Has all the right ingredients, but the recipe needs work
Sharing the spotlight with ZA’s well-known firewall is Kaspersky’s integrated scan engine. Kaspersky earned a 9 verdict and a Kick Ass award last year, and in our eyes, pairing its scan engine with ZA’s firewall is like hiring Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee as your personal bodyguards. If only they had come dressed for the job.
ZoneAlarm does a fantastic job managing its two-way firewall, which offers up a boatload of customizations for networking ninjas.
Getting acquainted with the text-heavy UI takes a little work. The main window consists of a center panel outlining the status of the firewall, antivirus/antispyware, antiphishing, and browser security modules. This is flanked by a column of options on the left-hand side and a right-justified panel housing additional services, each of which redirects you to a web page to download and configure. It’s not the worst interface in the world, nor is it particularly swank. To perform anything other than a Quick Scan, for example, you have to drill into the antivirus menu, select Advanced Options, highlight Scan Modes under Virus Management, and then select a new default option, which applies to both manual and scheduled scans.
The integration of ZoneAlarm’s ForceField software adds an additional layer of security while cruising the web, but only if you’re driving IE or Firefox. If you are, ZA will scan every download before it touches your desktop, as well as give you the option of loading your browser in a virtual filesystem. Doing so redirects unsolicited downloads away from the OS and encrypts keystrokes, effectively jamming keyloggers. Huzzah!
All this protection adds up to a slightly heavy package. PCMark performance took a hit, and boot times jumped all over the place, finally averaging plus-six seconds (compared to a clean install), but occasionally would take much longer.
We found downloading updates a sometimes laborious waiting game, though this is only a potential problem if you have reason to check for updated definitions rather than let ZA do it for you. As malware detection goes, Check Point’s decision to integrate Kaspersky predictably turned out to be a good one, though it’s not as hurried as the fastest-performing scanners.
ZoneAlarm caught our entire collection of malware, and Kaspersky’s antivirus engine continues to earn high marks from independent testing labs.
It’s too bad ZA discriminates against Chrome, which is quickly picking up market share. And we wish it were a little more nimble. Otherwise, the pairing of a powerful firewall along with one of the best AV scan engines is a winning combination.