Despite some glitches and, Service Pack 2 is on its way to all Windows XP users via Windows Update. Many large installations have turned off or disabled the update out of concern for the or needing updates in order to work with SP2. Firewalls, VPNs and SQL Server based applications seem to be the primary casualties. FoxPro applications using DBF-based data appear to be unaffected.
Microsoft is enabling the firewall by default, a reversal of their earlier configuration. While it is a step in the right direction, the firewall is still far too weak to be the sole line of defense for a machine attaching directly to the internet. The firewall included with Microsoft XP doesn’t deserve the name. A firewall is an internal structure in a building that is designed to stop fires from spreading by imposing a solid barrier. In the Windows XP case, this firewall is one-sided, blocking some traffic from ourside, but letting anything exit from inside. So, if your machine develops a problem and starts broadcasting SMTP spam, or calls the mothership and transmits your last tax return, there’s nothing in the XP firewall to prevent it. That’s dumb. Look for better solutions elsewhere.
If you are connecting directly to the internet, or take your machine on the road and connect to foreign networks, look at a software firewall like Kerio or ZoneAlarmPro. I notice that grisoft.com is promoting a nice package of their excellent AVG anti-virus software with Kerio for USD $55. Worth looking into.