Internet Security Suites

Security software firms keep experts on staff, ready to code an update at the first sign of a new virus, worm, botnet, rootkit, or other digital threat. Hence, most of us are willing to pay yearly subscriptions to the companies that keep our PCs safe. As you may know, it’s no longer enough to run a mere antivirus utility, even if it watches out for spyware and adware, too. Everyone needs a thirdparty firewall, despite the moderate protection afforded by Windows’ freebie. And a spam filter does more than just divert junk messages to the trash; it also blocks harmful content from reaching your inbox. Thus, it’s a good idea to install a full security suite instead of a hodgepodge of standalone security programs. Not only can a suite save you money, but its anti-malware components are generally made to work well together without getting in each other’s way. Let’s take a look at some attractive options. All of the following have earned reputations as being fairly reliable and effective. Pricing includes a year’s worth of free updates and upgrades.

AVG Internet Security 8.0.196
AVG Free, the free version of AVG Anti-Virus Pro, is a familiar sight on Windows computers around the world. More robust versions start at $34.99. This $54.99 suite is the top of the heap, giving you a firewall and protection against rootkits, antivirus, and antispyware. AVG Internet Security actively guards against malware infestations from the Web, IM (instant messaging) programs, peer-to-peer file-sharing software, your local network, spam, and other avenues. You can schedule regular scans and tell AVG when to update itself with new virus definitions.

AVG Internet Security’s special tools give you detailed insight into the processes running on your computer. This includes an editable list of the applications that automatically start up with your PC, along with its network connections, browser add-ons, and more. AVG’s friendly main panel is easy to understand. You get an at-a-glance overview of the types of security features AVG provides, along with color-coded descriptions of their statuses, such as “Active.” Double-click any of the icons here, and you’ll get a description of what each security feature does, along with a few settings in plain English. You’ll find all of the important functions in dropdown menus, too.

One option, enabled by default, is the AVG Security Toolbar. This integrates with your browser (it worked on Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 7 for us) to warn you about phishing attacks (imposter sites), drive-by downloads, and sites known to host malware. When you use a common search engine, such as Google or Yahoo! Search, the Security Toolbar will check the list of results for known threats. You’ll see green check mark icons next to sites that are probably safe and red Xs next to URLs that likely lead to pages carrying malware. Note that AVG is the only suite here that you can only use on one PC at a time (a 3-PC version is $74.99). Also, some longtime users of
AVG have found that version 8 seriously slows down older PCs that could run versions and earlier without a problem. Then again, version 8 does provide AVG’s most comprehensive protection yet.

Kaspersky Internet Security 2009
Price may be keeping Kaspersky from being as popular in this country as it might be. A three-user download costs $79.95 per year, and there’s no discount for the one-user version on CD. Certainly, Kaspersky’s effectiveness is seldom questioned. Independent testing labs routinely award the software high marks in the fight against malware.

Besides the usual viruses and spyware, Kaspersky fights against rootkits, keyloggers, and hacker tools. The company provides updates every hour, something not all antivirus vendors can say. There’s a firewall, antispam capability, IM protection, antiphishing, and parental controls to limit the types of online content particular users can access and the hours they can access the Web. KIS even offers a virtual keyboard you can use if you’re worried about a keylogger recording what you type on your physical keyboard. Also included is a privacy scanner tool, which lists areas of personally identifying data you can opt to select and secure with one click. With small RAM requirements and intelligent work scheduling, Kaspersky is optimized for performance on PCs used to play games. Its fast scanning automatically takes place in the background, and it lets other apps have priority when it comes to CPU cycles.

KIS is highly effective at protecting itself from threats that try to shut down antivirus utilities. It lets you password-protect its settings and operation, too, so attempts to shut it down won’t work without the magic word. It even checks the applications installed on your PC for known vulnerabilities. All this with a colorful, intuitive main panel that offers easy access to powerful settings.

McAfee Internet Security 2009
Like Trend Micro and Symantec below, McAfee’s stated goal with this latest suite is to speed up threat detection without slowing down your PC. Its $59.99 license covers three PCs. You’ll get a backup and restore function with this suite. Another feature is McAfee QuickClean, which eliminates junk files, caches, deleted email, and obsolescent Registry entries. There’s a file shredder and links to Windows’ System Restore and Disk Defragmenter. McAfee’s GUI (graphical user interface) may have fewer icons than other suites, but dig around and you’ll find some eye candy. Visual Tracer lets you enter the IP (Internet protocol) address of an unknown computer—perhaps one that tried to contact your own PC—and shows you on a map where it might be located, assuming the IP number hasn’t been faked. There are links to color-coded maps of hacker and virus activity, too.

