ZoneAlarm's New Auto-Updater Prompts Confusion
While I was out in San Diego for a security conference last month, I struck up a conversation with a guy from Check Point Technologies, which makes the popular ZoneAlarm line of firewall products. I asked him whether the company had considered adding an auto-update feature to help users stay on top of new versions of the software that it seems to ship about once every month or two.
The guy I met forwarded my query to Laura Yecies, vice president and general manager of CheckPoint's consumer and small business division. Turns out that sometime in June an update the company shipped to the (free and pay) 6.5.x versions of ZoneAlarm allows the program to silently download and install fixes on its own. Yecies said the company switched on the auto-update for two reasons.
"One was just the convenience feature, where we can do bug fixes or security improvements with just a patch and that saves the customer the inconvenience of having to install a whole new product," Yecies said, though she acknowledged that customers will from time to time still be prompted to install new versions of ZoneAlarm. "The other reason is that in emergency situations where we're concerned that vulnerability exists in our product, we can ship a security patch quickly."
All positive developments, if you ask me, but why not make sure your customer base is aware that you're taking this step? It strikes me as a good selling point for average computer users who probably would rather not be bothered with updates anyway. And informing users about security steps you're taking is a good idea for power users who may be accustomed to more control over the application.
From the comments posted to ZoneAlarm's user forum and on BroadbandReports.com's security forum, it seems that a great many ZoneAlarm users had no inkling of this change until they received a prompt from ZoneAlarm that an update had been completed and that it was time to reboot the machine. Most seemed baffled because they were accustomed to the firewall asking for users to give approval before it applied updates.
October 25, 2006; 3:55 PM ET
Categories: From the Bunker
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