ZoneAlarm's 2010 suites include encryption

ZoneAlarm's full-featured security suite's update boasts faster scan times, enhanced browser protection, and laptop hard drive encryption.

Best known for its ZoneAlarm firewall, Check Point Software has announced updates for ZoneAlarm's more full-featured security suites. Available in two versions, ZoneAlarm Internet Security 2010 gives users a robust firewall, antivirus and antispyware, and parental control package for $50, while ZoneAlarm Extreme Security 2010 adds Web browsing protection, system tune-up tools, backup options, and anti-phishing technology for $70.

ZoneAlarm is claiming faster performance in its antivirus and antispyware scans because it has unified them, something that its competitors did awhile back. The company says that users should expect scans to be 80 to 90 percent faster. The Internet Security version lacks access to a free add-on for laptop hard drive encryption, doesn't have keylogger protection, is missing browser-based safeguards, and has far fewer anti-phishing options.

Other features in the Extreme Security edition include an identity protection module to encrypt personal information and alert you when it leaves your computer--as well as helping you set up an eBay fraud report, if you're an eBay user. There are also an outbound e-mail alert, in case your account gets hacked, parental controls, and the browser toolbar for Firefox and Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, the browser protections only work in those two browsers. The toolbar comes with a private browsing option, but it's not entirely clear how it's different from the ones that already come with the host browser.

ZoneAlarm's main interface tucks quick access to key features at the bottom of the left nav. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Of course, ZoneAlarm's well-known firewall is included, and after spending half a day with it on a Windows 7 computer I didn't notice any of the usability problems that have notoriously plagued it. That doesn't mean they don't exist, of course, but I didn't experience them on the latest version during a short period of testing.

In terms of threat detection and removal efficacy, independent data isn't available yet for this version. On ZoneAlarm Extreme Security 2009, the program scored better than average but not in the upper percentiles on malware detection, removal, response times, and only average on false positives. In my empirical testing of scan times, I noticed that the quick scan was extremely fast--it took less than 30 seconds. The full scan was fairly quick, too, taking about 20 minutes. The two deep scans that are available scan all data on the computer including archives, and appropriately they both took upwards of 90 minutes.

ZoneAlarm's trial period is shorter by half than its competitors, but if you're looking for brand-name protection ZoneAlarm isn't a bad place to start.

Tell me about your security suite preferences in the comments below.