10 November 2006

#6. EULAppreciate This: Help with Required Reading, and Flame Retardant

Welcome back to my Tool Bar & Grill, where I bring you useful new Windows utilities or Web sites twice each month.

EULAlyzer Reads the Fine Print

When I get new software, I’m dying to find out what it can do for me, so I want to install and run it ASAP. Who wants to take time to read the interminable legalese of the end user license agreement (EULA) that stands in the way of setting up new software? But later, when you complain that your computer is swarming with spyware, adware, and spam, the publisher retorts that you agreed to it all in the EULA.

Here’s a new weapon against malware: EULAlyzer, a clever little utility that reads a EULA and flags suspicious words and phrases “of interest.” When you’re about to install new software, just launch EULAlyzer, select Scan New License Agreement, and drag the big plus sign over the EULA before agreeing to it. (Copy and paste license agreements on Web sites into EULAlyzer.)

When you click Analyze, EULAlyzer searches the EULA for such give-away phrases as “third party," ”without notice,” “advertising,” and “promotional,” as well as Web site addresses. It ranks the EULA by the number and severity of such danger signs, and lists them all.

Click the arrow under Goto to see the suspicious phrase in context in the EULA.

Now you can install new software with greater confidence, even if you don’t wade through the license agreement word by word. However, I still recommend reading the EULAs of suspect programs, in addition to relying on EULAlyzer. It might be imperfect, and malware authors might get wise to EULAlyzer and change their terminology to duck under its radar.

EULAlyzer is free, and there’s also a paid version with greater capabilities. You can download EULAlyzer from the publisher, Javacool Software (who also publish SpywareBlaster), at http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/eulalyzer.html. As always, I encourage you to donate money to reward the authors and support their ongoing activities.

Another useful tool is EULAscan, a social networked site (http://www.eulascan.com) where users review and warn about EULAs. Enter the name of a product to see if its EULA has been evaluated, and even post your own critique.

Comodo (the Firewall, Not the Dragon)

If you use the Internet, you need a firewall for protection against hackers and malicious software. If you have your own router and hardware firewall, you’re covered. If you don’t, and you’re using Windows XP’s built-in firewall, you’re still half naked. So which of the many commercial, shareware, and freeware offerings should you choose? I’ll let those of you who didn’t read the heading squirm with suspense.

Symantec (Norton), McAfee, ZoneAlarm, and many other well-known publishers sell comprehensive internet security suites as well as single-purpose firewalls. They would be well worth the price if there were no cheaper alternatives. And isn’t that what you read my Tool Bar & Grill for?

There are many fine free firewalls. Rather than list or review all the better ones, though, I’ll cut right to the chase. Probably the best free firewall – according to many reviews, the equal of the best commercial ones – is Comodo (http://www.comodogroup.com). PC magazine made it the Editor’s Choice among free firewalls, well ahead of the better-known ZoneAlarm.

Comodo can automatically set itself up to deal with many common applications on your computer. When it does encounter a new request, its pop-up messages are clear and informative. It is highly configurable by those who know what they’re doing, and you can create complex custom rules. Most important of all, it’s very effective and secure, passing the experts’ tests with flying colors.

As with any firewall, Comodo has a learning curve. At first, it might bombard you with questions about which programs to allow access to the Internet or to your computer. But I would be suspicious of any firewall that didn’t do that. I’ve been using Comodo for a number of months, and am very pleased with its performance. It’s not a resource hog, either.

You might be confused initially by the Comodo Launchpad that opens when you click Comodo’s tray icon, but you'll get used to it. You have to go through the Launchpad to get into the firewall. The Launchpad centralizes control of all the Comodo software you install. Comodo also offers free antivirus, antispam, antiphishing, backup, and password management programs. (I have not used any of them, so I cannot recommend them.)

Here’s a tip I learned about the hard way (the only way I ever learn): If you’ve been using ZoneAlarm, it’s not enough to just disable it when you start using Comodo (or, perhaps, any other firewall). You must uninstall ZoneAlarm completely; I was unable to get on the Internet until I did.

Thanks for reading! Please post comments and suggestions below. And don’t forget to come back on November 25 for another interesting review.

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill.

No comments:

Post a Comment