ZoneAlarm Internet Security 5.5 review:

ZoneAlarm Internet Security 5.5

Considering ZoneAlarm Internet Security's modest price, we are impressed with the breadth and depth of its features. In addition to thwarting would-be hackers with its excellent firewall and viruses with its solid antivirus software, ZoneAlarm Internet Security encrypts instant messages for ICQ, AOL, MSN, and Yahoo and protects you against IM spam (a.k.a. spim). It also filters Web e-mail scripts, suppresses TCP/IP responses on unused ports to better hide your system from Internet scanners, and monitors all inbound and outbound Web contacts, alerting you to any unauthorized access. Both McAfee's and Norton's Internet security suites provide similar protection.

We're especially impressed by ZoneAlarm Internet Security's unique privacy control feature, which lets you store and track user-defined personal information in an encrypted "information vault." If you subsequently type any of that data, such as your credit card number, on a Web site, ZoneAlarm asks whether you want the destination added to your Trusted Sites list. If you say no, the outbound transmission is blocked. This feature stops keystroke loggers and other tools used by identity thieves; currently, it isn't included within either the McAfee or Norton Internet security packages.

ZoneAlarm's Control Center interface is a winner for its ease of use and content.

For a more in-depth discussion of the antivirus and firewall features within ZoneAlarm Internet Security, see our review of ZoneAlarm with Antivirus.

Still, there's room for improvement here. For example, ZoneAlarm Internet Security doesn't include a heuristics-based scan within ZoneAlarm's spam control, just a whitelist of acceptable senders. Heuristics can block spam based on unique features within the message, not just the sender's name or address. Worse, ZoneAlarm's whitelist isn't even maintained on your computer, but back at Zone Labs, making editing your allowable contacts an online activity rather than something you can perform anywhere, anytime on your laptop.

The purchase price for ZoneAlarm Internet Security includes one year of software updates and both e-mail- and keyword-based virtual support, along with access to a well-attended user forum. Purchase does not, however, include free telephone support. Support by phone is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday (excluding major holidays) , but it costs a hefty $2.95 per minute--about the same as what McAfee and Symantec charge for their phone support.

ZoneAlarm Internet Security 5.5 lacks documentation, either printed or as an electronic file, and the tutorial is more of a glitzy marketing device than an informative tool--a drawback in a product of this complexity. However, the built-in help file is excellent, thorough, and specific, effectively balancing detail and clarity.

ZoneAlarm's excellent help system makes it easy to track down the program information you need.

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