ZoneAlarm ForceField: Compromised in sixty seconds
Check Point's virtualized browser security client, like would-be panaceas before it, fails to live up to the hypeFollow @rogeragrimes
The only notable option that needs more explanation is the Clear button. This button is to be clicked when the user decides that the data in the virtualized browser environment should be deleted prior to ForceField deciding on its own. This option is a benefit as well as one of the weaknesses of this product and its similar cousins. Asking end-users to decide when to reset virtual environments is circular logic. If end-users could consistently and appropriately recognize when they were exposed to malware in the first place, they wouldn't need the virtual environment.
Babies and bathwater
Although ForceField does an okay job on its own when deciding what to keep and reject, it was occasionally fooled, sometimes getting rid of items I thought were more permanent and vice-versa. For example, it consistently reset my personally selected home page, but left maliciously installed programs alone.
ForceField did stop many malicious Web sites from loading and many malicious programs from being installed, although its own count seemed unrealistically elevated. For example, it reported stopping more than 16,000 threats from the first seven sites I visited, but my network sniffer showed the true number to be below 60. I'm not sure how ForceField is counting threats. Plus, although ForceField did prevent many malicious Web sites from loading, it would often simply caution me from inputting personal information on the site I was visiting, when in reality the site was trying to inject me with malware and never attempted to collect personal information.
There were many false negatives, where ForceField failed to report anything suspicious when malware was definitely present. ForceField also failed to prevent a number of malware infections. One rootkit was installed as a service, and several others installed using malformed multimedia content. ForceField would allow me to install many common browser add-ons, but prevented me from installing legitimate new language packs. Browser performance was significantly affected overall, and often the browser seemed locked up or had to be prodded with multiple reloads to finish displaying the requested page.
ForceField has some other interesting features such as the Private Browser option, which blocks cookies and allows you to browse the Web without an audit trail, keeping the browser history, file download list, and other local trackers clear of evidence. You can also open an unprotected browser session. ForceField is obviously a consumer-focused product as it lacks enterprise management features, detailed logs, reports, and almost any type of granularity.
ForceField is a good companion product to the ZoneAlarm Firewall. I tested the latest version of ZoneAlarm against the same malicious Web sites, and ForceField blocked more than the firewall component did on its own. By the same token, the firewall offered some protections that ForceField alone does not provide. For instance, the firewall blocked many outbound communication attempts by malware that slipped by ForceField, and alerted on a few malicious Web sites that ForceField didn't detect.