Alright... I noticed forcefield at best buy the other day. The packaging was very eye catching and a little 'cool', if packaging can be considered "cool". I picked it up curious as to what this software with a burning sun on the box could do. After reading the description I checked download.com on my cell phone for free/trial licences so I could check it out.
So... I've actually put some thought into what I would like forcefield to do and what I would like it NOT to do. I'll start with the things that I feel would make forcefield a valuable product for me.
I would like forcefield to give me the option to download(and create my own) blocklists. This can include anything from known spyware ips to those pesky adverstising ips. Think peerguardian but better with a mix of low level ip blockage protowall provides with less hassle. Mix that with a reputable list of regularly updated 'bad buy' ips and this alone would give me reason enough to pay yearly for the software.
I go through stages on my computer. What I mean is that sometimes I wont have any security software at all installed, other times I'll fill my computer with the best free security money can buy, then there are times where I will go out and check reviews of the 'big boys' and see which most people think is the best at that particular moment and buy those... and still other times I'll use a combination of free software and pay software. Right now I'm in the later stage. I've got tons of free programs that seem pretty good but I would love a software that could take the place of them in an easy to use package.
A few examples of some of the free stuff I've been using (not trying to advertise them here but just giving them as an example of the functionality I would really like to see in ForceField). Under each program I'll mention briefly the features I would love to see in ForceField.
peerguardian - very easy to use... newest version doesn't seem to kill my process. Easy to update and easy to use. Although their sources of whats 'bad' and whats 'good' has come in to question by some recently.
protowall - very low level program... I had to manually instill some type of 'driver' at the tcpip layer. It was a pain to set up but didn't take much time to set up. I like the idea of being able to block whatever I want at the lowest possible software level.
ForceField addition 1 - blocklists. The most obvious and known IPs should be compiled and downloaded from zonealarm. I don't mean zone alarm should provide IPs of gov, edu, anti-p2p and all that stuff. But at the very least provide IPs of spammers, spyware, advertisements(yea I blocked some ad server that ForceField was actually trying to use just a few minutes ago... it was either zedo or some kanto server). A list of the most obvious internet abusers possible and the ability for the user to upload by either text file(txt, rar, zip, 7z, etc) or by allowing the user to save a url to a continously updated blocklist hosted elsewhere.
ForceField addition 2 - It seems forcefield now focus on the higher level browser protection. While this is all fine it seems in the end trying to do this will end up costing more in performance than the protection it will provide. I'm not a computer wizard so I may be at fault on that one. I would like to see ForceField protect more from a lower level and see less of the whole "yea your protected but your browser has been neutered" approach. No one wants to sacrifice performance and browser functionality to gain a slight edge in protecting against malware. If this is the true goal of forcefield then you might as well just release your own browser and performance could be handled first hand(but you know making a new browser that people readily accept isn't something that is easily done). Essential that's what forcefield feels like right now... a neutered browser that is safer. It is almost like using a new browser.
Since I'm talking about the browser I'll throw another suggestion out there. If the whole 'secure' browser is really forcefields namesake then you should grey out any buttons/controls on the users browser instead of removing them. Check out that book called "GUI Bloopers, Don'ts and Do's" I think one of the sections talked specifically about this. Removing things people are used to is a "Don't" and greying out functions is a "Do".
ForceField addition 3 - if your going to mess with a browser at least do it in a similar fashion as an add-on. Both the wot and mcafee add-ons are very nice for firefox. The wot add-on allows users to rate web sites and uses a simple color coded system. Try it out and type one of the advertising companies you guys use into google. See people hate those sites already! wot is very useful! The mcafee thing I havn't really spent time with... it might not even work right but I think its heart is in the right place. ForceField should be an advantage and not a disadvantage.
ForceField addition 4 - spyware blaster type protection. I've used this program for awhile but it seems to protect in a passive way which makes it difficult give a rating to its abilities. I can't really give a rating on it since all it does is 'shield' me from stuff. But I love the whole set it and forget it idea. When you have anti-virus pop up alerts and firewall pop up alerts you forget how nice it was when nothing popped up. Open a program download updates and press the button and it does whatever it does and then goes away.
There are probably a few more points which I will add to this thread later on... hopefully it wont be deleted since it feels like all I have to say are negative things. The last thing was when I was installing forcefield my firewall alerted me to a browser helper object being installed. I know not all browser helper objects are bad but you need to let users know whats about to happen. If this browser helper object is needed for full functionality of the product then say so before it is installed. I hate toolbars and I hate all the companies who try and make an extra buck by slamming them in your face. On top of that annoyance browser helper objects should be something forcefield is against. Make it clear in the installation that either the browser helper object is how forcefield secures the browser or make it clear that it is optional and zonealarm makes money on its installation. People want to be told what is about to happen instead of finding out months later that their computer has been so slow because of all the garbage that was 'sneaked' past them. If its an optional money thing then you need to rethink your method of distribution. Pay for use software should never have ads... those are only acceptable on software that is free and still then the user should be told about it. No one reads the EULA, you know that, I know that, put it in plain English what you are going to do. No adds, no spyware, no garbage! Again if that browser helper object was an essential part of the program that's fine but you just need to tell the user what is going on.
In conclusion... if your thinking... "just stick with those free apps you talk about and quit complaining" just remember these are the features I would like in a product that I would pay money for. All of my suggestions/complaints/gripes are in the hopes that at least some of them are implemented in the future and if so ForceField would be a product I would buy on a yearly basis. The main point, if it was missed due to the length of this, is that I believe people(and me) will only pay for a software if it can truly fill in the gaps that are left wide open by security software(anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, etc) while not disturbing performance of web browsers and playing well with other security softwares. Phew!
Sorry for such a negative post just remember I wouldn't have wasted my time on typing this if I didn't want to see forcefield improve and become something I would pay for!
Operating System:Windows XP Pro
Product Name:Other ZoneAlarm Product