| By Fred Langa |
Windows’ built-in firewall does not automatically alert you to phone-home sorts of behavior.
But you can alter the firewall’s default settings, either manually or with a free add-on tool.
Windows’ built-in firewall fails LeakTest
Reader Bill Wolcott wants to adjust the Windows firewall to block outbound, phone-home connections.
- “I have been using the Windows 7 firewall and Microsoft Security Essentials and been very happy. However, I discovered today that it fails GRC.com’s LeakTest [site]. Is there a way to adjust the Win7 firewall?”
It can sometimes be useful to know when software on your PC tries to establish an outbound connection. If the connection isn’t one you asked for or involves software that you don’t recognize, it could be that malware is attempting to phone home or otherwise use your connection to transmit information for its own purposes.
That’s what LeakTest checks for: it installs a small, harmless program on your PC that tries to contact the GRC.com servers in a mock phone-home scenario. If your firewall guards against this kind of behavior, it will alert you before allowing the Leaktest program to go online. If your firewall stays silent, then LeakTest shows that malware could phone home from your PC, and you’d never know it.
But frankly, I don’t worry much about phone-home activity. Think about it: if malware has made it onto your machine and is trying to phone home, your PC is already compromised. The real solution to phone-home malware is to avoid infection in the first place. If your PC stays clean, phone-home protection is irrelevant.