Computer Associates eTrust EZ Armor 2005 review

Price when reviewed

The box claims that EZ Armor provides ‘complete Internet protection’, but considering it doesn’t offer any anti-spam or spyware detection, that is, perhaps, stretching the definition of complete somewhat. Indeed, the ‘benefits comparison’ chart on the back of the box isn’t much better when it tries to make capital out of the mere 18MB of disk space needed when compared to McAfee (71MB) and Norton (90MB) security suites. There’s a reason they’re bigger, and it’s simply that you get so much more.

Computer Associates eTrust EZ Armor 2005 review

Not that there’s much wrong with the anti-virus and firewall that are EZ Armor – so long as you like ZoneAlarm, that is. As soon as you start the installation process you’ll see the unmistakable face of the original ‘personal firewall’ product. Computer Associates is using the same codebase as ZoneAlarm, but with a slightly different wrapper.

This isn’t a bad thing as such. For £23, you’re getting the Pro edition of ZoneAlarm complete with in-depth web-filtering for parental control, IM Secure to keep any eye on Instant Message misbehaviour and even a rather nifty eBay Fraud Prevention function. This asks for your password during installation; it’s then encrypted and the firewall verifies that any site requesting it is actually eBay and not a fake before releasing it. The ID lock function does a similar job for credit cards and other personal information.

EZ Armor also includes the rather excellent AlertChecker, which provides web-based meaningful explanations of exactly what the alert that’s popped up really means. Be it asking to grant permissions for a strange sounding control (so no more, ‘bongo.dll is trying to access the Internet. Click Yes/No’) or querying a new network that’s been discovered, AlertChecker more often than not sheds light on the matter.

What you don’t get for your money are the new ZoneAlarm anti-spam features, the ‘fraudulent mail’ function that filters out phishing attempts from your mailbox, or the stability of the latest ZoneAlarm release. There’s no escaping the fact that some versions of the TrueVector firewall engine have been problematic, although the number of horror stories has faded away as the technology improves. Which is why we were surprised when EZ Armor was the only one of our eight products that blue-screened on us.

Admittedly, this wasn’t on our clean test machine, rather on the second less-clean PC we sneakily used to see how well-behaved the software would be when faced with a real-world computer. This one has no special measures taken before installation, but rather brought a broad sweep of applications and utilities that mimic the everyday PCs of normal folk. During installation we got the blue-screen salute, and were trapped into a loop of reboots and crashes only broken by the F8 key and a system restore. We don’t know what caused the instability; obviously, there was a clash of wills going on with something that had been installed. What we do know is that the others all behaved themselves impeccably, including ZoneAlarm itself. We suspect it may have something to do with EZ Armor running TrueVector 5.1.039 whereas ZoneAlarm is up to 5.5.062.

One thing we couldn’t fault was the excellent anti-virus function, this time based upon Computer Associates’ own VET product and the eTrust engine (the same as built into ZoneAlarm, hence the cross-fertilisation between the two products). Quite how EZ Armor ended up with the older end of the stick we don’t know. What we do know is that it brings daily virus signature updates that are downloaded automatically, and carries ICSA certifications, which means it must detect 100 per cent of ‘in the wild’ viruses.

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