antivirus 2002 (So Slow) For me it was a good move!!!
2004-07-20 21:06:48
Zone alarm is alright, I prefer Sygates Personal Firewall, its more customizable than Zone alarm and allows you more control over the firewall.
2004-07-20 21:16:47
Good enough?
That FAQ you pointed to is nothing but Garbage from a half slavering Linux zealot. Firewalls have saved me a buttload of time and money. Yes they do deter attacks and crack attempts. There is more to SP2 than just a firewall and a brand new security center, they have changed a lot of the kernel functions and added functionality and have really hardened the system.