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Protecting Desktops With a ForceField

In Science Fiction, a forcefield is a common way to provide security. Can that same concept be used to protect computer users? That's what network security vendor Check Point is pitching with its ZoneAlarm ForceField product.

The ZoneAlarm ForceField could represent an innovative approach to desktop security as users seek ways to complement their existing security investments. After all, in Science Fiction, the forcefield is typically an invisible energy barrier. In Zone Alarm's case, the invisible energy barrier is a form of virtualization that is supposed to provide a protective bubble for users.

The idea of using virtualization to provide a layer of security is not unique to Check Point. Among other tools that aim to provide security to users by way of a virtualization scheme is the freely available Firefox browser appliance that runs on the VMware player.

The basic idea is that when the browser is virtualized in its own virtual container, malware is restricted to the virtual environment and will not infect the actual physical system.

John Gable, director of product management for Check Point's ZoneAlarm consumer division argued that ForceField does more than what the VMware appliance does.

"VMware can be somewhat complicated for the average PC user," Gable told InternetNews.com. "ForceField is very easy to use, and it's very small, less than 5 megs. Additionally ForceField includes much more than virtualization, to provide users with more robust security. In fact, ForceField includes seven layers of security - including antiphising, anti-spyware, and key logger jamming."

ForceField has been in a public beta since late 2007 and is now being made generally available by Check Point. To date, Check Point claims that they have had over 160,000 ForceField downloads.

ForceField has been in a public beta since late 2007 and is now being made generally available by Check Point. To date, Check Point claims that they have had over 160,000 ForceField downloads.

Gable added that during the beta period Check Point was able to make significant enhancements to the product's usability, performance, stability and security. Those enhancements were born out of testing as well as tens of thousands of individual survey responses.

ForceField however will not protect users against all forms of Internet borne threats. Gable noted that ForceField is a browser security product and works with Internet Explorer and FireFox.

"All other conduits to the Internet would be protected by existing security suites, which is why we recommend users run ForceField in conjunction with their existing security products," Gable said. "ForceField does not replace the traditional security suite."

Gable argued that the biggest barriers to adoption for ForceField are making consumers aware of some of the new emerging Web attacks. In his view it's important for Check Point to dispel the common myths surrounding security. Among those myths is the idea that users are safe if they stick with well-known Web sites and that firewall products will protect users from all threats.

With ForceField now generally available, the plan is to expand the offering for larger customers.

"Although ForceField can currently be purchased by SMB and enterprise customers, we will be exploring the possibility of enhancing the product for these audiences and including features such as centralized management capabilities," Gable said.