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Home Networking: A Visual Do-It-Yourself Guide - Cisco Press

Home Networking: A Visual Do-It-Yourself Guide - Cisco Press - PCSTATS
Abstract: The format of the book combines well-spaced informational text with separate, colour coded 'step-by-step' sections.
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Cisco Oct 26 2004   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Beginners Guides > Cisco Cisco

Missing: the hardware firewall

Chapter seven on security concerns is quite comprehensive, but is missing one important element, which we will get to in a second. The author correctly states the absolutely essential need for strong security measures on any networked PC (for more details on this see PCstats 'Ten Essential Security Steps' guide here), especially when it comes to wireless networks.

The author, Brian Underdahl, goes through the pros and con's of several commercial firewall packages, and provides a guide to using the Zonealarm personal firewall to defend your PCs. The book was published pre-Service Pack 2, so the Windows XP firewall's new feature set are not covered (but you can read about them here). The book also outlines the necessary steps to secure your router and wireless network with encryption, MAC filtering, hidden SSID, etc.

Conspicuously missing is any sort of guide to configuring the hardware firewall found on almost every home routing device including the Linksys routers used in this book. The author states that software firewalls on each PC provide more complete protection than a single hardware firewall. This is true, at least in a small home network, but it ignores the important fact that the networking configuration the book details includes a hardware firewall active on the router by default. The reader needs to be informed that this firewall is present and active, and the book does not cover this point.

Having a hardware firewall active on your network without any instruction on how to use it (and possibly without even knowing it's there) is a recipe for frustration. The book goes into detail on configuring Zonealarm to allow programs and games to pass through its firewall, ignoring the fact that the router's firewall may also need to be configured for the same things. A guide to the basic configuration of router firewalls would have eliminated this problem. As it is, we feel this section is incomplete.

Chapter 8, on sharing files and wireless connections, is well done and includes some interesting information on maximizing your WiFi range with an array of antennas. The final chapter covers a few entertaining things you can do with your home network, including attached webcams, streaming audio and other hijinks.

Observations

One thing that you will notice as you browse through Cisco's "Home Networking: A Visual Do-It-Yourself Guide" is the emphasis on one particular network equipment manufacturer, Linksys. While the author's guides are admirably democratic when they concern operating systems (the book covers network setup with all Microsoft operating systems from Windows 98 to XP), this approach breaks down where the hardware aspect comes in.

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Contents of Article: Cisco Cisco
 Pg 1.  Home Networking: A Visual Do-It-Yourself Guide - Cisco Press
 Pg 2.  — Missing: the hardware firewall
 Pg 3.  Bias Towards Linksys

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