ZoneAlarm’s Sneaky Spyware Scare?

(See a more recent post on this for an update. ZoneAlarm no longer has this ‘feature’.)

I’m a big fan, and user, of ZoneAlarm firewalls. Their interface is clean, clear and I like the system tray icon which doubles as a traffic monitor. But sometimes they do things that don’t, in my view, help educate and simplify things for the ordinary user. After all, Internet security is already baffling enough.

I use the free version of ZoneAlarm firewall and usually it works fine and unobtrusively. But just now I got a popup window like this:

Za

At first glance it looks like an ordinary update reminder, which would be fine. But it’s not. It seems to suggest, to the casual user, that something bad is happening to your computer. To the more experienced user it looks like one of those naff anti-spyware ads that appear on websites with a faux Windows-dialog suggesting you’re infected with spyware. (Notice there’s no option along the lines of ‘Never remind or show me this popup again. I have enough on my plate, thanks.’)

Click on ‘update now’ and you’re taken, surprise surprise, to a ZoneAlarm promotions page. To be fair to ZoneAlarm, if you’re running IE a scan will kick in (it won’t if you’re using Opera, Netscape or Mozilla as it’s an ActiveX application). Once spyware is detected, it’s not quite clear what you’re supposed to do next. Click on a ‘Remove Spyware Now’ link and you’re faced with a pop-up link pitching a ‘featured bundle’ of ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite and TurboBackup for $50. Click on a red button marked ‘REMOVE SPYWARE with ZoneAlarm’ and you’re taken to the same pop-up (Yes, they seem to somehow get around the builtin IE popup blocker.) As far as I can see there is no other way to remove the alleged spyware.

This is all, I believe, part of ZoneAlarm’s new product,  ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware, which it launched recently. I just wish that ZoneAlarm, which I’ve had quarrels with before, didn’t stoop to such befuddling scare tactics to tout a new product.  

27. October 2005 by jeremy
Categories: Security, Software, apps | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 comments

Comments (6)

  1. There’s more. The activex modules installed prompted a warning from Microsoft anti-spyware. When I okayed the install, the machine slowed to a crawl, Control Panel wouldn’t open and I kept getting a network connection screen. There’s more to this product than just a simple offer! When I went back to Microsoft Spyware and blocked the modules I had okayed, the problems went away. Before blocking the modules, I ran PC-Cillin, Microsoft Spyware, Spybot and Ad-Aware SE. None of these found objectionable modules.

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  3. i am also a user of ZoneAlarm firewalls, pretty good, or you can use some other antispyware at http://www.shareware123.com/utility/antivirus/, also excellent!

  4. Its better to run multiple spyware scanners. I have tested several spyware software and there is not one which catches everything.

    Also I can recommend running the noscript extension when using the Firefox browser. It disables javascript and other scripts which are used to deliver nasty spyware software onto your PC.

  5. I used to only use ZoneAlarm, but at the end of 2007, they had some really bad programming issues, which caused their software, (especially the firewall software) to conflict with many many items of software on my PC, so I was forced to abandon it.

    Now, with spyware scares, they need to watch out.

  6. ZoneAlarm is definitely spyware.
    (I’m using the free version 7.0.462).
    It seems to report on network activities back to a central system.

    On every access from any of the browsers it would post a message like:

    GET /zawebservices/GetSpySiteData/version/001/domainhash/
    7b82127925b0cc7ff155ad4a6567dc7e HTTP/1.1
    User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (Compatible; ZoneAlarmSB)
    Host: cws.zonealarm.com

    The server cws.zonealarm.com hides in my case behind an internal server of my internet provider.

    The messages are still generated and the connection to the zonealarm server is still maintained even after ZoneAlarm is shut down, and the TrueVector service is stopped.

    ZoneAlarm compromises the privacy of its users instead of protecting it – It is a very dangereous product given the fact that people trust this product and its originating company