Microsoft OneCare only cares about one...

Windows Vista will have a snazzy new firewall, but by default it will only block incoming traffic, unless...
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor

I found out last week that although Windows Vista will have a snazzy new firewall, by default it will be set to block only incoming traffic -- unless you decide to pay Microsoft an extra US$50 a year.

If you buy Vista but decide not to subscribe to Microsoft's anti-virus and anti-spyware service, which is called OneCare Live, then you can still get the same outbound firewall protection for free, but you will have to go to the security control panel and manually turn it on.

This is rather odd, is it not?

One of the biggest issues with Windows is the sheer volume of PCs that have been taken over by malware and used by cyber criminals to send spam, host phishing sites and spread viruses.

A decent firewall on every computer could make a significant improvement to the general Internet ecosystem.

Microsoft seemed to be on the right tracks when it launched Windows XP SP2 a few years ago because for the first time the operating system had a firewall that was turned on by default. It was such a big deal at the time.

So why the change in attitude?

Maybe after four years the Trustworthy Computing initiative is being phased out in favour of squeezing an extra US$50 a year from the company's least tech-savvy customers?

The general manager of ZoneLabs, Laura Yecies, last week told me how the company's latest firewall product -- of which there is a free version for home users -- is designed to install itself deep in the operating system and then monitor every application for signs of malicious intent.

"Imagine your PC was a building and you had a security guard outside... What we do is, whenever anyone comes into the building, we follow them around and look at exactly what they do. Even if they haven't robbed before, if they lift a wallet then we know they are malware,' said Yecies.

She added that if this were a signature based system then the security guard would "have a book of all the known robbers that have attacked buildings in the neighbourhood but no way of knowing anyone else".

But what would happen if this was a Microsoft-designed security guard?

My theory is that the guard would pretty much let anyone into and out of the building. However, if someone looked like they might be carrying a wallet, then the guard would follow them around and every few minutes ask them for some money.

Do you have an alternative theory?

Editorial standards