Test and Review: Lockdown 2000
Thursday, 22 July 1999
Introduction: How To Test?
Testing a software product is not in itself a difficult thing to do. One installs the software under defined conditions, runs it through its paces, presents it with the challenges it is presumably designed to meet, keeps notes, writes the facts. But anyone seeking to perform a genuine test of Lockdown2000 is confronted with an unusual set of problems.
With any product test and review, the idea is essentially to establish how a product compares to others, and whether the product works as intended, and lives up to the seller's claims.
Normally, the advertised claims of function and the intended function of a software product are one and the same. Whether they work well or not, most software applications are truly meant to do essentially what the seller says.
With Lockdown, there is a remarkable, inescapably evident divergence between these two things. The claims for the product are extreme to say the least. Unfortunately, the actual mechanisms of the product fail to agree with those claims in many important respects.
I am confronted with the task, not only of testing the product's performance, but conducting a rather difficult correlation of that performance with the very broad, patently extreme and yet often vague and uninformative sales pitch of the seller. I find I must in some ways test or evaluate the product against claims which are completely unrelated to its actual function. For instance, is it really a firewall? I wouldn't have to answer this question if it weren't for the false claim.
It would be nice if I needed only to point out minor inconveniences, comment on obscure bugs, ease of use, and the like. But such minor issues pale to insignificance compared to the vital importance that a security utility must do its job.
Lockdown purports to be a comprehensive security product, literally claims to be the "most complete security" available. A great deal is at stake for those users who may place a high degree of trust in its efficacy. Given the breadth of this claim, I have no choice but to evaluate Lockdown against any number of known security issues, so the alleged completeness of its coverage of security threats can be realistically assessed.
Unfortunately, the advertising claims on the Lockdown site and those of its resellers include scare tactics and inaccurate information about security risks, and a great deal of omitted information as well. There is such a variety of deceptions and misrepresentations as to be almost dizzying. The "hacker demo," for example. The deceptively-presented global array of download sites. Any reader of their site is bound to wonder: what is this "gaping Internet security hole"? The history of the Lockdown product is oddly fraught with obfuscation; and there is something to be learned from the past dealings of its sellers.
To correct all this, my job becomes that of educator. All told, if I am to address the Lockdown2000 morass, my task is complex.
Breaking It Down
In order to simplify this confusion, I find I must compartment the task, and address these things each separately:
Willy nilly, this assessment of Lockdown has grown into a rather broad treatment of Internet security; firewalls, file sharing, passwords, trojan behaviors, and more. For this -- and this alone -- we might thank the folks at Harbor Telco. I've wound up generating a good deal of material which I think will have broad appeal and significance for ordinary Netizens.
Now, before I continue, it's only fair to point out that I cannot claim to be an unbiased observer. In November and December of 1998, I reviewed Lockdown's claims and its version 2.0 quite unfavorably, which resulted in:
In view of all this, I can hardly take a detached position on Lockdown or its principals. Nor indeed did I ever, as I have never been anything but critical of this product and of Michael Paris' gross misrepresentations.
I mention all this only so the reader is fairly informed of my bias. In the context of this particular review, I will make no effort to directly answer the charges Paris and/or LeClerc level against me on their site. I'm much more interested in the overdue task of accurately reviewing the current product, supporting my positions with clear evidence, and, as ever, assisting the public to make better-informed decisions.
I understand my obligations with respect to public statements. Though I was on balance accurate in my original pages and review, I was also, unnecessarily, more abrasive than I will be again. I was not vindictive and I was not intentionally inaccurate about anything whatsoever. I looked intently upon the Lockdown enterprise and its actual product; I saw what I saw; I said what I saw, and I make no apologies. But I hope to do a better job of keeping to the high road.
I will attempt to be as polite as possible without sacrificing accuracy and while still preserving my right and my duty to "call 'em as I see 'em." I will painstakingly support my statements, provide ample information for anyone anywhere to replicate my test results, and I'll leave whatever rancor or outrage I may feel largely to the reader's imagination. I trust you, the reader, have a fine, vivid imagination.
I value integrity and good treatment of one's fellow man. I value trust above all, and I seek to merit it. I am no fan of professional dishonesty; I neither engage in deliberate deception nor condone it.
Perhaps merely by some unique personal bent, I find it particularly irksome when people utilize baseless fear-mongering and intentional misinformation to gain undeserved profit in return for questionable or negative service. These standards of mine are a matter of personal philosophy, and they were my motivation for exposing Lockdown in the first place. They may seem peculiar to some. Yet I believe you, the reader, are very likely to share them with me.
This same basis of personal philosophy and ethical standards applies to this new exposť of the Lockdown product, its principals and their promotions. I earn no money for this work; personal gain is no part of it. Addressing Lockdown2000 has gained me nothing but grief, and I expect this will only engender more of the same. But I am determined to see it through and stand my ground.
I am, I must admit, somewhat concerned about my own professional repute, which Paris and LeClerc have done their best to damage. I have learned that Paris has contacted several persons in my local area seeking information about me, and I've found evidence which suggests he was the ultimate source of some particularly vicious rumor-mongering. This kind of attack has caught me flat-footed; I have never had to deal with anything of this kind before. But I will not be intimidated and in that connection, I am anxious to demonstrate ever more convincingly the correctness of my original observations; and the integrity of my testing and my commentary.
Rather than simply react, I choose to regard this as a challenge. If my attitude were otherwise, this sort of pressure might provide me with a motivation to be malicious. Instead, I believe it motivates me to be more objective, more accurate, and more thorough; not less so.
I Am Not Alone
I wish to emphasize that I am by no means the only person who has taken issue with Michael Paris & Co. on the Lockdown2000 product or his marketing tactics. I am certainly his most high-profile critic at the moment, but many people who are well-qualified to know, have long since debunked Paris' hype. Here I provide links to online evidence of this fact, and a rather exhaustive amount of information I have encountered in my own investigations.
I promised back in January to review Lockdown's later offerings. Mr. Paris has made much of the fact that I did not do so sooner. Well, I meant to do so sooner, in fact I was interrupted at the task. Other obligations have for several months kept me from doing much with my website besides answering the volumes of mail it generates and attempting to keep myself abreast of trojan- and security-related developments. But I am now, at long last, able to fulfill that promise.
It will be refreshing to have done with Lockdown, and get on with more rewarding work. I have a lot to offer the average beleaguered Netizen, and a little even for the real pros. So I've gone at this review of Lockdown with thoroughness and diligence, with the intention to put the matter firmly to rest. I hope the reader only benefits by my efforts.
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