A network manager gives you a simple, clear view of the computers on your LAN, plus their connections to your router, the Internet, and each other. Meanwhile, EasyNetwork helps you set up secure file- and printersharing on your network, something most mainstream users will welcome. Google, MSN, and Yahoo! search engines will benefit from SiteAdvisor, which works like AVG’s Security Toolbar to warn you of dangerous sites. Mc-Afee also offers parental controls over Web sites and keywords, as well as identity and password-protection features. Of course there are also anti-malware and firewall features plus email, Webmail, and IM protection. Virus updates don’t hog a PC’s full attention, either.

PC Tools Internet Security 2009
A relative newcomer, PC Tools (now part of Symantec) has quickly built a great reputation in the antivirus/antispyware field. PC Tools’ IntelliGuard components ward off threats old and new, such as rootkits and phishing attacks. Meanwhile, its Browser Defender toolbar rates sites’ threat levels and checks for malware, pop-ups, and so on. This suite includes antispam and firewall features, too. The former gives you very granular control, letting you choose the spam blacklisting services you want to use (if any) and even letting you block email from entire countries.

The firewall offers a stealth mode to make no response to unauthorized attempts to communicate with your PC, along with powerful stateful packet inspection for rigorous analysis of each bit of data moving in or out. An initial scan at installation found some items the competition missed. These were mainly tracking cookies, but one was a cookie linked to a site known to be compromised by malware. Note that to remove any found threats with PC Tools’ 15-day free trial, you’ll need to register and get an activation code.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009
Symantec is getting its act together. For years, Norton has been the only name in many users’ minds regarding antivirus software, offering effective protection and complete feature sets. Then again, Norton has long tended to bog down PCs. Updates seem to take forever and sometimes require more than one session. Installation is a hassle. Some Norton products cause frequent errors such as shutdown hangs. Symantec also has had to work to improve how quickly it issues virus definition updates when new threats appear. With version 2009, Norton’s new “60-second” installation is certainly speedier than before. Scanning was similarly fast, beating even the fleet-footed Kaspersky by 10 seconds or so. Norton appeared to take great advantage of all four cores in our test PC’s processor during its scan and appropriated less than 10MB of RAM when idle. Even LiveUpdate ran so quickly, we thought at first that it had malfunctioned. This three-PC suite features a goodlooking control panel with well-designed on/off icons. From a network map to ID theft prevention technology, there isn’t much the competition has that this version of Norton doesn’t— and this year, the list of Norton’s “haves” includes performance.

Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 17.0.1224
There’s a $49.95 version of Trend Micro’s Internet Security suite, but we’ll look at the $69.95 Pro edition. Pro has personal ID data protection, PC speed-up utilities, and enhanced security features for smartphones, email, and IM. The company has pledged to speed up threat identification and reduce its software’s impact on PC performance.
Remote File Lock is an encrypted storage area that lets you irreversibly block access to your data over the Web should anyone steal your notebook or PC. The Software History Cleaner can automatically purge your OS, as well as certain browsers, media players, IM clients, and other software, of data that could tell someone the kinds of files and Web sites you’ve been accessing.

There’s Wi-Fi defense for when you set up your laptop in a hotspot, and the Personal Firewall can automatically change its security profile when you move from your home connection to a coffee shop, for example. Unfortunately, the network map, unlike Norton’s and McAfee’s, didn’t notice the other PCs and the router on our LAN. Finally, Trend Micro’s First Visitor Protection scans a Web site you have never visited before to make sure that there are no nasty surprises waiting for you in the wings. Trend Micro found fewer concerns on our PC than some of the other suites here, and it automatically deleted three tracking cookies without asking permission. Still, the company offers month-long trial versions as well as a 30-day moneyback guarantee.

Scanning Speeds
Each suite defines a “full” scan differently, so take these results of our informal scanning speed test with a grain of salt. In order from fastest (15 minutes, 35 seconds) to slowest (44:30) were Norton, Kaspersky, PC Tools, Trend Micro, McAfee, and AVG, all at their default settings. Whatever the speed, you’ll enjoy effective protection of your data with just about any of the above suites.

Source of Information : Smart Computing / January 2009

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