Trouble in River City with firewalls

To avoid the heartbreak of computing, patches and updates are frequently applied to all the computers here at bytewriter.com laboratories.

The other day ZoneAlarm, the firewall, warned that an update is available. I dutifully downloaded it to install on my work station. Just as the installation began, it warned me that ZoneAlarm is not compatible with Computer Associates EZArmor.

That's news to me.

I'm not overly concerned. I'm taking a calculated risk. My computers are behind a hardware firewall that uses NAT - Network Address Translation. An intrusion is possible, but unlikely. One of my computers runs Wireshark to monitor all network traffic.

The really secure computer is turned off and not connected to a network. And then you can't be too sure.

I've used ZoneAlarm and EZArmor both for years. With a little sleuthing, I discovered there are suspicions on the net that the latest version of ZoneAlarm contains Kaspersky's anti-virus engine. It apparently is part of a security suite. Two different antivirus programs on one computer spells t - r - o - u - b - l - e.

I can hear Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man emphasize a capital T in to trouble.

Mothers of River City, heed that warning before it's too late! Watch for the telltale signs of corruption! The minute your son leaves the house, does he rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee? Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger? A dime-novel hidden in the corncrib? Is he starting to memorize jokes from Captain Billy's Whiz-Bang? Are certain words creeping into his conversation? Words like "swell" and "so's your old man"? If so my friends, ya got trouble!

The latest issue with ZoneAlarm certainly qualifies as swell.

I have used ZoneAlarm for years because it is a good firewall and it is free. And that is free as in Free & Cold, my favorite brand of beer. However it does NOT have to be cold. I've used CA's EZArmor for several years because Road Runner provides it and is -- you guessed it -- free.

Software is fickle. If a company decides to avoid fixing a vulnerability even though you paid for it, you are out of luck because End User License Agreement gives them that privilege. And if it doesn't, it can be changed in the next version of the EULA.

It can go other ways. Partnerships can be fickle. Today's partnership papers can be in the shredder in minutes.

Many software companies do not respect consumers. It's obvious from the reams of onerous terms in many agreements.

I'm faced with a couple of decisions here:

  • I can continue to use EZArmor. It has not given me a bit of trouble. It runs quietly in the background unlike Norton which announced itself at every opportunity.
  • I can continue to run ZoneAlarm despite that new knawing feeling in the back of my mind. Was the latest patch issued to force the Anti CA note... or was it a fix to a nefarious vulnerability that will allow my trusty computer to run like one of those Internet zombies in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

If I unload one of them, guess which one it will be.