Figure 43 Windows Security Center

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This opens the Windows Firewall window. The settings on the General tab determine whether the firewall is on or off. As mentioned earlier, Windows Firewall is on by default since the release of Windows XP SP2. You have three options with the Windows Firewall: on, on without exceptions, and off (as shown in Figure 4-4).

Figure 4-4. General Tab of the Windows Firewall

Figure 4-4. General Tab of the Windows Firewall

When the firewall is turned on, the user is offered the possibility of running the firewall with exceptions as specified in the Exceptions tab or with no exceptions at all. Microsoft recommends that when accessing a network such as a public wireless network (say at Starbucks or a T-Mobile hotspot in an airport) that the firewall should be set to on without exceptions. This setting blocks other users on the public wireless network from accessing system shares or other resources on the firewall-protected system.

When the system is on a safer network (such as a home office or a local office LAN), you can set the firewall to on with exceptions to allow for file sharing and remote assistance. These default exceptions are activated in the Windows Firewall policy on the Exceptions tab, as shown in Figure 4-5. The need to provide these exceptions is to allow the end system to participate in a Windows network environment and for folder and file shares to be made available to other systems on the local network. Remember that exceptions should be turned on only in known, secure networks. Such a network may be a home network or a corporate LAN and cannot be precisely defined in all cases. When in doubt, consult the network administrator regarding the security of the local network or simply do not allow exceptions.

Figure 4-5. Default Exceptions for Windows Firewall

Figure 4-5. Default Exceptions for Windows Firewall

Adding an exception to the default Microsoft policy is relatively simple. Exceptions can be added either as specific network ports or as programs that are to be provided access to the network. To add a program to the exception list, click the Add Program button in the lower left of the Exceptions tab. Doing so opens a new window with a list of programs that are to be added to the exceptions list, as shown in Figure 4-6. Choose the specific program to be added.

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