We downloaded the 32MB installation file and installed ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7 without a hitch. After a reboot, we were asked a series of questions to help us set up the application. The first question is in regards to the ZoneAlarm program control security setting, which controls the number of message alerts you'll see on your desktop. A Maximum setting flags everything until ZoneAlarm "learns" which security settings you prefer; an Auto-Learn setting starts the learning process earlier by temporarily lowering the security settings, resulting in fewer messages; and finally, a Minimum setting protects you against older, known alerts but no new threats, resulting in virtually no alerts. The default is Auto-Learn, and we left it at that setting. Next, you're asked to participate in DefenseNet, ZoneAlarm's security threat center where new alerts are recorded anonymously; you can opt out, if you prefer. After that, you'll be asked whether you have antivirus protection and, if you don't, whether you want to enable protection within ZoneAlarm. For this, we say choose ZoneAlarm's protection--not only will you manage everything through the ZoneAlarm interface, but you'll receive state-of-the-art protection from Kaspersky Anti-Virus. Finally, the program will ask whether you want to scan your PC starting immediately. After these questions, you'll need to reboot once again.
Upon our second reboot, we were invited to view a 3-minute Flash tutorial on how to use the suite. Trend Micro Internet Security 2007 also offers a tutorial, but Trend Micro's is a static Web page. ZoneAlarm walks the new user through with a lively video.
Should you decide to uninstall, ZoneAlarm includes an uninstall icon in the All Programs listing--something McAfee and Norton do not. The uninstall process is smooth, first verifying that you want to do this, then disconnecting from the Zone Labs servers and removing the application. Upon reboot, we found absolutely no trace of ZoneAlarm--not in the registry, not in the system folders. We cannot say the same for McAfee, Norton, or Trend Micro.
The PR material says there's a new interface in ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7, but all we saw was that the logo had changed, with the parent company, Check Point, much more prominent. Gone are the orange and red colors, replaced with a more sophisticated slate gray. ZoneAlarm's interface remains the high bar for design, at once communicating plenty of information without a lot of clutter or silly icons. Features are always visible along the left-hand navigation, and the right-hand window changes to display additional tabs of associated information. For example, under Program Control, there's an overview tab of security settings, a tab for individual program access, and a tab for component access. We like the ease of customization here, allowing us to allow, block, or ask with each program. Other firewalls make us jump through hoops or create complicated rule sets to tweak a given application.
It's all here. ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7 includes all the security tools you need to keep not only your desktop PC secure, but also your personal identity safe while surfing online. What's new is the partnership with Kaspersky, but also there's a new Auto-Learn system that helps users configure the firewall quicker, as well as a feature that configures security settings for applications that are already installed.
Unlike other suites we've reviewed, ZoneAlarm has fewer alerts for applications already running on our desktop. That's because Zone Labs maintains a rather large database of legitimate applications and compares the signature of what's on your system with those in its database. For the most part, ZoneAlarm only flagged unusual activity, which is what you want a good firewall to do. For example, ZoneAlarm notified us of a user who persistently attempted to scan our wireless laptop, then allowed us to block that user. Other firewalls we've reviewed only recorded these attempts in their logs.
Improved features within ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7 include better antispyware protection and better protection of a user's real-world protection from identity theft. The antispyware protection is Zone Labs' own, not partnered content, and it continues to improve. The real-world identity theft program was announced with version 6.5, and it includes a real-time monitoring service that will help stop junk mail from being delivered to your home--one of the main ways identity theft occurs--and should you become a victim of identity theft, the program will help you navigate the process of reestablishing your true identity. ZoneAlarm, partnering with a company called Intersections, will monitor illegal use of your credit cards by checking shadowy black markets and Internet forums. If your personal information is found, you'll be notified and told what you can do to prevent fraud and abuse. We think ZoneAlarm's focus on identity theft in this version more than justifies the cost of the Pro version or suite.
Also, most vendors have opted out of including parental controls (or calling them such). ZoneAlarm includes a Parental Control feature in its left-hand column. While you don't have to have children in the house to want to filter Web sites and e-mail content, it's refreshing to see that ZoneAlarm continues to include it within its suite under a recognizable name.