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Zone Labs' popular ZoneAlarm firewall, available in both free and fee versions, has always been a lone wolf in the realm of PC security. While and other antivirus software vendors have already taken the logical step of combining antivirus and firewall protection into one program, ZoneAlarm resisted the urge to merge--until now. Not only does the new ZoneAlarm with Antivirus shield against viruses and hacker attacks, it does so for the rock-bottom price of $19.95. Limitations? ZoneAlarm with Antivirus doesn't block ads, manage cookies, or have all the perks of pricier security suites, including Zone Labs' own ZoneAlarm Security Suite, of course. But for students and home users who simply want solid yet very basic security for their PCs, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus is a winner. Installing ZoneAlarm with Antivirus is child's play. A configuration wizard leads you through setup, making it easy for everyday users to secure their systems fast. For instance, the program automatically scans your system for viruses after setup, but you can cancel this scan if you wish. Unlike , however, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus doesn't perform a preinstallation scan, which would be an added measure of protection.
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ZoneAlarm with Antivirus's main screen displays an easy-to-read snapshot of firewall and antivirus activity.
The ZoneAlarm with Antivirus interface is excellent. A left-hand column provides one-click access to the program's main modules--Firewall, Program Control, and Antivirus--and the configuration options are clearly explained and easy to change. Longtime ZoneAlarm users will feel at home immediately with the program, since it looks nearly identical to Zone Labs' firewall-only offerings.
Novices will like the 10-part tutorial that explains in detail ZoneAlarm's default settings. For example, it describes the significance of pop-up alerts (such as when an unrecognized program tries to access the Internet), and shows you how to use the Stop and Internet Lock buttons to block all Net traffic (if you fear you're under attack).
Expert users will like the granular controls for both the firewall and antivirus modules, including the ability to block incoming and outgoing pings, thereby making your system more invisible to Internet intruders. The E-mail Protection module allows you to add or delete file extensions from the list of e-mail attachments scanned. You might expect ZoneAlarm with Antivirus to get clobbered in a feature-to-feature bout with such antivirus heavyweights as Norton AntiVirus 2004 and , both of which cost much more. Surprisingly, however, ZoneAlarm holds its own. The main reason, of course, is the firewall/antivirus combo. Neither McAfee VirusScan 8.0 nor Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2004 currently includes a firewall (although their pricier security suites do).
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ZoneAlarm with Antivirus's antivirus module allows you to run manual scans or schedule scans at recurring intervals.
Still, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus isn't exactly packed with features. For instance, unlike most antivirus apps, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus doesn't defend against instant-messenger (IM) spam, IM-executable URLs, and other IM attacks. For that, you'll need Zone Labs' free &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ezonelabs%2Ecom%2Fstore%2Fcontent%2Fcatalog%2Fproducts%2Fsku%5Flist%5Fims%2Ejsp">IMsecure or paid &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ezonelabs%2Ecom%2Fstore%2Fcontent%2Fcatalog%2Fproducts%2Fsku%5Flist%5Fimsp%2Ejsp"> IMsecure Pro. While Norton AntiVirus 2004 detects spyware running on your system, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus doesn't. On the plus side, like most antivirus apps, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus will scan e-mail attachments and quarantine suspicious files.
Rather than build its own antivirus software, Zone Labs licensed Computer Associates' Vet Antivirus engine, also used in , a program we previously found to offer speedy scanning and a mediocre interface. Zone Labs wisely pasted its very user-friendly ZoneAlarm interface over the Vet engine, and the results are positive. Unlike other antivirus programs, however, ZoneAlarm won't allow you to pause virus scans to run a computational- or disk-intensive task; your only option is to cancel them and start over. We prefer the pause option, but that's our only major antivirus nitpick. Firewall results
We tested ZoneAlarm with Antivirus's firewall against Steve Gibson's &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fgrc%2Ecom%2Fdefault%2Ehtm">ShieldsUp security checker, which reported that our test PC was very secure and wasn't exposing its NetBIOS networking protocol over the Internet. In addition, our computer didn't respond to ShieldsUp's port-connection attempts, an indication of strong firewall protection.
|ShieldsUp common ports||ZoneAlarm with Antivirus||McAfee Personal Firewall Plus 6.0||Norton Personal Firewall 2004|
|Port 5000 UPnP||Stealth||Stealth||Stealth|
To test ZoneAlarm with Antivirus's firewall using ShieldsUp, we began with IP Agent, a free utility provided by ShieldsUp that determines the test machine's current IP address, then contacts the ShieldsUp Web site to begin testing. Next, the Port Probe utility from ShieldsUp tested our system's defense against Internet port scanners. The test originates from the ShieldsUp server and attempts to establish standard TCP/IP (Internet) connections on a handful of commonly exploited Internet service ports on the test computer. More information on these tests and what the results mean can be found at &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fgrc%2Ecom%2Fintro%2Ehtm">ShieldsUp.
Antivirus performance results
In our CNET Labs tests, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus caused less of a drag on system performance than Norton AntiVirus 2004 but more than McAfee VirusScan 8.0. But ZoneAlarm with Antivirus scanned our 1GB drive much slower than Norton and McAfee. Here are our test results:
|Test system||ZoneAlarm with Antivirus||McAfee VirusScan||Norton AntiVirus|
|SysMark 2002 Internet-content-creation (ICC) score||233||221||234||223|
|Percentage of degradation||N/A||7||0||4|
|Average boot time (seconds)||40.8||55.6||48.38||52.72|
|Scan 1GB directory; average scan time (minutes)||N/A||2.44||4.75||3.59|
ZoneAlarm with Antivirus uses the Vet antivirus engine from Computer Associates. To determine whether Vet effectively blocks viruses, we gauged its performance in tests conducted by independent antivirus laboratories. In &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Evirusbtn%2Ecom%2Fvb100%2Farchives%2Fproducts%2Exml%3Fvet%2Exml">Virus Bulletin tests with live viruses, previous versions of Vet earned the coveted VB 100 percent rating in six of its six most recent Windows tests--on a par with Norton AntiVirus, which also earned the title six out of its last six tests.
More information about how we test antivirus apps and firewalls can be found at CNET Labs. Like McAfee and Symantec, Zone Labs offers expensive phone support for ZoneAlarm with Antivirus: $2.95 per minute, available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. By comparison, Trend Micro, maker of PC-cillin Internet Security 2004, provides one year of free phone support.
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Zone Labs' Instant Support screen is a virtual chat tool that lets you probe the company's knowledge base with natural-language queries.
Want no-cost help? Zone Labs' online chat is one option. The term chat is misleading, however, since you're really interacting with a Web-based knowledge base, not a human being. For example, type a question in the Instant Support box, and the automated system will suggest a solution. While we found Instant Support easy to use, we'd prefer to interact with someone with a pulse. On the plus side, the virtual chat tool did resolve a technical glitch we experienced with a prerelease version of ZoneAlarm with Antivirus.