Ask the Expert: Looking for Good Firewall Resources

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Dear Ed:

I’ve recently switched jobs and find myself working much more directly with security topics and technologies, particularly with consumer-oriented and other low-end firewalls (for example, ZoneAlarm, Norton Personal Firewall and other programs in that area). I need to learn more about firewall concepts, terminology and technology in general, and about personal firewalls in particular—in a hurry! Can you please help out with some good resources?


Thanks in advance for your assistance.


Arun J.
Tacoma Park, Md.


Dear Arun:
Boy, have you come to the right guy, or maybe it’s just synchronicity at work! Not only am I working on a book on personal security right now (it’s for J. Wiley and Sons, due out in December) that includes a chapter on firewalls, but I also developed and teach two basic introductory firewall classes for two different PC vendors: HP ( and eMachines ( You can visit either or both of those sites and register for free classes, including my firewall stuff.


As far as firewall focused books go, I’d recommend some or all of the following:



  • “Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Personal Firewalls” by Jerry Lee Ford (Que). Though it’s a bit dated, its simple approachable explanations and information make it a great place to start learning more about personal firewalls.
  • “Firewalls for Dummies” 2nd edition, by Brian Komar, et al (Wiley). A bit more detailed and current than the Ford book, this one is also nicely organized, well-written and surprisingly technical for a book in this series.
  • “Firewalls and Internet Security” 2nd edition, by William Cheswick, et al (Addison-Wesley). A recently updated version of one of the pioneering books in the field, this is a much more technical and in-depth discussion of what firewalls do, how they work, what services they provide and how to help them do their jobs as effectively as possible.
  • “Building Internet Firewalls” 2nd edition, by Elizabeth Zwicky, et al (O’Reilly & Associates). If you really want to understand what’s involved in designing and building a firewall, and learn as much about their inner workings as possible, this is the resource for you. It’s lengthy, technical and very detailed, but remains an important work on this topic.


As far as online Web resources go, visit PC Magazine and PC World and search on “firewall review” or “personal firewall” to find lots of good stuff. Also, there’s one very focused site that’s a world-beater—the Home PC Firewall Guide ( In addition to listing, rating, and ranking lots of personal firewalls (freeware, shareware and commercial software), this site is full of other information, tips, techniques and tricks related to firewalls and all kinds of other personal security software. I use it all the time, and so should you!


Good luck with your new position!

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