Recomendation against Zone Alarm Firewall

By billyellis · 12 replies
Jan 15, 2011
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  1. I have used the Zone Alarm Firewall for years, but I would like to recommend against it for anyone in the market for a firewall who has not yet installed one.

    It works OK. I have never had any problems with the Firewall itself.

    However, the newer versions include a program called Force Field (ISWSVC.EXE) that according to ZA is a virtualized environment for browsers to prevent malware from harming your system.

    Uh, only problem is, if you search the web, you will find numerous forums with complaints that this program can not be shut down, manually or in the settings. It runs ~2% of your processer 24/7, whether your browsers are open or not, whether you are even connected to the internet or not, and every registry tweak attempted fails to prevent the program from starting up. It interferes with all sorts of other programs, including power saving settings and screensavers, never letting them come on and thus putting lots of unnecessary wear on your hardware.

    If you go to the Zone Alarm User Forum, company employees pretending to be helpful "independent users" mock and disparage any questions about how to shut this program down ("Uuuhm, it seems quite a pain to be forced to turn off services when offline" - in response to a specific question about how to shut it off when NOT online). The forum is a fraud and a joke, and is nothing more than a front for the company to pretend to address user concerns while really just trying to embarass people for asking questions about problems with their software.

    Yesterday I posted a response to a thread saying that I had uninstalled Force Field (in the Add/Remove Programs menu under "Zone Alarm Toolbar" instead of its actual name to make it more difficult for inexperienced users to find and remove the correct program). I listed the commonly reported problems with this program and a question asking what the program was really doing, since a browser virtualization program has absolutely no need to be running without the browser or internet. I asked whether any solutions had been found in the months since the previous post, hoping to find that the issues had been resolved and I could reinstall with a few simple tweaks.

    Shockingly (not really), the thread was locked and my post was deleted for "oudated thread + language + users/product disparage - sorry against forum rules." Since I did not use any inappropriate 'language' (I think I used the heavily offensive word "crap" once; oh the horror!) or disparage any users, the post was deleted and any further discussion blocked simply because I had the nerve to point out that the company line on what this program is doing does not meet the logic smell test and asking for a better explanation.

    Since the company is not helpful, and is instead rude and belittling to legitimate concerns about what exactly their software is doing on my computer. I highly recommend against going anywhere near Zone Alarm, and I suggest using a different firewall if at all possible.

    It is a shame, because as I said, I have never had a problem with ZA before. Only now that they are trying to be MS-lite and shoving extra programs with dubious purposes down my throat am I turning away from them. They used to be good. :(

    EDIT: Adding screenshot of thread from this morning, because now they have removed evidence that they even deleted my post. IF you go to the link above now, my deleted post spot is gone.
  2. DLambie

    DLambie TS Booster Posts: 83

    Hmm was thinking of going back to Zone Alarm as I used it for years and loved it so what firewall software do you recommend?

    Also what antivirus software do you recommend - I have used AVG for years then went to avast couple years ago (I actually use full versions not the free ones lol) I am wondering should I stick with avast or go to a new one as I got 15 days left on my license.
  3. Benny26

    Benny26 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,535   +51


    That's a nice damming report you've wrote there :D

    I had a free trial of Zonealarms "all singing, all dancing security suites" a few months ago, and i have to say, it was just awful...Slow, laggy, ages to get right after boot, tons of crap i just did not need ect...

    Then i switched to the paid Avast pro (after a short trial), and i aint looked back ever since.
  4. bobcat

    bobcat TechSpot Paladin Posts: 688   +67

    Philosophical Cat on Product Changes

    As your comments seem to be documented and made in good faith, your post has a place in giving aspiring users of ZA and TS advisors food for thought, as a minimum. Since I do not use this firewall, I cannot confirm their correctness or otherwise. But finding myself in a Sunday philosophical mood, I grasp the opportunity of this potentially misfired product change to make the following more generally applicable comments. Admitting they are tangential to the issue, I shall not be offended if a mod deletes them.

    There is nothing permanent except change. (Heraclitus)

    The above wise words of the Greek philosopher are nowhere else more applicable than in the notoriously rapidly changing world of computing. Which means that no product stays at it was for ever or even for long. This also, in fact in particular, applies to security and antivirus tools, where a couple of updates could wildly upset their order of merit, while even a single unfortunate update can turn a reliable weapon against malware into one of mass destruction of systems, as happened e.g. with AVG and McAfee in the past.

    Everything that works well will be changed. (bobcat)

    But though change is inevitable, except of course from vending machines, it more often than not seems to happen for its own sake. …And keeps happening, till the product becomes obfuscated, which is euphemism for unusable.

    Because people only understand examples, I invoke the legendary, once omnipresent Adobe Reader which has reached such proportions of size, complexity and resources hogging, that everybody is switching to slim alternatives which currently look as Adobe did when it started, but which alternatives will likewise soon look as Adobe does now.

    More analytically:

    • Any tool now has far more features than a typical user could possibly imagine the need for

    • More than that, it has far more features than he could bother to learn the use of, even if he needed them

    • More than that, it is loaded with gimmicks, bells & whistles that further frustrate his fruitless efforts

    • More than that, tools expand to the point of becoming unusable due to size, slowness and complexity

    • More than that, such tools are then combined into larger multi-tools

    • And when you can no longer run a tool on your modern computer, you then have a mature product, ready to be scrapped.

    We’ve seen the above road to what is mistakenly called product development being followed countless times. Which prompts me to finish with:

    It’s a mistake to make the same mistake twice. There are so many new mistakes to make.
  5. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,166   +986

  6. DLambie

    DLambie TS Booster Posts: 83

    I am still no further ahead so is Avast! good to stay with
  7. Benny26

    Benny26 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,535   +51

    Don't work that way in our house. For some reason, everytime we get a box of chocolates, the Coffee chocolates always seem to be avoided like the plague...I'll bet there's a big landfill somewhere with them all in :D
  8. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    Revels. Still suffer from nightmares of the coffee ones as a kid...
  9. Benny26

    Benny26 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,535   +51

    Ahhh Revels, it's been so long since i had some. They were like Russian Roulette, chocolate style..Great as a kid

    Topical edit (for bobcat post #11): Yes, i agree with the thread title in being against Zonealarm personally. Avast free has to be the one :)
  10. CAMusing

    CAMusing TS Enthusiast Posts: 179

    DLambie, the subject being discussed is a firewall, not antivirus software. However, to answer your question, Avast is an excellent antivirus software as are others.
  11. bobcat

    bobcat TechSpot Paladin Posts: 688   +67

    Correction in the interests of accuracy! The thread title is Zone Alarm. But the (latest) subject being discussed was coffee chocolates. ;)
  12. DLambie

    DLambie TS Booster Posts: 83

    so Avast isn't a firewall too? I want to get a firewall but unsure which one
  13. Benny26

    Benny26 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,535   +51

    Ask most people, they'll probably say Comodo.

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