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ZoneAlarm Using ''Scareware'' to Sell Firewall

Firewall developer Check Point Software Technologies has come under fire from consumers using the free version of its popular ZoneAlarm firewall client. According to complaints, the company is using scareware tactics designed to frighten users into purchasing the paid version by flashing fake pop-up warnings.

"So I get this pop-up when I started my computer. I'm used to malware trying this ... junk," said one consumer on the ZoneAlarm forums. "Now I understand that Check Point wants to advertise its other products, but when did they start using these stupid tactics. You may just finally push me into buying a firewall product--from someone else."

Another user thought the pop-up was real and was convinced that the hard drive needed formatting. "ZoneAlarm has popped up with a virus warning me that it will take my personal financial details, login and passwords. I am extremely worried about this I cannot afford to let my information get stolen," the post read.

The pop-up in question--labeled as Global Virus Alert in bold, black letters--insists that the consumer's PC may be at high risk from the ZeuS.Zbot.aoaq Trojan virus. This nasty malware steals banking passwords and financial data that apparently isn't blocked by the free version of ZoneAlarm. The pop-up provides a link to purchase the full security suite which also contains an anti-virus scanner provided by Kaspersky Labs.

ZoneAlarm's "GeorgeV" said that the pop-up is merely information about a new virus, and that it does not indicate that the user's system is infected. "Letting you know that in addition to your ZA Free Firewall," he said. "You also need a good anti-virus program to protect you against viruses. If you already have a good updated anti-virus program installed, then you can just ignore the notice."

According to the company, the full ZoneAlarm suite is the only solution that blocks this particular Trojan--Norton, Free AVG, Free AVAST Free Avira, and TrendMicro apparently do not. The Register said that Check Point culled the data from VirusTotal without permission from Hispasec Sistemas. It's believed that the information is actually outdated.