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Cat Switch

 Author: Brien M. Posey
 Review Date: 6/3/2002

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Manufacturers Price: $29.95

The Cat Switch is just that; a switch. This switch is placed between your cable or DSL modem and the PC that itís connected to. When the switch is engaged, the PCís Internet connection functions normally. When the PC isnít in use, the switch is disengaged and the connection between the PC and the WAN interface is severed.

Pros

  • Extremely simple to configure and use
  • Low price
  • Undeniably strong security when in use

Cons

  • Offers no protection while youíre using the Internet
  • Interferes with automated anti virus software updates
  • Causes some tricky DHCP issues
  • Requires log back into your ISP every time that the switch is turned on
  • Agent software only works with Windows 9x and Windows ME

BASIC FEATURES

The hardware component itself really has no basic features. Itís simply an on & off switch. The product does come with a CD which contains an agent thatís intended to be run on the client PC. The agent polls your ISPís DHCP server and assists with establishing a new IP address when address leases expire.

SETUP/INSTALLATION

The hardware portion of the setup process is as simple as can be. Simply attach the switch between your cable or DSL modem and your PC. The Cat Switch has two RJ-45 ports, one for the cable or DSL modem and the other for the PC. The necessary extra patch cable is included.

The Cat Switch also includes an agent which must run on the PC. The agent is designed to help the user establish a new IP address lease should the previous lease expire while the PC is disconnected from the Internet. The agent was easy to install through a standard Setup program. Unfortunately, the agent software works only with Windows 9x/ME, not 2000/XP

SUMMARY

In all fairness, the product did exactly what it was supposed to. With a single flip of a switch, I was completely offline. Unfortunately, getting back online is a bit cumbersome. If your IP address lease has expired while offline, you must use a simple interface to establish a new lease. I also found that my ISP required me to completely log back in when I brought my PC back online.

Although the Cat Switch does provide fool proof security while in the offline mode, it offers absolutely no protection while online. In fact, even though the Cat Switch calls itself the ultimate firewall, the Cat Switch Web site recommends using the switch in conjunction with a real personal firewall like ZoneAlarm.

Even if the product is used with a real firewall, I have to be honest, I didnít really like the switch. It was a pain having to go through so much every time that I wanted to get back online, making it all the more impractical for environments with multiple PCs. Another major problem was that my anti virus software was unable to download updates at night while the Cat Switch was set to the Offline position. Any operations your PC does during off hours would be thwarted by the switch.

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