Like many people, I use a software firewall on my computer. On a semi-regular basis, it pops up absolutely cryptic messages, alerting me to something trying to connect to something. The details are never particularly clear, and while most of them are probably legitimate programs doing legitimate things, I've taken to simply denying them all. Every once in a while, this leads to problems, as certain applications stop working properly and I need to go in and figure out what the problem is. Apparently, I'm not the only one dealing with this. Dan Gillmor is complaining about a very similar issue as he tries to figure out if he should allow a certain connection that his firewall is warning him about. The answer appears to be that it shouldn't be a problem -- but he needed an expert to tell him that. That's leading some to wonder if firewalls shouldn't have a bit more expertise (and user friendliness) built in, to give you more clues about what the various connections might mean. Of course, that's incredibly difficult, and even the sample "solutions" provided by David Berlind raise more questions (for example, in one solution, he tries to provide more context by asking people to confirm what their email server is -- but a non-technical person might not know that information). Of course, instead of making the situation better, it looks like some firewall makers are making it worse by turning some of those messages into marketing messages. Jeremy Wagstaff has noticed that ZoneAlarm popped up one of its regular messages that's really just an advertisement for their new anti-spyware product, but it's designed to make you feel like your computer is unsafe.
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