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Playing Safe with the Right Firewall Protection
by Max Drayman,
26 November 2001

WINNERonline Casino Tech

Important Links
Norton Personal Firewall

As we concluded in Part 1 of this series, the firewall's purpose in life it to protect your computer from unwanted intrusions. Simple enough, right?

Of course it's not that simple. There are over 1000 permanent communication ports on your computer and tens of thousands of temporary ports. That means there are a lot of opportunities for intrusion.

So what are your options when it comes to protecting your computer, and more importantly, how will this affect your online casino experience? In other words, how do you keep out the unwanted intrusions and allow the ones that are necessary to play at a casino site?

The easiest thing to do is to ignore the issue. This takes no effort and your Internet life will be very simple, until the day that you get a call from the police and learn that someone is using your computer as a porno server.

Lots of other nasties can happen but it all adds up to the same thing: a lot of hassle and suddenly life isn't so "simple" anymore.

At the other end of the spectrum is the "educate thyself" route, where you do the research and buy an industrial-strength firewall. But this just isn't practical for the vast majority of users.

They want a non-technical solution that will yield the best protection for the least effort. Fortunately, that's exactly what the latest consumer-grade firewalls attempt to do.

Let's make a long story short and discuss the two most popular options out there. They are: ZoneAlarm from Zone Labs and Norton Personal Firewall from Symantec.

ZoneAlarm comes in two versions, free and pay. It is easy to install and self-configuring, but unfortunately, ZoneAlarm is pretty restrictive in terms of how much firewall control you get. It's also become glitchy in its old age. So, sad to say, ZoneAlarm ain't top dog on the "Recommended" list.

The contender is Norton Personal Firewall. It too is self-configuring and is flexible enough to let you mess with ports and protocols if you want. You might have to dig around in the Help file or play with the configuration options a bit to get things working if you've got special circumstances, however.

So if the average user were to ask my opinion on getting a firewall, I'd have to say that Norton Personal Firewall would be a very good place to start.

But what does all of this have to do with playing at online casinos, you might ask?

Assuming that you've got your firewall up and running to protect you from unwanted intrusions, the typical scenario is that you will get an "alert" --or more likely several of them-- when you try to connect to your favorite casino (a desired intrusion).

These alerts will contain the IP (Internet protocol - the numeric address of a web site) address of the casino site and that's the critical piece of information: you will want to tell your firewall that the casino's IP is a "Trusted" computer and it's okay to talk to that particular IP.

The details of that will depend on your particular firewall, but the bottom line is that you are giving these intrusions the green light.

In the odd circumstance, it may be very difficult to configure things so that the casino runs smoothly through your firewall. I'd say persevere --in the end it usually does work-- but as a final resort simply disable your firewall while you're playing at that particular casino.

Better to let the shields down at your discretion that to never have them up in the first place.

Got a technical question about online gambling? Send us an e-mail and you might see your question in a future article.

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