Microsoft, Network Associates and other leading technology companies are promoting the Internet equivalent of a public health initiative: "Personal Firewall Day", which will encourage Internet users to adopt firewall technology to protect themselves from online threats.
The companies will unveil a Web site, http://www.personalfirewallday.org, on Thursday (US) to educate consumers about the benefits of firewall and antivirus technology and provide tips on guarding against online identity thieves, viruses, worms and malicious hackers, according to information provided a spokesman for the project.
Microsoft and NAI are joined by leading firewall vendors Sygate, Zone Labs, and TruSecure in sponsoring the site, which opened to members of the press on Wednesday.
The Web site is simple, with few graphics and no advanced features such as a search engine or online tutorials. It has a simple menu of text links to topics such as "Why You Need Protection," "Personal Firewall" and "Anti-Virus Software."
Information on options in deploying or configuring a firewall is not provided, nor is there information on blocking specific threats. The site is intended for novice computer users and contains only the most basic information on firewall technology, according to Personal Firewall Day spokesman Larry Reiff. Those who find the site simple or visually lacking are probably too sophisticated to benefit from it anyway, he said.
"This site is for people who have never heard about a firewall. Hardcore (Internet users) who are not impressed with the site probably already know how to protect themselves," Reiff said.
Security experts are encouraged to use the occasion of Personal Firewall Day to "share their expertise and advice with the their friends, family, and the public," according to a statement provided by organizers.
Other areas of the Web site also appear to be in the early stages of development. For example, under the heading "Where to get Antivirus software," the site provides a link to NAI's McAfee Security Web site, but does not list any other online sources for antivirus software.
Firewall maker Zone Labs spearheaded the effort behind Personal Firewall Day, with other companies lending their name to the project.
Microsoft recently announced that it was turning on a firewall that is included with the Windows XP software by default. The company also launched its own consumer education site, Protect Your PC (See http://www.microsoft.com/security/protect).
Reiff said there were no plans currently to link from the Protect Your PC site or any other sponsor sites to the www.personalfirewallday.org site, but that such links are possible and might be included when the site goes live Thursday.
The Personal Firewall Day project is an opportunity to join other security companies and industry leaders to promote the use of firewall technology, said Debby Fry Wilson, director of Trustworthy Computing Security at Microsoft.
Microsoft contributed content to the site and offered content from the Protect Your PC site to the Personal Firewall Day project, she said.
However, Microsoft was not responsible for actually putting content on the site, and little if any of the Protect Your PC content appears to have made it onto personalfirewallday.org, which was created by an informal group of volunteers from sponsor organizations, Fry Wilson said.
Still, the Web site is important if only to present a consensus opinion that Internet users should have firewalls installed, she said.