Windows’ built in firewall is better than nothing, but there are superior products available at no cost.
TODO: Clean up and amplify this article.
Recent versions of Windows come with their own antivirus, antimalware, and firewall built in, but my experiences with them have been negative. If you want to give them a try, you need only review the Windows Security Center to insure that those features are enabled (in Windows 7, Control Panel – System and Security – Review Equipment Status). If like me you will replace the built-in products with reputable third-party ones, however, then read on.
Some third-party security software comes à la carte and others come as all-in-one suites. The suites I’ve tried tend to be bloated and of uneven quality, so I prefer to select my own favorites. The instructions that follow thus assume you will be installing three separate applications; proceed as appropriate.
Whatever security software you choose, don’t install more than one product of its type: one antivirus, one antimalware, one firewall. Remove any previously installed products if you do not plan to use them. I disagree with the commonly given advice to use multiple antimalware or antivirus products. While it is true that no single product will catch everything, I have seen no hard evidence (as opposed to mere assertion) that the theoretical additional security of multiple products justifies the real and measurable performance hit that running multiple products cause.
Follow the installation and setup instructions of the firewall you have chosen to install. If the installer is an .exe file, right-click on it and select “run as administrator” — which should be done when installing any security software. Test it. Show the client how to train the firewall.
After installing third-party security applications, enter the Windows Security Center to insure that the corresponding built-in products are deactivated.
Some end users are unwilling to deal with firewall training. When firewall messages appear, they will randomly click on anything to be rid of the popup, and then blame you for the resulting mess. Such users are better off with the non-interactive firewall built-in to Windows.
The following is not an exhaustive list of all that is available, but only what I’ve looked at so far.
Matousec Proactive Security Challenge