The same qualities that make a broadband Internet connection desirable also make computers more vulnerable to attacks. Broadband basically provides a fixed target, unlike traditional dial-up connections. It also allows hackers to work more quickly. "If you have an always-on connection -- whether it's cable, digital subscriber line, or ISDN -- you have to have a firewall," says Mike Martucci, vice president of marketing for WatchGuard Technologies in Seattle. "Otherwise, you're playing with fire."
WatchGuard's solution for the small-office/home-office market is WatchGuard SOHO. It is a red box about the size and shape of a portable CD player that plugs into both your PC and your Internet outlet. There is no software to download -- just connect the cables, boot up your Web browser, and get ready to go.
"It doesn't let anyone who is unauthorised come into your PC," says Martucci.
The basic $US449 WatchGuard SOHO lets you create an office network of up to 10 computers, providing Internet sharing and firewall protection for each one. Beyond that, 25-user and 50-user licences are available for an additional $198 and $449, respectively. Free firewall security upgrades are available for the first year and for $95 thereafter.
"Hackers are always coming up with new schemes to get in," says Martucci. WatchGuard SOHO's subscription service "keeps your security alive", he says.
Finally, WatchGuard SOHO has a Virtual Private Network option (add $449) that uses 168-bit Internet protocol security encryption to make sure all electronic files and mail are protected in transit.
According to Martucci, WatchGuard SOHO will be available from February 15.
WatchGuard SOHO is priced to compete with a similar desktop appliance called SonicWall SOHO from SonicWall, Martucci says.
He also acknowledges that there are numerous software solutions available that provide firewall protection for under $100.
"We feel this is a better approach," says Martucci. "Would you rather have a hacker hacking away at a red box on your desktop or a hacker fighting your firewall on your hard drive?"