Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Check Point ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7.0

This suite performs well and is easy to use, but it lacks a targeted antiphishing component.

Check Point's new ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7.0 significantly improves on the 6.0 version. "All-in-One Security." Parent company Check Point has replaced the mediocre CA antivirus engine that it licensed from CA with a much better one from Kaspersky Labs, and the result is a high-performance suite whose only weakness is its antiphishing protection.

Core components includes antivirus, antispyware, and antiadware protection, courtesy of the Kaspersky engine, as well as the house-developed network firewall and the OSFirewall, a supplemental layer of protection that detects and blocks suspicious changes (caused by malware) to key areas of the system.

The ZoneAlarm suite is easy to use, with clear explanations of each decision you have to make, a big one being the level of security you want to establish. This year, the suite offers an Auto-learn mode. Though this mode initially lowers security to invoke fewer pop-up alerts, once it understands the applications it should trust, it cranks the security level back up for any activity it doesn't recognize. The Auto-learn mode was pleasantly quiet to begin with, but then the suite started popping up repeated alerts for legitimate application activity (such as my Trillian and Lotus Notes programs) that it should have recognized.

ZoneAlarm offers most of the usual suite extras. Its Privacy section selectively blocks Web site cookies, advertisements, and embedded objects and scripts. Its instant messaging security protects users of AOL, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo services from bad links and attachments, though it added so many warnings to my outgoing IM messages that I turned it off. Spam protection, provided through MailFrontier, adds a configurable toolbar to Outlook and Outlook Express. Parental controls block sites included on Check Point blacklists along with unknown sites identified via effective dynamic analysis. The Vista version of this product is expected to arrive in the second quarter of 2007, and ZoneAlarm customers within the one-year subscription window will be able to upgrade to it for free.

Noticeably missing from the suite is an antiphishing toolbar--the suite lacks anything capable of instantly blocking known phishing sites. (You can download free tools such as McAfee's SiteAdvisor to warn you against suspect Web sites.) However, ZoneAlarm does provide other, less effective Web protection. The myVault tool prevents information--such as social security, credit card, and password digits--from leaving your PC, but it requires you enter the information (encrypted if you want) first. If you sign up for the free year of fraud protection, available through Intersections' credit protection services, you'll be notified if the service finds your financial information elsewhere on the Internet.

At $50 per PC per year (with support calls billed at an additional $3 per minute), the ZoneAlarm suite is priced on a par with other major suites. It performs well and is easy to use, though it could use better phishing protection.

For more information, visit internet security suite.