ZoneAlarm and Firewall 2000

ZoneAlarm claims to have a distribution of 3 million PCs worldwide. Recently, Prodigy, the USA's third-largest dial-up and number one consumer high-speed DSL ISP, chose to roll-out Zone Alarm to all of its clients. ZoneAlarm provides basic protection with a clean and easy to understand interface. It blocks and allows access to both incoming and outgoing traffic.

ZoneAlarm defines two "zones", one being the Internet zone and the other being the local network zone. Each zone can have different security settings, and in the advanced settings, machines or whole subnets can be defined to belong to either zone. Every time an application tries to send or receive data for the first time, ZoneAlarm prompts the user to either grant or deny permissions for this program network access. The warning messages can appear often and can become disturbing if you don't force ZoneAlarm to remember what applications you wish to block and which ones you wish to deny access to. Access rules for each application can later be customised in options.

Norton Personal Firewall offers the same features as ZoneAlarm, but goes one step further by monitoring some of the actual traffic that passes through an application. This can allow you to block malicious content such as cookies and ActiveX controls, and also block the information that can be gathered from your machine. While ZoneAlarm offers basic traffic monitoring by blocking VBS worm attachments in e-mail (such as the I LOVE YOU worm), Norton provides a more in-depth protection of data and your privacy. Settings and rules to block or allow access can be based on more variables in Norton. Also, each site can have its own settings, meaning that cookies from advertising sites can be blocked, while other sites are allowed to place cookies.

Overall, Norton Personal Firewall is a more detailed product at a higher price, while ZoneAlarm can provide good protection at a lower price.

Zone Labs ZoneAlarm

Price: $US19.95, free for personal use

Supplier: Zone Labs

URL: www.zonealarm.com

Norton Personal Firewall 2000

Price: $108

Supplier: Symantec

Phone: (02) 8879 1000

URL: www.symantec.com.au

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