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ZoneAlarm ForceField

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder ZoneAlarm ForceField

ZoneAlarm ForceField's most important feature is also its most subtle. It wraps your browser in a layer of virtualized protection, such that if any Web-borne virus or other attack breaks through, it's blocked from reaching sensitive parts of the system.

Virtualization works by creating a segregated, virtual environment for running the browser. As far as the browser--or any attacks that come through it--are concerned, everything looks normal. But any changes made only affect the virtual environment, and are typically wiped clean when the browser is restarted.

According to ZoneAlarm, once installed ForceField should activate automatically. You'll know it's working by the glowing white border around the browser, along with a toolbar. But in our tests, ForceField didn't activate when we clicked the Firefox icon on the desktop. We had to go to the system tray icon and choose 'Open Browser' from the right-click menu.

ForceField allows you to save downloaded files outside the virtual environment so that they remain after you restart the browser. However, while bookmarks created with ForceField active will remain if you open and restart the browser with ForceField active, they won't show up if you start the browser without ForceField. Bookmarks created without ForceField will show up when you start with the virtualized protection.

Aside from virtualization, ForceField offers site blocking for known phishing or spyware sites, as well as heuristic checks that will attempt to identify new phishing sites that aren't yet on a blacklist. It will also scan downloads using its own spyware signature database, and attempts to block password-stealing keyloggers by disabling the system calls they typically use to spy on browsers--but it warns that such protection might conflict with some benign utilities or Web sites.

For especially sensitive browsing, there's a Private Browser mode. ForceField won't save any browsing history, downloads or form completion data during a Private Browser session, and it will block all cookies.

If you're willing to deal with a few changes and potential gotchas--such as launching the browser from a systray icon and having to export bookmarks out of the ForceField-protected browser--ZoneAlarm's browser protection could prove effective at blocking many Web attacks.

--Erik Larkin

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder ZoneAlarm ForceField

  
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