Comodo Pro is excellent for amateurs, too

The name says Comodo Pro, but the incredibly deep-featured program is easy enough for a first-time user to get a handle on.

Sometimes programs are born great, and sometimes they have greatness thrust upon them. There's a third tack, too: some program grow into their skins. Comodo Firewall Pro is one of those.

Living under the radar for too long, at some point out of the limelight it became a solid, state-of-the-art firewall with little reason left to ignore it. Providing a smorgasbord of information and options for advanced users, simple enough for beginners, and yet runs smoothly and silently in the background, Comodo is a prime example of what a program that mucks about with your Internet connection should be like.

Even though it's labeled Pro, make no mistake: this Comodo offers up a dragon's treasure of features for free. On the surface, or for the beginner, the most obvious aspect of the app is when it asks you about a program establishing a new Internet connection. Sometimes it's something as blatant as starting up Firefox. Other times, it's an svchost.exe trying to surreptitiously connect.

Comodo\'s Security Summary displays an enormous amount of useful info and links without feeling cluttered. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

Either way, the "trying to connect to the Internet" window will contain the basic information about the outgoing connection. It's up to the user to determine whether this is a safe connection or not, and herein lies one of the few problems I found with Comodo: Too many of the recommendations veer towards caution and disallowing a program's message through the firewall, when many programs such as iTunes or rely on mid-use Web connections.

However risky it may be, the basic rule I apply is that if I recognize the program that's trying to connect, I let it through. Keep in mind that safe surfing habits are at least as important to avoiding a malware infection as having the right defensive software. So Firefox gets a bye from me, as does Thunderbird, Pidgin, and any number of apps that I use as regularly as they need to send whatever minor bits and bytes into the ether. Still, for the paranoid the connections monitor tells you the Application in question, the Source IP and Port, the Destination IP and Port, and the number of bytes received and sent.

Security Alerts pop up a bit more often in Comodo\'s Firewall, but they taper off as the program learns your behavior. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

Therein lies Comodo's strengths. The features offered are not only comprehensive, but they're useful. So not only is there a Network Monitor, but the way the Network Control rules are displayed within it are clear enough for even the greenest security wonk to Google up the relevant terms and learn more in a flash. Sure, it'd be nice if all terms came linked to more expansive definitions--Allow IMCP in from IP can be obtuse if you haven't learned what it means--but at least you know what it is you want to be learning about.

Whether you're in the Activity tab, the Security tab or viewing the Summary, which displays Security Monitoring, your current Security Level and useful system information such as your IP address and your MAC address, the program has been geared at all levels to help you understand where your 1's and 0's are going, and which programs are sending them.

Security Considerations provide all the information you need to follow up on a suspicious Internet connection. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

So far, the worst thing about Comodo is that you need to restart your computer to activate it. Once you've rebooted, the program begins logging all incoming and outgoing Internet traffic without interfering with connection or upload/download speeds. After testing it against several torrent programs running concurrently with a Web browser, and then running the same programs without Comodo running, there was no difference noticeable to the naked eye. It doesn't run on Vista either, but since most Windows users still use XP, I'm disinclined to think of this as a crippling debilitation in light of all that it offers.

Throw in the fact that Comodo is freeware and it's hard to reason against using it.

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