Here's a quick community announcement: update your antivirus definitions, install Microsoft security patches, and get yourself a personal firewall. ZoneAlarm 3.1, on this month's cover CD, is a well-designed firewall that provides peace of mind at no cost.
ZoneAlarm makes your PC invisible to others; blocks suspect inbound communication attempts; stops outbound communication from malicious code; and offers a basic e-mail quarantine service against VBScript files. For $US39.95, ZoneAlarm Pro additionally offers password protection, cookie control, Internet advertising blocking, and e-mail screening against 45 file types.
Installation is fast, although setup may take a little more time. You'll need to grant or deny Internet access to programs installed on your PC as they attempt outbound communication. ZoneAlarm nicely logs such attempts, providing a fair amount of detail that can assist you in making a decision. The program also links back to Zone Lab's Web site for further information.
The company promises that once you set, you can forget. The firewall will run silently in the background until suspect acti-vity is detected, and will then work accord-ing to your chosen level of security (high, medium or off). An alert will fire when an intrusion has been detected and deflected.
ZoneAlarm's "dashboard" (pictured) offers the Stop button for emergency situations, in which it will halt all network and Internet activity if the user suspects the PC is under attack.
In brief: ZoneAlarm 3.1
At no cost, this is an essential for any PC accessing the Internet. If you're wise, you'll upgrade to the Pro version for added security.