Will a firewall keep adware out?

Posted on 2005-04-23
Last Modified: 2013-11-16
I am really sure this is where my question should go, but it is the best choice I could find. I spent hours with my elderly friend today trying to clean up her computer. She was getting many "warnings" saying her computer would crash and burn if she didn't do a few things. They looked to her to be from Microsoft. I felt sure it was adware, and when I saw them for myself, I knew they were. She is running Windows 2000 Professional. I downloaded both SpyBot and Adaware and found many "bugs." The odd thing is that we both are pretty sure the only time they popped up was when she was on line. Does this mean that they weren't actually on her hard drive, and if so, why did they pop up? Where did they come from? I did go to one of the websites they recommended, and sure enough, it was a come-on to by a registry cleaner. She uses WalMart Connect for her ISP. After I used both the cleaners, I didn't get any more pop ups. I do hope we got rid of them. Has anyone else ever had any experience with this type of adware?
Question by:Marj
    LVL 12

    Expert Comment

    by:srikrishnak of the best tool to stop pop-ups with out giving up much system resources is "google tool bar"...
    for the question you asked ,my answer will be "probably"..Because most of the firewalls do filtering based on layer3 which is IP...So you can get rid of attacks from evil guys..;) But now a days you can find these products are coming with builtin application later capabilities..such as ZoneAlarm Pro..This can be a good choice if you are looking to have a firewall with built in ad-ware or Anti-Virus stuff...But one thing to note even the product claims that it can do everything practically it may not possible..So a mix of tools will be of good help to choice goes like ZoneAlarm with Microsoft AntiSpyware+Ad-Aware(Lavasoft)...
    LVL 10

    Assisted Solution

    I'm afraid the short answer to your question is no.  A firewall (in the example you are describing, we will talk about a personal firewall software that runs directly on the PC) will prevent other Internet hosts from probing or connecting to network services on your PC (which is great for keeping worms and other attacks from succeeding), but they can do very little to prevent a user from allowing malicious software to be installed on their system from a website they are visiting.  The two programs you used for clean-up are the most popular freeware tools for combatting spyware/adware.  I would further recommend Microsoft's (currently free) beta anti-spyware software, as well as Webroot's SpySweeper ($30).

    The adware experience you are describing is easily the most pervasive problem on the Internet today -- unknowing users frequently fall for the pop-ups and online ads that suggest that their machine is infected with something bad and can be cleaned up immediately if you "click here", just to have their systems really and truly infected by the "free clean-up."  You can use pop-up blockers to prevent these kinds of mistakes in the first place -- Windows XP Service Pack 2 has a built-in pop-up blocker for Internet Explorer, as does the Mozilla Firefox web browser (for any version of Windows).

    Spybot S&D has an IE protection feature, which might help a little, but a genuine, commercial anti-spyware product is a better bet.  Again, I recommend Webroot.  Many antivirus vendors are getting into the game as well -- the next version of antivirus that you buy should have an anti-spyware feature if you don't use a separate product.  Finally, a word of caution -- Ad-aware and Spybot S&D are about the *only* freeware products that I am willing to trust (and I am a professional network engineer) -- I would recommend going with a trusted commercial product from a vendor like Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro, CA, Microsoft, etc.
    LVL 15

    Accepted Solution

    I agree with nearly all of ruddg's recommendations, but I would add one free antispyware application to his list of recommendations, namely Spyware Blaster.  A great deal of spyware infestations come from infected email and webpages inserting "BHOs", or Browser Helper Objects, into Internet Explorer with little or no prompting from the user, or intentional misdirection ("click here to cancel" installs the item instead of cancelling, for example).  Spyware Blaster prevents these items from being inserted into Internet Explorer, and is recommended by Spybot specifically to add additional protection to IE beyond that provided by Spybot itself.   In the office where I work, we've been successfully using Spybot for over a year to keep spyware under control, and for the more than 6 months have been using the Spybot/Spyware Blaster combination to great effect - no users have mentioned any spyware problems in the time both products have been deployed, and little or nothing during the Spybot only period.  
    LVL 15

    Expert Comment

    A further piece of information - Windows XP, Service Pack 2 upgrades the security in Internet Explorer so that it's much harder for BHOs to get into your system in the first place, so you may want to discuss upgrading with your friend.

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