Zone Labs ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 6.5 review
Spyware scanning, site blocking and alerts are all improved over version 6 - the best just got better
ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 6 was updated with spyware protection last year. This version sees a larger signature database and more frequent updates. The performance improvements were impressive: with the detection rate up to 96% (up from 91%), removal rate 91% (from 84%) and blocking 77% (70%). This overall rating of 88% can't beat our A-Listed standalone choice, Spyware Doctor 3.8, which scored 89% (detection 98%, removal 92%, blocking 78%), but it comes very close. Where ZoneAlarm starts to pull ahead is with the addition of a new spyware site-blocking feature. This prevents access to known spyware sites, even when any existing spyware tries to contact them.
More disappointing is that there are no plans to extend the much-heralded Identity Protection Center outside the US. It's a great idea that brings ID theft protection into the real world, monitoring internet usage of your credit cards in IRC channels and other known black markets, keeping an eye on your credit ratings offline and letting you know when finance applications are made. It's very frustrating to have a members-only notice on the door in the UK.
The new gaming mode will be welcomed by anyone who's had their enjoyment spoiled by alerts - ZoneAlarm suspends alerts without suspending protection, although you're limited to a choice of accept or deny all. Alerts in general have been improved with this release. Every classified spyware app caught by the OS firewall now has a corresponding AlertAdvisor or "more info" article to ensure you're kept informed and better prepared to make decisions as to how to deal with it. We'd have liked to see a broadening of email client support for the MailFrontier-provided anti-spam feature, but this remains exclusive to Outlook. Otherwise, ZoneAlarm is the same accomplished security suite that it ever was.
With the new Identity Protection Center inaccessible from the UK, there isn't a lot to justify the £20 upgrade, but the improved spyware protection makes a free update (for users with a current version 6 licence) or a new purchase an easier decision. Until the end of August, you can also download the program from Zone Labs for £40 inc VAT.