F-Secure Internet Security 2007 review

£30
Price when reviewed

Nothing much has changed with the F-Secure central management control console. We’re not complaining, though: it’s still the very model of simplicity and efficiency.

At-a-glance screens give access to system status, and a little drilling down provides access to every configuration option you could want. Not that you’ll need many, since F-Secure is designed to work effectively out of the box. Although you’ll need plenty of free disk space (the minimum requirement is quoted as 500MB), F-Secure now has a smaller memory footprint and this shows in its impact on system resources. The only time we noticed slowdown was when performing a scheduled or manual full system scan – something that’s always best left to work when you’re not. Fully automatic updates – with one of the quickest response times in the industry – have always been an F-Secure trademark, and that tradition continues. Also, the database update mechanism has been tweaked to use less network bandwidth while still maintaining the same levels of always-current protection.

New to F-Secure Internet Security 2007 is the introduction of host-based intrusion protection (HIPS), previously found only in the corporate version. DeepGuard combines numerous active protection mechanisms that include system monitoring, sandboxing, blocking of code injections, advanced heuristics and runtime behavioural blocking. DeepGuard also acts as a last line of defence for your computer to ensure it’s protected even if conventional mechanisms are circumvented. Best of all, it generally just gets on with the job of detecting and blocking potentially dangerous behaviour, without the need for user intervention. The addition of web scanning, at protocol level in real-time, prevents web-based exploits, but the price you pay is slower browsing: a second or so per page.

The 2006 suite made use of a third-party anti-spyware engine, and the results were appalling. That’s all changed, though, and spyware protection is now massively improved. By using the technology framework provided by DeepGuard, in addition to the Lavasoft engine, detection and removal rates have greatly improved. The integration of F-Secure’s BlackLight rootkit-scanning technology seals the deal, and we found it to be only marginally less effective than Norton or Spy Sweeper. The spam-filtering module makes extensive use of DNS and Web Services (RBL) to score each message, and with this disabled, filtering efficiency takes a tumble. With it on, though, false positives were very low and accuracy very high indeed. The inclusion of anti-phishing filtering for email is another welcome addition, and it worked very well: every scam message was moved to the phishing folder.

The parental controls have greatly improved, with access to the internet now being limited according to individually configurable and content-based predefinitions for parent, teenager and child accounts. This uses a combination of whitelists, where you define sites that are allowed, and “safe for children” certification. Configuration options vary depending upon the profile – for teenagers, you can block sites by category such as Adult, Chat, Drugs or Web Mail, whereas the child profile is more a case of all or nothing. Logging is good and entries from the History log can be added to the allowed list with a single click. Time-based access restrictions can be applied, with overall performance equal to that of McAfee and far superior to Norton.

F-Secure may not have all the bells and whistles of McAfee, nor the totally silent Symantec firewalling (although it isn’t far behind), but it does provide simple and solid security out of the box and at an unbeatable price in this company. While a single-user licence costs £30, a three-user licence is only £4 more, which represents superb value for money. Even the upgrade cost for 2006 users, £23 with your subscription extended by any outstanding entitlement, is good value. To put this into perspective, you can protect three PCs with F-Secure for less than it costs to protect just one using either McAfee or Symantec suites. Only ZoneAlarm comes close, and even then it wants £10 more for a three-user licence (we’re expecting ZoneAlarm’s latest suite next month). For this reason, we have no hesitation in recommending F-Secure Internet Security Suite and adding it to the A List.

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