ZoneAlarm's ForceField gives real meaning to its name; it offers protection to those browsing the Web by blocking keyloggers, warning of dangerous downloads, and preventing phishing attacks. Combined with its innovative virtualization browser, the program is sure to ease the concerns of those wary of paying bills or entering personal information online. We only wish it were available for Macs and 64-bit Vista, and that it didn't slow Web browsing.
Setup and Compatibility
Installing ForceField was a 5-minute process. But we weren't sure right away if it downloaded correctly; It only launched in the system tray. However, a ForceField toolbar--including Settings, Protection Activity, Site Status, and Private Browser buttons--appeared in the upper-right corner of our browser's window and created a transparent halo, or "bubble of security," when it was active.
ForceField is compatible with Firefox and Internet Explorer.
ForceField in Action
ForceField didn't get in the way of visiting safe sites, including Gmail, various blogs, and ones fed through StumbleUpon. But this tool did slow browsing slightly: We noticed some pauses while the software checked out pages, although the delays lasted only a few seconds.
When we surfed questionable and adult sites with suspected malware, a yellow pop-up window alerted us that the given site was potentially unsafe and warned us not to input personal information. When we went to a site loaded with spyware, a red box popped up, recommending we leave immediately. When downloading content, a window informed us that the files were either known or unknown, but ForceField had trouble deciphering safe software downloads from questionable ones. For example, Firefox and Google Earth were marked as Unknown.
Clicking the Private Browser button restarted the current browser (but not the current session) in ForceField's Virtualization browser. Once activated, it erased all our personal information: no cookies, no history, no AutoComplete data. We paid a credit card bill and bought a book from Amazon.com, then confirmed that nothing from our transactions was retained. Although it's frustrating continually inputting usernames and passwords, that's a small price to pay for greater peace of mind.
ZoneAlarm is also designing a Web-based version of ForceField, which will let you launch the program from the company's Web site. That would be useful if you were using a public computer to make a purchase or check e-mail. However, this feature won't be released until later in 2008.
ForceField adds a significant layer of protection over what you currently get from a security suite. It doesn't, however, eliminate the need for virus scanners: There is still the risk of downloading an unknown application, and it doesn't protect anything outside your Web browser. It will slow your surfing a bit, but this $29.95 investment seals a big chink in your laptop's armor.
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