Chapter Twenty Seven. ZoneAlarm: Creating Usable Security Products for Consumers

Jordy Berson

WHEN ZONEALARM 2.0 DEBUTED IN JANUARY 2000, it was downloaded more than 1 million times in the first 10 weeks. We had tapped into a sorely needed space—an easy-to-use personal firewall—and the 20 or so Zone Labs employees suddenly found themselves strapped to a rocket and struggling to hold on. By 2005, the company had grown to more than 180 employees. The ZoneAlarm product family now has more than 30 million users, making it the most widely used software firewall in the world. We believe our products have been so successful because they are both highly secure and easy to use.

We make our products secure by employing multiple layers of security, so when a threat gets past one layer, another is there to stop it. We use a signature-independent foundation, so we’re as good at catching unknown threats as we are at catching known threats. And we don’t cut corners: we must pass every test thrown at us, or have lightning-fast resolution if we fail. And security at Zone Labs adheres to a simple rule—block everything that’s not specifically allowed by the user. In such a user-centric model, ease of use is critical.

We make our products easy to use by knowing who our target users are; tailoring our products to their needs—not ours; and making the user a key part of the security process.

At Zone Labs, we haven’t always executed our ease-of-use principle perfectly. But we’ve done it consistently enough ...

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