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back to article ZoneAlarm slammed for scarewarey marketing

ZoneAlarm has run into criticism from its customers for using scary pop-up warnings as a marketing tactic designed to persuade users to purchase the paid-for version of its personal firewall. Users of the free version of the ZoneAlarm firewall are confronted with a "Global Virus Alert" about "ZeuS.Zbot.aoaq" containing a link to …

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Doesn't surprise me ...

ZoneAlarm jumped the shark a long time ago.

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yeah i got this the other day

I had to do a double take to make sure I wasn't actually infected. Most of us here work in the IT industry; if it can fool us (even for a second), then it will fool at lot of the users out there.

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They're not going nearly far enough

ALERT! YOUR CHILD IS IN DANGER! ONLY ZONEALARM PRO CAN PROTECT THEM!

Come on, that's the target market. Squeeze it. Squeeeeeeze.

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Zonealarm is crap

For years people have been recommending zonealarm to me.

Last month i installed it on Win7, and not only did it corrupt my entire system with a bad driver, but i had to use a restore point to remove every single trace of it.

Zonealarm is toxic and is well known to cause a constant BSOD on Win7, yet there is NO useful support at all from them.

Hit em in the pocket and use another firewall, one which cares enough to listen to their customers

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I demand a test!

Has the Register done a "best of" on free anti-virus, spam blocking, firewall software etc. What's the best (FREE) alternative to ZonaAlarm?

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b 3

simple solution!

dont use W7 :P

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"Best of"

Gizmo has recommendations and words of wisdom.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-firewall.htm

Can we have a review of the article here, or better alternatives, please?

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I thought that Win7 had a built in firewall?

I could have sworn that, when installing an FTP server program on a Win7 machine, I received a ZoneAlarm style "do you wish to let this through the firewall" message from Windows itself?

I recall that ZoneAlarm didn't play nicely with CPs built-in firewall either but, then, XPs never stopped programs going out, only people trying to get in -- so ZoneAlarm could be worth the hassle.

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Megaphone

Comodo

I ditched ZA not long after Checkpoint took them over and things started to change and installed Comodo Firewall. After an initial bit of panic at the increased options/complexity compared to ZA's simpler interface, I got my head around it and have never looked back.

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FAIL

Global Title Alert - your PC may be in danger!

Had a quick read of their forum thread. Such charming moderation too: "Removed for recommending competitor's software".

Fail, because... well, it's obvious innit?

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Pirate

O RLY?

"We asked Check Point to comment on the ethics of its marketing tactics."

Ethics? Marketing? Oxymoron?

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THe Freaks Come Out At Night

Got to be a Zone troll person who voted your comment down. Morons.

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Hmmmm

Things must be pretty tight when the anti virus people employ the exact same tactics as the malware creators they are supposed to be protecting you against.

About as poor a showing as you can get.

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totally agree!

lame innit?

what other firewalls are as good as ZAP free?

wont this just make ppl go elsewhere?

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FAIL

alternative

So what's the best free alternative (I got the warning a couple of days ago, and I had to do a double take as well).

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Anonymous Coward

Free?

The problem is that all the free security software out there is limitted, mostly because it is in effect a marketing tool for the fully featured product. OK so there are some exceptions to that but not many. So it doesn't matter if you're talking about Zone Alarm, Ad-Aware, Panda Cloud Antivirus or whatever, none of the free versions are *that* good otherwise nobody would buy the commercial version.

ZA used to be the dogs dangly parts, indeed the problem they had was that it was too good so people weren't bothering with the commercial version. It doesn't seem to have kept pace with the nasty stuff and it ain't foolproof. Cynics may suggest that this is a deliberate ploy to increase sales.

Essentially what it boils down to is that there is nothing free which is as good as the commercial offerings.

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Flame

Free security software is worth every penny you pay for it!

> Essentially what it boils down to is that there is nothing free which is as good as the commercial offerings.

Exactly!

> it is in effect a marketing tool for the fully featured product.

Exactly again!

Those are facts of life we have to live with if we're too cheap to buy decent security software, but it's stooping pretty damn low when a so-called reputable security company resorts to ramming scareware scammers' tactics up the noses of its free version users to push its own paid program.

See

http://www.avinashtech.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/scareware.png for more on this AVG-sponsored scareware bullshit.

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Disappointing

I used to think highly of the product and have used and recommended Zone Alarm in the past. Alarming non-IT folk is not clever: those of us who are asked and give advice get part of the blame. It makes ZoneLabs look bad too. Shame on you Checkpoint.

