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Check Point ZoneAlarm Extreme

Solid but over-the-top security protection

Advanced firewall; protects against browser threats; online backup tools; optional private-key encryption; PC tune-up tools

Overkill; overly complicated; memory hog

Check Point

There has been a dramatic rise in attacks that target vulnerabilities in the Web browser. To help stay safe online while shopping and even browsing, you should use a strong, robust software security package that secures your computer and your Web browser. ZoneAlarm Extreme Security (£48 for a three-user licence) is a mega-suite that goes beyond just virus detection and removal.

Built on the technologies found in ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite and ZoneAlarm ForceField, the weighty download combines the best of all the current ZoneAlarm standalone programs, but there are also new features added that you won’t get in the other ZoneAlarm programs. It places an emphasis on Web attacks through the Web browser, as well as preventing identity theft and giving you 2GB of online data backup with government-grade encryption. PC tune-up and maintenance tools included – not something everybody wants or needs – and the suite supports Windows XP and the 64-bit and 32-bit versions of Windows Vista (sort of!)

In addition to Check Point’s existing collection of firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam, ZoneAlarm Extreme Security adds its ForceField virtualised browser technology, providing consumers and home workers with all-round protection. ZoneAlarm ForceField was launched as a standalone product by Check Point in May 2008 after it acquired Zone Labs in 2003. The software creates a virtualised environment in which your Web browser runs, thereby isolating the rest of your PC from the Internet session and negating many online threats such as drive-by downloads and malware from infected sites.

The multiple security layers included in the new ZoneAlarm Extreme Security suite provide protection against computer and Web-based attacks that bypass traditional security suites. First introduced with ZoneAlarm ForceField, the virtualised browser technology offers protection against new and constantly evolving online threats. Integrating ForceField into the ZoneAlarm suite rounds out the protection, despite the growing complexity of attacks from hackers and other fraudsters. ZoneAlarm Extreme Security gives you peace of mind that your daily online activities and stored personal information are protected from existing and future Web attacks.

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security is probably the strongest and most comprehensive security suite available to protect all areas of your online life, but we can’t help feel that it’s totally over the top. Sure the firewall is tough, the layered protection prevents malware installation and spam protection is comprehensive, but there’s just so much more to this suite that is not necessary for most users – parental controls, online backup, tune-up tools, to name a few. The software also had a big impact on our test system’s performance (albeit less than its predecessor), and Windows boot time was drastically lengthened. Furthermore, while it seems Check Point is finally trying to support Vista x64, it is only in 32-bit compatibility-mode. Security programs of this level running on a 64-bit operating system must be 64-bit application themselves rather than a half-arsed port. It’s a shame ZoneAlarm has degraded from a once good and easy to use personal firewall to a slow memory hog that’s overly complicated and packed to the gills with attention-grabbing but largely unnecessary features.

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