A Free Zone Alarm?

For firewalls, I always recommend Zone Alarm from ZoneLabs. To my mind it’s still the best and most intuitive firewall around. But most people only need the free version. And that’s where the problem is. Why do ZoneLabs make it so hard for ordinary users to download it?

Readers and friends who have tried to download the free version often seem to run into problems, and download the ‘free trial’ version or some other less-than-free version of the software. As I recommend Zone Alarm, and thought that ZoneLabs had agreed to make this easer after earlier complaints, I thought I should check it out.

It’s true that it’s not easy. The Free ZoneAlarm and trials link is there in the top half of the screen, but it’s below another ‘freebie’, a Spyware Detector (more of that anon). The list of ZoneAlarm Security Products that are now available does not include a link to the free version, and the big link to the ZoneAlarm Security Suite page which dominates the top half of the screen contains no links to the free version. Neither does the download page. So unless you happen to see the link on the homepage, you’ve pretty much lost the chance to get the free download.

And even then, should you make it to the ‘Free Downloads’ page, you’ll have to scroll down to the end of the list, past five other mentions of the word ‘free’ to find the free version. Made it that far? You still have to skip past another tripwire before you make it home without removing your wallet. The first link on that page is to a link: FREE! Scan My PC for Spyware Before Downloading ZoneAlarm® (Recommended) that sounds, to a casual user, almost part of the download process. (What they don’t tell you is that the scan is for free, but you’ll have to shell out $30 to remove the ‘spyware, keyloggers, cookies, adware, browser help objects and other pests’ that the scan will find. My scan found 48 items of ‘spyware’ — all but two of them cookies, which is pushing the definition a little. (The other two were MS Media Player ID files, which are worth removing, according to CA and Kephyr.)

This is a shame because, while I can understand ZoneLabs need to make a buck, the free version is an excellent shop window for ZoneLabs. And users shouldn’t be misled by ‘recommended’ links to other software that looks free, but isn’t really. Bottom line: If you’re not educating the user but trying to get their money through stealth or obfuscation, then you’re not part of the solution.

23. February 2005 by jeremy
Categories: Rants, Security, Software, apps | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 comments

Comments (4)

  1. I’m a fan of Kerio Personal Firewall (http://www.kerio.com), which installs as their full version then expires the paid features after 30 days. If you don’t need inbound web filtering and aren’t a business then the free version should work well for you.

    The biggest problem I see with it is that it’s not really ideal for “naive” users – those users should get it installed by whoever supports them, then run through everything that they regularly use to get the initial permissions set up.

    The things that it tracks (and will prompt about): outgoing connections, incoming connections to listening ports, applications launching other applications (e.g. a system tray “agent” program launching the full application), exectuable file replacement (using checksums). It allows fairly fine-grained control if you know what you’re doing and take the time to set it up, but for most users it’s sufficient to say “I trust these applications to do what they want. These other applications have no business on the Internet and are not allowed out. For anything else, ask me.”

  2. Hi,

    I’ve just finished a new site : http://www.dontbeavictim.org and also a not-for-profit forum
    at: http://dontbeavictim.org/phpBB2/index.php

    I found you site with Google, and I think that our sites have a lot in common. For that reason
    I would like to invite you to visit our site, and if you like, advertise your website on our Forum.

    In fact, there’s a section of the Forum dedicated to zone alarms, identity theft, etc.:

    http://dontbeavictim.org/phpBB2/index.php

    If you would like to add a link to your website, or some information about what you do, then feel
    free. If you could add a link to our website from your own as well that would be great!

    Thanks for your time,

    John
    admin@dontbeavictim.org

  3. I Suggest Kerio too! You should try it out

  4. If Anybody Wants a corporate key for $20 Aud Email me on “i_luv_me_01@live.co.uk” It activates it for 51400 Days!
    Serial Works With “ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite” Key Can Be Used Many Times And On As Many Computers.