Zone defense

Protect yourself from online threats with this free and unique security application.

TrustWare's BufferZone Free takes a "proactive" approach to Internet security by isolating your browsing activity and personal data in a "Virtual Zone" that excludes all existing and potential threats, even "zero-day" threats that haven't yet been added to antivirus updates. BufferZone doesn't require regular updates, and it doesn't replace your antivirus, firewall, and other security tools. It adds an additional layer of protection by buffering your computer's connections to potential threats. It supports all major browsers and messaging tools as well as other popular software. However, the free version currently works only in 32-bit Windows editions. We ran BufferZone on a desktop in Vista and in Windows 7 Home Premium on a Netbook.

BufferZone required a reboot during the installation, which isn't unusual for security software. We opted for free registration to receive updates--always wise with security software. BufferZone's setup wizard also let us configure e-banking and e-shopping sites (including eBay) as well as Outlook files and other files and documents to its protected zone. BufferZone identifies windows protected by the Virtual Zone with a red border that, far from being distracting, is actually quite attractive. Right-clicking the BufferZone system tray icon let us open the program's interface or choose to surf outside of the program's protection or unload it. BufferZone's interface displays protected programs, which we could easily edit, uninstall, and remove. BufferZone can also create "snapshots" that can be used to restore settings, if necessary.

We tried IE 9, Firefox 4, and Google Chrome with and without BufferZone applied. Each time we first opened a browser in BufferZone, the program automatically optimized itself to the browser's settings. BufferZone slightly slowed our bandwidth in each browser, though the effect was hardly noticeable. More surprising than the slight speed difference in each browser with and without BufferZone's protection was the difference in speed between the browsers themselves. Chrome was the fastest, followed by Firefox and IE9, respectively. However, Chrome inside BufferZone beat both Firefox and IE9 outside BufferZone, and not by a nose. BufferZone's slight speed reduction is a small price to pay for its unique and robust protection, and for most broadband users, it shouldn't be an issue.

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