Linksys BEFSR41
SonicWall SOHO
Belkin OmniCube
Cybex SwitchView


Norton Internet Security 2000
Price: $59.95




Ease of Use:


Pros: Extremely easy to configure.
Cons: Too much in one package?


   I downloaded the Try-buy version to give this tool a test drive. I was rather discouraged by the size: 47MB. Now, that takes some time even with a cable modem. Once the whole thing is downloaded, installation is easy enough, answer a few questions regarding SystemWorks integration and Anti-Virus software and you're off. The software requires a reboot, after which I do recommend running a LiveUpdate to get the latest updates. I used the defaults that came with the LiveUpdate to get me started. Unfortunately, the LiveUpdate requires yet another reboot.

   Opening the configuration window will first display the status screen. It will tell you about all sorts of activity; the number of blocked/accepted accesses, Privacy blocks and other more or less useful information. From here you can enable or disable the entire package. 

   The Security screen allows you to set how paranoid you want to be. The medium setting works fine for me, it gives me the best of both worlds: Security when online while not getting blasted with warnings all the time. There's a neat little globe down in the system tray that will let you know if something weird is going on. If there has been a violation of the security policy, a red exclamation point will be displayed over the globe. Assuming you have logging on, you can go back and see where the violation came from (IP address and port information). There's also the option to customize the settings to you liking.

   The Privacy screen lets you specify what information you want to give out when browsing. Again, the medium setting is a good way to go. NIS will warn you when you are about to transmit private information across the Internet, and cookies are not blocked. You can also customize these options.

   There are two more configuration screens; Parental Control and Ad Blocking. I will not comment much on these, other than say they are there, if you are a parent, you can use this to keep your teenagers from looking at material that you deem unfit. The Ad-blocking feature is nice if you don't want to get this annoying banner-ads all the time. Saves you a few seconds on your download as well. With a fast connection, I don't give a hoot.

   Now, this is a "personal firewall". Digging into the configuration screens, you can specify exactly what type of traffic to allow or disallow. You can create rules specific to host, networks or the universe. Very flexible, highly configurable, and it absolutely works. I ran a simple port-scan, and all the scans were logged, the ones resembling Trojan scans was properly shown as such. The program has an "intuitive learning" feature which creates access rules as you use your programs. I decided to test it, and opened Half-Life for a game of TFC. Connected with no problems. Checked the firewall rule-base afterwards and there was two entries for Half-Life, one for incoming and one for outgoing. I don't know why it created two, one rule allowing incoming and outgoing traffic would suffice.

   Very good package. Absolutely recommended if you have a 24/7 connection and are worried about someone getting to your computer or using your computer for DDoS attacks. So, if I like it so much, why only a rating of 4? Well, I round down, and it didn't correctly set up the rule for MS FrontPage, so it prevented me from authoring this review.