To help readers follow the instructions in this article, we used two different typefaces:
Boldface type for the names of program functions, screen tags, icons and URLs.
Sans serif type for the names of files or commands and instructions that need to be typed into the computer. Q. I’ve been reading about the risk I face when I connect my computer to the Internet. I’m not talking about viruses and worms. My antivirus software appears to successfully handle them. I’m worried about hackers breaking into my computer and stealing my clients’ confidential data such as bank account information and Social Security numbers—so-called identify theft. What do you suggest?
A. You’re right; that’s a legitimate concern, and you need protection. I suggest installing a firewall, which is a software program that lets you block the uninvited from slipping through your modem and gaining access to your computer. Every computer should be equipped with one. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a major or occasional user of the Internet; any connection carries some risk.
Unbeknownst to most users—because it’s well-hidden and not advertised—Microsoft quietly added a firewall to its XP operating system. But unless you activate it, it just takes up room on your hard drive, doing nothing. For it to be useful, you have to activate it, which takes only a minute or so.
Here’s how: Click on Start and go to the Control Panel . Then click on Network Connections to open a screen that displays, among other things, your computer’s Internet connection. Click on that connection (mine is a dial-up Mindspring connection), producing this screen:
Then click on the Properties button, evoking this screen:
Now click on the Advanced tab, creating this screen:
Finally, check the box for Protect my computer and network by limiting or preventing access to this computer from the Internet and click on OK (at the bottom of the screen, not shown here).