The Daily Shield is once again pleased to publish this article by Intersections’ Consumer Security Adviser, Neal O’Farrell.
Your internet connection is your gateway to the world. Unfortunately, the gate swings both ways, giving bad stuff from around the globe a chance to visit, settle in, and create havoc in your world.
Fortunately, you have plenty of choices when it comes to protecting your computer and internet gateway from all the bad stuff out there. There are now dozens of security tools available to protect your computer from every imaginable threat, from hackers and scammers to viruses, Trojans, and keyloggers.
Over that last decade I’ve used or evaluated almost every personal security product on the market. And while they all have their strengths and weaknesses, my personal favorite is ZoneAlarm.
Now it’s only fair that I make some important disclosures. First, ZoneAlarm Security Suite comes free with Identity Guard, from Intersections, and I am the Consumer Security Advocate for Intersections. I use both ZoneAlarm Extreme and ZoneAlarm Security Suite, and while there are some important differences between the two, the basic security engine is the same.
But I’ve had a bias towards ZoneAlarm ever since the day I started working for them a decade ago this month. Back then, desktop security was just coming into its own, and ZoneAlarm was a revolutionary startup that was making the firewall personal. While many others had tried, ZoneAlarm quickly earned a huge following for its unique firewall (remember I mentioned the two-way thing?)
While other firewall makers were only facing outwards, assuming that the only thing to worry about was bad stuff coming from the internet, ZoneAlarm figured that any good firewall should also be looking over its shoulder too, just to make sure that in the event that something nasty did make it onto your computer, ZoneAlarm would detect and prevent it from sending any information back to the hacker. I thought it was simple brilliance and a great sign of things to come.
So I joined them as their Director of Education to help their 3 million users in 120 countries around the world better understand the emerging threats of cybercrime and identity theft, and how to get the best from ZoneAlarm.
It’s been years since I moved on from ZoneAlarm but my loyalty remains, for lots of reason but one in particular. ZoneAlarm has never let me down. Never an intrusion, a virus, Trojan or any other problem. That I know of, so far. But that’s enough for me. And the now 60 million other people who use ZoneAlarm.
So what do I like about it?
Most of all, ZoneAlarm has stayed true to its values and its roots – always very user friendly, supportive instead of intrusive, leading and innovating instead of following and copying, and more like a trusted friend than a difficult hall monitor. I’ve always thought it was very important for users to like and understand their desktop security, if they were to use it constantly and get the best out of it.
But so many security products are so clumsy, intrusive, and difficult to use, they end up alienating their users. And not just to the product, but to the whole notion of personal security. And that’s not a good things.
Always one step ahead. Back then, I remember that ZoneAlarm was way ahead of the threats, and its competitors, with a number of simple innovations. For example, rather than just block threats coming from the internet, ZoneAlarm made your computer connection completely invisible to scanners and other devices that trawled the internet looking for vulnerable computers. That focus hasn’t changed in more than a decade.
OS Firewall. Unlike many desktop security products, ZoneAlarm doesn’t just watch internet traffic. It also watches your computer for any unusual behavior or attempts to change the operating of programs on your computer – possible signs that malware is already on your computer and trying to change things.
Datalock Encryption (available with ZoneAlarm Extreme). Another disclosure – when I started out in cyber security thirty years ago, my technology of choice was encryption. I’ve developed encryption solutions for banks, governments, and the military, and when I was just twenty six years old I won the contract to encrypt Ireland’s entire national ATM network. Encryption should be your first and last defense against data thieves because it means no matter what gets on to your computer, or even if it’s stolen, all your data is safe. I think ZoneAlarm is the first and only product to include laptop encryption, which is another reminder that they’re always one step ahead of the threats.
I like revolutionaries, especially the ones that stay true to the cause and to their initial promise, no matter what the pressures are. And no matter what security products you use, I urge you to spend some time getting to know them. Just like your health, it’s never safe just to assume. The more you know about the security you use, the more likely you are to use it to its fullest. And that’s how you stay safe.
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