ZoneAlarm 2015 adds cloud scanning of email attachments BEFORE they open

Consumers get threat emulation system used in enterprise products

Check Point has announced the new version of its popular ZoneAlarm antivirus program which features a cloud sandbox technology designed to check email attachments for malware before they are opened.

The firm's ZoneAlarm 2015 (it's only 2014 but security vendors always invoke the future in product names) comes with a number of enhancements but the Threat Emulation feature is probably the most distinctive.

By default, the program monitors the 'My Documents or 'downloads' folder, giving users the choice to have each new file saved there scanned in the cloud for malicious content. Techworld understands that proceeding with this checking procedure can take anything from seconds to minutes depending on the file size and type. It can also be extended to a custom folder.

Supporting Microsoft Office documents, PDFs and Windows executables, the files remain sandboxed - isolated in simple terms - until they are deemed clean.

Because the file is transferred and run inside a cloud virtual machine, its behaviour can be assessed with 100 percent accuracy. Despite the delay it imposes, in principle at least no infected attachment should get past this kind of system. The idea has been part of Check Point's enterprise ThreatCloud Emulation security technology for some time so it is a form of trickledown from that.

"Attackers are targeting people by hiding threats everywhere from emails to malicious web links," said Check Point's head of consumer business, Bari Abdul.

"Important features like Threat Emulation can prevent attacks even if they have not been identified by traditional antivirus, while Enhanced Browser Protection offers users maximum protection against destructive malicious links."

The firm reckons that one in twenty-five emails contains a malicious attachment, which certainly seems plausible given the scale of the everyday malware infections that start this way.

Other improvements in ZoneAlarm 2015 include a technology called Enhanced Browser Protection (which scans websites for threats before they execute) and a 'Find My Laptop' systems for tracking down lost or stolen machines.

Check Point offers three products under the ZoneAlarm 2015 banner but only one of them - ZoneAlarm Extreme Security - comes with the Threat Emulation feature. This costs $54.95 per annum to cover three PCs.