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An Internet connection firewall (ICF) is a 2001 software component that first appeared in the Windows XP operating system. It provided homes and small businesses with firewall protection for incoming data packets, but offered no protection for outgoing data packets. ICF's name was changed to Windows Firewall with the release of Service Pack 2 in 2004.
By default, the ICF was turned off and hidden in many layers of menus, so many users never knew it was available and it was rarely used. This was by design as Microsoft was concerned with backward compatibility.
In 2003 and 2004, unpatched machines were infected with viruses such as Blaster Worm and Sasser Worm. Microsoft took much criticism for its virus protection and improved the functionality and interface of Windows XP’s built-in firewall protection, renaming it Windows Firewall.
When Windows Firewall was introduced with Service Pack 2 in 2004, every patched machine and later release of the Windows XP operating system had the firewall enabled by default. However, Windows Firewall still could not block outbound connections, only inbound ones, which meant that users were still not protected from Trojan horses or spyware programs.
With the release of Windows Vista, the firewall was improved significantly by addressing concerns, particularly in the corporate environment, over security features, IPv6 connection filtering, outbound spyware and virus packets, encryption and management of firewall profiles and others. The same improvements were made to Windows Server 2008. Additional improvements were made for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7.