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Don't Let ET Call?
Of course we all wanted ET to be able to phone home and get back with his friends again, even if we knew how much he and Elliot would miss one another. But spyware is not ET. It's not cute and it doesn't play nice. If we can stop spyware from phoning home, all the better for us, and all the worse for them. The less financial gain these bastards can realize, the better the chances we can leave them all in the chow line where they belong (wishful thinking about penitentiary chow lines must wait until legislation, if ever, is passed against this ugly business).
Which is where personal firewalls come in. And the topic of personal firewalls in itself is a another Pandora's Box - start discussing them and the odds are you'll never stop.
So let's make it short and sweet: radsoft.net recommends you stay with only one of the following two personal firewalls, listed in alphabetical order only: BlackICE Defender and ZoneAlarm.
BID is a monster product. It's been out for quite some time. It does all sorts of cool things. It's even got a packet sniffer. If you don't know what packet sniffing is, ask someone you think might know to explain it to you.
BID is very powerful, but it also comes with a price tag, and if used indiscretely can inadvertently open your system to more vulnerabilities than before you tried it. Above all, if you don't know what packet logging is and know what the issues involved are, do not turn it on unless you intend to keep the product, and by all means on uninstall (it's a 30 day trial) make sure all files are removed - and don't rely on the uninstall program to do it either, but check on this manually on your own.
ZoneAlarm is both a free product and a product with a price tag (same range as BID, about $40). ZoneAlarm is backed by virus guru John McAfee.
All the variants of ZoneAlarm are good, and with a price tag of $0 it simply cannot be beat (this applies only to private individuals and educational institutions). It has a few cosmetic warts - YMMV - but it does do the job.
Next: Why Do I Need It?