ZoneAlarm angers users with virus scare pop-up

Ambiguous warning over Zeus infection

The makers of the popular ZoneAlarm firewall, Check Point Software, have been accused of using scare tactics to get users to upgrade to the paid version of the software.

According to multiple posts on the ZoneAlarm support forum, the product has recently started throwing up ambiguous pop-ups that are being interpreted by some users that their PCs are infected with the much-feared Zeus/Zbot banking Trojan.

"Global virus alrert. Your PC may be in danger!," reads the warning in a pop-up message box that is very similar in appearance to those indicating that an infection has been detected.

Importantly, the pop-up then refers to 'Virus details' and mentions Zeus/Zbot by name, stating that it had been 'discovered' on the said date and time of the pop-up's appearance.

Although the text below this message offers a marketing explanation, the tactic does seem to have caused a lot of confusion and anxiety. Clicking on it links straight to a sales page offering cut-price versions of the program.

"Zone Alarm 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," says one user, who is subsequently reassured by a ZoneAlarm tech support member.

In other users, the pop-up arouses a more general suspicion.

"Warning! This looks like a classic phish. I assume they want you to click on a button which ends up sending your credit card information to the guys who wrote the virus! DO NOT CLICK THE BUTTONS!," says a second forum poster.

A third group of users is just annoyed at what are seen as high-pressure sales tactics.

"I'm very disappointed with ZA for sending out the bogus scare regarding ZeuS.Zbot.aoaq. Any more of these childish marking ploys will cause me to uninstall ZA and get my firewall protection from someone else," comments another user.

Using pop-ups, including possibly ambiguous ones, is a long-established tactic in an industry that still depends on converting free users into paid ones using anxiety-inducing sales tactics.

Far from alone in using it, ZoneAlarm's problem is that it is a hugely popular program and therefore bound to attract more attention when the marketing team overdoes the sales pitch.

Relaunched in May, ZoneAlarm is quite generous in the features it offers in its free product, including cloud-based application profiling and outbound traffic blocking that, the company claimed at the time, does not pester users with unnecessary alerts.

Check Point later put out a statement, apologising for the confusion.

"It was never our intent to lead customers to believe they have a virus on their computer. This was purely an informative message about a legitimate and serious virus that also included information about the differences in protection of various products, and how to get protection against it," reads the website statement.

"ZoneAlarm is committed to providing our customers with the best protection and considers it our job to proactively alert users whenever a potential risk is looming rather than wait for the damage to be done," it concludes.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Personal Techsecurity

More about Check Point Software TechnologiesCheck Point Software TechnologiesZone Alarm

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John E Dunn

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place