ZoneAlarm started life as a Windows firewall, with a freeware version for personal use. A full free anti-virus and firewall package is now available, but the subject of this review is ZoneAlarm Security Extreme 2013, a subscription product which adds a variety of extra features to the above, to provide a rounded Windows security suite. See also: TOP 5 INTERNET SECURITY SUITES.
The extras include anti-spam, PC Tune-up, parental controls, online backup, private browsing, download protection, keylogger jamming, Facebook privacy scan and online tracking prevention. The product is available in one and two-year subscriptions, for up to three PCs, at £35 and £53, respectively.
The main control screen is a simple, three-panel design, with panels labelled Computer, Internet and Identity & Data. Unless there are any reported problems, these all show ‘Protected’ in comforting green letters.
Click on the View Details button on any panel and it takes you through to a corresponding control screen, with more details and switches to turn different elements on and off.
It’s simple to adjust everyday settings with graphical sliders and switches, but you can drill down to more advanced adjustments, if you want greater control.
Quick and full scans can be started from a subsidiary screen of the control panel, but if you want to custom scan a particular file or folder, you have to right-click on it from within a Windows file browser and pick the ZoneAlarm menu option.
Less entertaining was the feedback request which popped up just three days after installing ZoneAlarm Security Extreme 2013, asking if we’d recommend the product to colleagues. How would we know after just three days? And wouldn’t the over-hasty nag slant you against Check Point Software Technologies, makers of ZoneAlarm’?
PC Tune-up, another application included but not installed by default, is licensed from Large Software and is a fully automated tidy-up for a PC system. The ZoneAlarm licence includes access to system backup, scan for broken files, file repair and defragmentation, but you can upgrade the program separately, to add other functions to the mix. See also: TOP 5 INTERNET SECURITY SUITES.
Running an AV scan on our 50GB of test files took 36 min 27 sec, but only examined 8767 files, giving a scan rate of 4 files per second. This is the second slowest rate we’ve recorded, but at least ZoneAlarm does a good job of fingerprinting the files, so they don’t have to be rescanned on subsequent runs. The second scan took just 19 sec.
The 2GB file copy took 37 percent longer with a ZoneAlarm scan running than with just background tasks, which is better than average, but not among the best we’ve tested.
The German AV site AV-Test scored ZoneAlarm Free at 13.5/18.0, which puts it in the middle of the 25 products tested in its latest group.
Breaking down the overall score, it managed 5.5 out of 6.0 on Usability, with a low resource hit and only one false positive during two months of testing.
It was average in the Repair section, although it was particularly good at removing malicious components and rectifying unwanted system changes.
It did better most of the way through testing in the Protection category, too, but then took a dip in the second month in detecting zero-day attacks.