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Of all the programs which you have installed on your computer, which are the ones accessing the internet? And how many of these, are phoning home without your knowledge? The answer could be many, if not most of them.
Usually when programs access the net, it is quite harmless, as it is only used for checking for updates aka new versions of the program. But usually does not mean always. Some programs can sneakily access the internet, without the user even realizing it. The results can vary. It may be for anonymous reports, usually statistics of the program’s usage, or the information about the PC’s hardware being sent to the developer, in the form of telemetry. We are no fans of telemetry, even though some developers use the crash reports obtained thus, to fix bugs and issues in their programs.
But what if the programs send information regarding your data, your personal data. This is where you should draw the line. The programs have no right to snoop on you. What if they send your passwords, usernames, bank information or documents or even photos, to some random person on the internet?
How exactly does one deal with such issues? We’ll tell you how, by using a Firewall. Doesn’t Windows come with a built-in Firewall? Isn’t that enough? It is true that Windows Firewall is good, but why should you settle for it, when there is something even better, if not the best.
Say hello to WinPatrol Firewall. Yes, it is from the same company as WinPatrol PLUS. Let’s see what the firewall has to offer, shall we?
Now, the GUI of WinPatrol Firewall is actually called the WinPatrol Firewall Explorer. The interface of the Firewall Explorer, is very neat and well designed. It uses a combination of a tabbed interface, with a toolbar with large icons to switch between the various functions, for a user friendly experience.
There are two tabs in Winpatrol Firewall: Navigation and Advanced. These are the available tools in the first ribbon of the Navigation tab:
Dashboard, Internet Programs, Blocked Programs, SpyBlock, Canvas Fingerprinting, Non-Canvas Fingerprinting, Allowed Flash Cookies, Blocked Flash Cookies, Settings.
The Dashboard displays the status of WinPatrol Firewall’s Protection including the number of Total internet programs, the programs which are accessing the internet, the total internet connections today, the number of current internet connections, the total number of programs which are blocked. You can also see the total data, i.e., bytes received today, and the number of blocks today in the Dashboard. There are two more status indicators at the bottom, of the screen. The last internet program which was detected by the WinPatrol Firewall, and the last program which it blocked.
The Internet Programs tab lists all the programs which are configured (allowed) to access the internet. You can see a menubar just below the tool bar. You can use tha add option, to add a program to the allowed list. The details buttonm, lets you see the information about a selected program. The Plus Info searches the WinPatrol database cloud for information about a selected program.
The properties button opens the Windows properties, of the selection, while the history option displays the connection history of the program.
The Allow By Signature option, lets a program be added to the whitelist, based on its signature. A digitally signed file will have a mark like the one displayed in the legend, in the bottom left corner. Those listings without the mark on the left sidebar, are the unsigned programs. Similarly you can also block a program by signature, or manually block brograms using the firewall’s blacklisting functionality. You can search the list for specific programs too.
The list itself displays the program’s name, the file’s location, its current number of connections to the internet, the time when the last connection was made, total connections made, and when the first connection was made.
The Blocked Programs tab displays the list of programs, which are blocked by WinPatrol Firewall. The Spy Block option uses WinPatrol’s special ability, to block spyware which is embedded in programs, but can still allow the primary program to run safely.
WinPatrol also has a Smart Recognition, which is sort of like a Host Intusion Prevension (HIPS) which uses definitions, to make decisions to allow or block programs from accessinf the internet. When you run a program (or when a program runs autmatically) and first tries to connect to the Internet, WinPatrol Firewall will pop-up a notification, allowing you to choose to block or allow the program. It automatically recognizes known good programs and grant them Internet access.
You can even use WinPatrol Firewall to block viruses, and more powerful malware too. So, you can cut them off before they download more malware.
The Canvas Fingerprinting and its counterpart tabs, list which websites are blocked by WinPatrol Firewall, from monitoring your internet activity and sharing that data with 3rd parties. This of course is based on blocking tracking cookies.
Speaking of which, Flash Cookies, the now very vulnerable form of online media, aka internet security risks, can also be blocked using the WinPatrol Firewall. However, if you play Flash games or use known good Flash content, you can allow them to be white-listed.
The second ribbon in the WinPatrol interface’s Navigation tab has the following options: Help, About, Check for Updates and WInPatrol Newsletter. The Advanced tab in the UI, has an option to change the colors of the interface. Basically you can change the theme of the program to one of many available options. Rarely do we see a security app with customization options for its aesthetics.
WinPatrol Firewall is easy to use, has simple controls to configure its powerful options, and is light on resources. We can’t think of anything else, that a firewall needs more than its functionality and efficiency.
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