Monday, 6 August 2007

Powerful personal firewall dies

BlackICE PC Protection, the accurate and well-featured personal firewall, is to be discontinued.

Originally developed by Network ICE, BlackICE Defender (as it was then) was one of the first well-known desktop personal firewall programs, alongside Zone Alarm. In fact, at the start of its life it was not really a firewall but an intrusion detection system (IDS). This distinction was lost on some customers and reviewers, notably Steve Gibson of GRC.com fame. He criticised it and Network ICE responded, saying that he had missed the point and that it was not designed to stop outbound traffic.

When I took ISS' Ethical Hacking course in 2001, the instructor also expressed a dismissive view of the product. By the end of the week, after ISS had acquired Network ICE (and BlackICE Defender), he was singing its praises. I believe that some of Network ICE's technology was built into ISS' RealSecure IDS products.

Later it was renamed BlackICE PC Protection and application control was added to detect unauthorised outbound traffic. In fact, it had a pretty hardcore option that created checksums of all the systems applications and applied close control of what could run and access the network. This was fairly annoying to use because it was so restrictive.

The years passed and the desktop product appeared to be on the shelf, with no major updates and with only a fairly decent price drop to entice new users. Then, in August 2006, IBM bought ISS. Almost exactly a year later it canned BlackICE PC Protection.

IBM will continue to supply updates to current users until September 2009, after which there will be no further updates. The FAQ notes that perpetual licenses are for the use of the product and not for service and support. "Service and support may only be purchased up to September 19, 2007."

IBM/ISS does not produce a replacement product for consumer customers. However, Sunbelt Software is. It is offering a free copy of its Sunbelt Personal Firewall (previously Kerio Personal Firewall) to all BlackICE PC Protection users.