Originally Posted by Adrenolin
Zonealarm gets a lot of good 'reviews' but it is NOT a firewall that can be trusted well. It has many problems and disadvantages from others. There was a very indepth reviews of a number of personal firewalls done by a few security experts 2 years ago and they ripped it. It was their lowest scoring firewall and strongly advised people to not use it. Sygate was a real winner placing first if I remember correctly. If I can find the URL to this I'll post it here tomorrow.
Not sure where you read that, but there was an Internet Security expert who actively tested such firewalls and ZoneAlarm did an excellent job at masking the computer; most of the time, it prevented the computer from even being "seen" by other computers.
That being said, the new ZoneAlarm 5.x series is heading down the wrong end of the pool. While ZoneAlarm 4.x was VERY stable and VERY effective, 5.x is trying to be a jack of all trades--which, unfortunately, is killing its stability. Not only is it a massive memory hog--VSMON.EXE alone seems to have more resource holes than a wheel of cheese after a shotgun blast--but its also fairly unstable as far as not crashing is concerned. Plus, random issues tend to popup for no reason--check the ZoneLabs discussion forum for a little more insight.
I've actually used ZoneAlarm since 4.0 was released, and I loved it until recently. IN a thread that was just like this one (kind of), people were recommending different firewalls. Since I had just gotten off my Norton loyalty as well, I decided to give something else a chance. Personally, I didn't like Kerio, which is what somebody recommended, so I gave Tiny Personall Firewall a try (the Windows Firewall is based off of this); it works great, plus it lets you completely disable modules that you don't want, so I have JUST a firewall now.
Just my opinion on it, but honestly, if ZA doesn't bother you, go for it; not only is it free, but its also very secure. However, I'm under the impression that nowadays, just like virus protection, its really not so much about which one is more secure since most of them offer the same levels. Its more about what additional resources you get with it--as somebody said, it received a 5-star rating, but most of those ratings go to the bundled Spyware scanner, anti-virus analyzer, ad blocker, and so on. Unfortunately, its hard to find JUST a Firewall nowadays.
If you're not interested in getting a firewall, why not just use Windows Firewall? You may even have it enabled already; its enabled by default on most new connections if you haven't disabled the firewall altogether. No matter how you look at it though, its very unsafe to run an open computer like that; you no longer have to download something to get a virus, and people can easily slip viruses onto your computer even when you're not on it.