Zonealarm is a software-based firewall for the Microsoft Windows operating system. It is produced by Zone Labs and released under several different versions, each providing different features and cost. Some of these versions include anti-virus protection, malware detection, web browser pop-up blockers, and other security products designed to protect the vulnerable operating system. The free version of Zonealarm provides all the features of the flagship Pro version for over two weeks from the date of installation. Thereafter, the firewall operates in reduced-function freeware mode.
While introduced as a firewall application for Windows during a time when the operating system came with no built-in firewall of its own, Zonealarm has grown to encompass several other protection features. Competition from other software-based firewalls for Windows, such as Armor2net, Tiny Personal Firewall, and even the firewall built-in to Windows XP SP2 have pressed the engineers at Zone Labs to include more features. A Zonealarm Internet Security Suite has even been introduced to compete with similar suites marketed by Norton and McAfree. This version includes anti-virus protection, spyware and adware detection, and a unique IM filter that prevents personal information from being transmitted over common IM protocols. In stark contrast to the feature-laden Internet Security Suite, the freeware version of Zonealarm has been among the most popular free download programs of all time.
Like all popular software, Zonealarm has been the subject of much controversy. The freeware version of the firewall will not completely uninstall by conventional methods. Although Zone Labs does provide details uninstallation instructions on their website, the process is rather unusual and includes steps that may computer end-users do not know how to perform. Also, the uninstallation requires a valid license key to run. Thus, users who's keys have expired and want to remove the firewall from their systems must purchase a new key before they can remove the program. Another controversy surrounding Zonealarm is the issue of spyware built into the software. The ZoneAlarm Security Suite apparently continues to send encrypted data to Zone Labs, even when configured not to. As with the uninstallation issue, Zone Labs provides instruction on preventing this transmission. However, it also warns of reduced security for users who perform the operation without disclosing what the data actually contains.
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