Microsoft, Network Associates and other leading technology companies are today promoting the internet equivalent of a public health initiative, dubbed Personal Firewall Day, to encourage internet users to adopt firewall technology to protect themselves from online threats.

The companies will unveil a website 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.

The website is simple, with few graphics and no advanced features such as a search engine or online tutorials. It has a straightforward menu of text links to topics such as 'Why you need protection', 'Personal firewall' and 'Antivirus 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 overly 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 organisers.

Other areas of the website 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 website 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.

Related links:
Personal Firewall Day
Microsoft's Protect your PC