The last few months have seen an explosion in the number of personal firewalls designed to foil online hack attacks, most recently Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2000. (See links at right.) And this week, McAfee announced that it is adding a firewall to McAfee.com, the online suite of diagnostic and antivirus utilities available by subscription for $14.95 a year. (The service offers a 90-day free trial.) McAfee Personal Firewall will be available later this quarter, according to the company, and will be an 800KB downloadable utility available to McAfee.com subscribers at no extra charge.
McAfee Personal Firewall will be based on ConSeal Private Desktop from Signal9 Solutions, a Canadian company that McAfee acquired this week. According to a McAfee spokesperson, McAfee Personal Firewall blocks all known attacks found on the Internet, including Back Orifice, Netbus, denial of service, and cyberstalkers.
According to Signal9 CEO Phil Attfield, McAfee Personal Firewall is designed for nontechnical users and doesn't require updates, unlike competing packages. And Attfield claims that in the two years the base product has been in existence, "there's never been an attack we haven't stopped."
McAfee Personal Firewall works at the top level on the basis of trusted applications. The first time any application that uses the network runs, the user is asked whether to trust the application. Only trusted applications are allowed Internet access. Web browsers and e-mail programs are obviously trusted, but if one of your other applications tries to access the Internet through your browser, it's a good indication that a Trojan horse virus is attempting to steal information.
Another feature of McAfee Personal Firewall that the company claims sets it apart from its competition is that it also constantly monitors all networking traffic beneath the operating system, filtering both inbound and outbound traffic at a low level, which protects the system before malicious code gets to the operating system.
Also this week, Excite@Home, a provider of nationwide broadband Internet access, announced that the company will integrate McAfee.com services--including McAfee Personal Firewall--into its Member Services area.