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I'm with you on that one Andy

Sad isn't it when a good product goes that way.

That's the way of the world me thinks.

But, for the moment, I can recommend Comodo free personal internet security package.

(I have no interest in the product, other than, like yourself, assisting less tech savy peeps).

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FAIL

I got this on the in-laws pc at the weekend

I too had to take a double take. This is the kind of thing that would cause them to call me. I immediately lost a lot of respect for a company I had once been a happy customer of. I agree with Alan Bourke, ZA jumped the shark a long time ago.

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Not A Surprise

In the late '90s, I bought several licenses and maintained them for over five years; product quality steadily declined and support was prompt but often worthless. It's easy to imagine the Zone Troopers going to extremes to sell their product. A death spiral always brings out the worst in a company.

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Most AV software has become scareware

Buy a new PC from Dell or similar and the first thing you'll notice is the Norton 30 day trial crapware nagging you with scary notices about how your machine won't be protected unless you subscribe.

Screw that. Microsoft produce a perfectly serviceable AV product called Microsoft Security Essentials. It's free, it does it's job and most of the time it stays the hell out of the way. When combined with Windows Defender I really see no reason to pay Norton or some other vendor for AV or firewall software unless you are stuck on XP.

Firewall software is even more a waste of time these days. Most people will be behind a cable or ADSL modem firewall anyway and Windows Firewall provides a second line of defence. The chances are the default protection is more than adequate out of the box unless you want anal levels of control.

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Re: MSE

Just to make a minor correction to your comment: Microsoft Security Essentials replaces Windows Defender - you should not run them side-by-side. Installing MSE will disable Defender, though I am not sure about the other way around.

Re: ZA:

I got the alert yesterday as I was preparing to re-install a laptop. Fooled me. Stupid ZA peeps, my wife was asking about putting it back on but after that stunt - no chance in hell.

What I would really like to see is a decent interface to the Windows built-in firewall. Trying to use the admin applet is horrific - even Linux has decent interfaces to the beast that is IPTables, so surely MS could come up with something more user friendly.

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ignorance

This just demonstrates a huge level of ignorance regarding the key functionality of a product like ZA.

The most important thing for me is that outbound connections are monitored.

Sure, my router and windows firewall may protect me from inbound threats, but what about that banking trojan trying to dial home.

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Your wish is granted...

I use Windows 7 Firewall Control. Adds a decent user interface to the built-in windows firewall. There are both free and paid editions, and the free one has worked fine for me so far.

http://www.sphinx-soft.com/Vista/index.html

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Grenade

MSE is good - but several paid security programs are better!

I'll stick with anal levels of control until something free comes along that's good enough to protect my arse!

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WTF?

ZA BS to the max!

According to Zone Alarm's scareware ad campaign their freebie WON'T stop that banking trojan trying to dial home!

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Totally agree....

I too work in IT, and getting this message first thing on Friday morning I did a double take, and a full virus check with Avast just to make sure.

My biggest concern is what my poor old Mum would do when confronted with the message... although my brother and I have trained her well.... so she would probably phone or e-mail to check.

As it is, I warned her by mail not to panic.

I too am on the lookout for an alternate free option if one exists.

Malcolm

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Suggestions

I used to use AVG but that became a bit bloated and slow, so I switched to Avira. I use it on all on the machines in my house - no plans to ditch it yet. I use it on conjunction with Comodo personal firewall (in case you need that too).

I'm sure other have their own opinions too.

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Stop

Used to use Zone Alarm.

Then they released a version that without fail kept screwing up the killing of the Firefox process which could only be corrected by rebooting. Took me a while to work out that it was actually ZA that was the problem, as up until then it had been a good product.

Dumped them now and now use the free "PC Tools" product which has caused no problems whatsoever.

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Yeah. And they're not alone

Bloody AVG also acts like malware, with popup adverts for its products.

that, along with AVG's insistence on punting the Yahoo toolbar malware means I'm on the verge of removing it and switching to something else.

I thought these products were supposed to STOP antics like that, not fscking imitate the scum!!!!

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Boffin

I stopped using AVG some time ago

when they became bloatware.

I can now recommend Avast!

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Me too

At the same time as ZA was spamming me with this garbage, Avast! was reminding me of talk like a pirate day.

