(I'm guessing that this is the right newsgroup for my problem, since I think that the root cause of it is firewall-related.) So what's happening is that with Firefox, I'm getting "The connection was refused when attempting to contact ", where "yadda.yadda.yadda" is a site for say signing in for checking e-mail on Yahoo, or account info on amazon.com, or for posting messages on a Google group (thus I had to post this from a different computer, than the problem one.) IE won't let me access anything whatsoever- I always invariably just get the "Cannot find server/The page cannot be displayed" error. And lastly attempts to use pscp result in "ssh_init: Network errror: Connection refused".
This is all happening on a fairly new HP PC, running XP w/SP 2. Everything was all hunky-dory, before I went and installed a Windows update recently... it then behaved in a way similar to the effects of the Sasser worm (although I remain skeptical that I actually ever had the worm, since the PC is behind a router firewall, AND I had SP 2, AND I was running ZoneAlarm, AND Norton AntiVirus... I'm left to wonder that something got zapped in the process of the Windows update install, especially since the HP tech support guy I was on the phone with for hours mentioned there being reports of others experiencing similar snafus right after doing a Windows update.) Anyway, in order to get my PC to boot up properly again, I ultimately ended up having to do a recovery which put a fresh OS on it (although fortunately my data remained intact), but it did mean that I had to re-install a lot of my software. I swear, I was not getting the "connection refused" errors before I re-installed ZA and then rebooted. But then afterwards, if I shut down ZA, the problem remained!
I tried granting all rights to Firefox, IE, and pscp within ZA ("Trusted" and "Internet", for both "Access" and "Server"), and I even tried removing and then adding back in the entries for those programs, but no dice. I've got the "Use SSL 2.0", "Use SSL 3.0", and "Use TLS1.0" boxes checked in Firefox under "Security" in the Advanced Options menu, and I made sure that I had the "Do not use OCSP for certificate validation" option set as well. I also cleared FF's cache, to no avail. When I click on the "Windows Firewall" icon in Control Panel, it says that the Windows Firewall is off, although when I look at Services there is a line for "Windows Firewall/Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)" with the Status as "Started" and the Startup Type as "Automatic". I'm temped to try changing the Statup Type of this to "disable" (simply because I have absolutely no clue what else to try at this point), but I was afraid to, without fully understanding it. Suggestions/ideas, anyone?? Thanks, & Happy Yule.