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Online Armor Premium, published by Emsi Software GmbH (Austria), is aptly named. Every Windows personal firewall can pass basic port scan tests, but, historically Online Armor Premium distinguished itself when tested with more insidious security challenges. Unfortunately there are no current test results from independent test labs.

Firewall Performance
The Online Armor firewall default mode allows trusted programs to automatically access the internet, which reduces the number of popups that demand decisions from the user. How does Online Armor know which programs to trust? The staff at Emsi Software maintains lists of trusted and un-trusted programs as well as financial institutions and banks that might attract scammers. OASIS (Online Armor Software Intelligence System) updates continuously and releases the latest profiles to the user base with automatic updates.

Because worms and Trojan Horses use network resources and necessarily send and receive commands over the internet, a good firewall can usually expose them. In order for hackers to continue to frustrate personal firewall software, it is necessary to move to a deeper level of subterfuge called leaking. Data can leak through a firewall by exploiting the permission rules associated with known applications. If a hacker can convince a firewall that a trusted application is conforming to a permission rule, the permission rule becomes a hole through which to hack without arousing the suspicion of the firewall. Another way to trick a firewall is to insert a dynamic-link library (DLL) or a piece of foreign code into the address space of the application that the firewall trusts. The firewall will allow the trusted application but not be aware that it has been injected with poison. A third approach to fooling personal firewall software is for the un-trusted application to employ the interfaces used by trusted applications. A trusted application starts the network activity even though it is actually controlled by a malicious application that slips data to the Internet without triggering the firewall. Online Armor Premium passes all known leak tests to protect the host.

In addition to protection from leaks, Online Armor Premium passes spy tests that employ keyloggers and packet sniffers. It is also effective against attempts to infect the host with diseased files designed to survive system reboots. The Online Armor firewall is also smart enough to protect against attempts to subvert the system from applications that assign themselves enough system privileges.

An online banking safety feature called “Banking Mode” blocks users from being able to fall for scams to divert them to phishing sites. Once a user activates Banking Mode, the firewall will only permit connections to websites that match Online Armor’s safe bank site list.

Additional Security Features
Online Armor protects against attempts to hijack the homepage in a user’s web browser. Every time malware tries to change the homepage in Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera, Online Armor will alert the user. Online Armor protects against phishing emails. It also alerts the user whenever an unknown program attempts to automatically run while Windows starts. Online Armor Premium also protects against multiple types of keyloggers. A firewall alone cannot fight a virus because a virus does not need to use network resources to infect a machine and a virus does not need to phone home to its creator once it has installed itself. Therefore in order to be secure, Online Armor Premium users should consider augmenting their security strategies with one of our best AntiVirus applications. Online Armor converts tracking cookies not associated with trusted sites into session cookies so that the web browser can delete them at the end of each session.

Ease of Use
Emsi Software has successfully designed Online Armor to be easy to use. The product allows or blocks applications based on access to the OASIS trusted and un-trusted lists. When it finds something that it cannot identify, Online Armor will alert the user with a color-coded popup. If a previously trusted application changes, a green popup allows the user to maintain its trusted status. An orange popup appears whenever an unknown program seems to be attempting something malicious. If Online Armor discovers an un-trusted program trying to perform a high-risk action, it will stop the program and display a red popup.

Online Armor makes it easy to avoid phishing websites. Phishing websites are particularly pernicious because users can be tricked into logging onto websites that appear to be legitimate banking websites. Online Armor protects against phishing by alerting users whenever there is a mismatch between the DNS (Domain Name System) results from the Internet Service Provider and those from a trusted DNS server.

Help & Support
Emsi Software supports Online Armor Premium users with online help and live chat, online video clips and support forums. The support forums provide users with an opportunity to receive advice from Emsi Software employees, volunteers and other Online Armor users.

The website can present itself and the user forums in Czech, English, French, German, Italian or Russian. There is also a Dutch user forum. The CEO hosts an interesting blog that contains specific information about recent threats as well as updates from the development team.

Summary:

Online Armor’s philosophy about how to treat programs is to separate them into three categories. A file is known to be bad or known to be good or it is unknown. Bad files are on a blacklist. Good files are known to be good, so the user is not prompted about them. Unknown files trigger a popup to the user to make a decision. The firewall is strong partly because it never guesses. It knows or it doesn’t know or it asks the human to make the call.

Online Armor Premium is one of the best personal firewall software products because it anticipates all of the most current hacker tricks and includes the mechanisms to prevent security breaches. We look forward to discovering recent performance results from independent test labs.

 

Online Armor Premium 5.1

Pros
Online Armor’s firewall has a good reputation.

Cons
Few people recognize the brand.

The Verdict
: 7.13/10

Online Armor does not have recent independent test lab results so performance is difficult to verify.