AVG went to hell around version 8. Its previous behaviour on opening a directory full of potential threat vectors (e.g. a directory containing hundreds of assorted installers) was to block access to the files while it scanned them. As of version 8 it seemed to start blocking access to the entire directory, and in some cases caused explorer.exe to stop working while it was scanning the directory contents. Nuts to that.

Go to hell ZA. Time to look for a new firewall.

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FAIL

No suprise there

ZoneAlarm has been crap for years. Used to use it a long time ago, have been more successful just using windows firewall, and don't get popups the whole time whenever something tries to connect.

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Flame

I wasted ten minutes of my life...

... checking to ensure that my system hadn't been compromised by a malware product masquerading as a "legitimate" warning before finding out that even though I hadn't been infected it wasn't a legitimate warning at all.

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FAIL

This is low

This is clearly designed to trick people. No two ways about it. Low!

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Anonymous Coward

This is low

Exremely low!

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Gates Halo

sphinx software

windows 7 firewall control i believe its called, works like ZA USED to work.

Very nice, no hassles at all on win7 ult.

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type your title here

I also used to use ZA a long time ago.

I have now swith to sygate personal firewall and have not had any issues with it yet.

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Anonymous Coward

Sygate

I thought Symantec has stopped supporting Sygate free version. Not a good idea to use out of date security software.

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Seriously?

In all honestly, that pop up actually looks like a fake one. If I'd seen that on my PC, I'd have presumed that it was not a real Zone Alarm pop up at all, but rather an attempt to copy it.

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Anonymous Coward

Strange week....

Last week I scanned my computer ,as usual, with AVG and it stated that an .exe file that I had scanned several times before and came up clean suddenly had a virus as per below;

Trojan horse BackDoor.Generic13.CLS";"Infected" I was puzzled as to how AVG had cleared the

file several times before and then all of a sudden found this alleged virus in an exe that I never used anyway.

THEN the next day I also got the message from Zone Alarm as per your article ,so you can imagine that I was paranoid by then.

I wonder if AVG are doing a similar trick ???????????????

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What that warning OUGHT to say

is that your POCKET is in danger from COWBOY software companies that are deliberately trying to MISLEAD the public.

Zone Alarm should perhaps be asking itself -- is my product really *SO* bad that I have to use intentionally misleading tactics in order to sell it.

And the answer, presumably, is YES otherwise they wouldn't need to resort to this.

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Anonymous Coward

I got this message

and for a second it DID look like a genuine virus warning. A family member who also uses ZoneAlarm got the same impression and came to me complaining of being infected. Needless to say I'm not amused.

Since the firewall has been installed and configured for months I won't be removing it but next time I'm installing a firewall on any Windows box it won't be ZoneAlarm that's for sure. This stunt was scareware plain and simple.

I'm also starting to get annoyed at people like ZoneAlarm and Comodo insisting that their Firewall products are also Antivirus products. I personally don't see the value of "Security Suites". Just give me a Firewall that works and is easy to configure. Which means NO I don't want to have to authorize every file, registry key or application that my computer tries to run or modify.

Firewalls are concerned with network connections. Please just worry about the network connections and let me (not) worry about what files my system is accessing in the background (Comodo, Jetico).

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Alert

"AVG's insistence on punting the Yahoo toolbar malware "

Unfortunately, AVG is not alone at that. Far to many products are surreptitiously installing these nuisances and, worse still, making them the default not just an opt-in.

As a paying AVG business customer, I will be taking that very serious misdemeanour into consideration when the current licences expire. I've got better things to do than go round uninstalling unmerited rubbish and I've no way of knowing whether the toolbar is communicating anything to Yahoo and perhaps doing so even when the toolbar isn't in use.

Like another user said, these programs are supposed to be guarding AGAINST inappropriate software, not installing it themselves..

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FAIL

ZoneAlarm

Now there's a blast from the past. Can't remember the last time their crud was of any practical use. Shame on the forum gurus for defending this behaviour.

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Alert

Always toxic

I have always considered Zone Alarm to be Highly TOXIC since the earliest versions.

Security that is often worse than no security gives a false sense of safety to the less technical user while increasing there risk.

There is no substitute for common sense.

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Anonymous Coward

Re : Always toxic

I have always considered WINDOWS to be Highly TOXIC since the earliest versions

There - fixed for you

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Hands up

I have to add my voice that I was duped when it came up as well, just after a fresh OS install. Which made it obvious it was a scam, even Windows doesn't get infected that fast, but I looked twice and I have been in this game for years. A sad state of affairs indeed and beneath a company that has done such sterling work with their firewalls in the past.

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