Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Mac users have a little program they can use to prevent their computers from sending outbound messages to other computers. The program, affectionately called Little Snitch, can be purchased for a small fee. For that small fee, you get the ability to be notified whenever a program tries to send an outbound connection and you get the ability to stop that outbound call. Well PC users using Windows 7 - and possibly other versions of Windows - have a similar ability via Windows Firewall.
Windows Firewall ships with Windows 7 and while it does not notify you every single time a program tries to establish an outbound connection, it does give you the ability to block any and all outbound calls by any program on your system. You may be asking yourself why you would want to block outgoing calls from your PC to another PC. Well there are a few reasons. First, the naughty reason. If you are a person who uses pirated software, you may find that your software gets disabled whenever you have your LAN or Wireless Internet up and running on your computer. Often, applications call back to their creators for validation. This means that while you may install that wonderfully pirated version of some Adobe software on your PC, as soon as the software runs and calls back to Adobe it can be disabled. While I'm not advocating software piracy, I also don't advocate my PC doing things I didn't tell it to do like make outbound calls. Windows Firewall takes care of that. Windows Firewall makes it easy to block any outgoing call to any computer. Now it isn't as nice as Little Snitch because it doesn't notify you directly when a program tries to call out, however, it does offer you the ability to log the calls so that you can see which programs tried to make a connection and it does offer you the ability to block those calls beforehand.
The second reason for blocking outbound connections from your PC may not be as obvious as the first. If your computer is ever infected by a virus which causes it to make outbound calls, you can stop those messages from going out using Windows Firewall. Of course you would first need to realize that your computer is sending out messages, but that is another post. Windows Firewall manages your inbound connections to, so you can stop certain computers or certain companies from automatically doing things on your computer. For instance, if you often visit Adobe's website, you may find that Adobe automatically tries to communicate with your computer. Windows Firewall can automatically block these types of inbound connections for you.
Are you ready to discover how to block incoming connections on your PC and how to block outgoing connections on your PC? Good!
Go to your control panel. You can usually achieve this by clicking on the Start button and selecting Control Panel.
Once in the Control Panel, you might need to go to small icon view in Windows 7. For some reason, Microsoft loves to change the interface of the Control Panel area when they update Windows. This time they removed the ability to just see things in the old Detail view. I don't know why they feel the need to do this, but I really wish they would stop. I am not an icon person. I need clear words that outline everything in a particular area. That initial view had me sitting around looking at the Control Panel wondering where everything was. Microsoft, I love you dearly, but if you don't stop grouping things in ways that long time users can't understand, I'm going to have to sue you or something (I will probably take the or something route - but don't tell them that!). Anyway, switch the view using the little arrow in the upper right hand corner to small icon view and select Windows Firewall. You will need to be an administrator on your machine to alter the outbound connections.
After opening Windows Firewall, you now have the ability to alter your incoming and outgoing connections, log your connections or stop all connections (NOT recommended).