F-Secure Internet Security 2006 review
F-Secure hasn’t been resting on its laurels since last year when it topped our group test. In fact, it’s managed to reduce the price by more than 25 per cent while at the same time adding to the feature list.
F-Secure ensures confidence is inspired right from the start, with an option on the installation menu to scan the computer before installing. Whether you take this route or not, F-Secure will scan for the Klez virus at the start of the process, removing it before continuing with the installation. After installation, and the subscription validation check, a Security Wizard guides you through default browser and email client options, and then offers to enable parental controls. All of this in less than half the time it took Norton to install.
The central management control console remains a delight to use thanks to the simplicity of the at-a-glance screens, which provide quick overviews of current security status. However, you can drill down through these same screens to gain access to ever-more advanced configuration options while retaining the same look and feel throughout. This is the hallmark of a truly integrated suite; even where components are based on third-party products, such as the spyware detection, they’ve been tweaked enough that the joins don’t show. This attention to detail extends to the tray icon, from where you can scan the system for spyware and check a target or your hard disk for viruses.
F-Secure has always been at the centre of anti-virus developments. Its F-Prot anti-virus scanner broke the mould by introducing heuristic scanning, and now it’s among the first to introduce specific protection against rootkits. These are used to hide malware out of sight of Windows by operating at kernel-mode level rather than user-mode level. As expected, F-Secure had no problems in passing our anti-virus tests.
Another new feature is found in the anti-spyware component, based upon the well-established Ad-Aware software, and provides real-time integrated protection together with a new Spyware Cleaning Wizard. Last year, F-Secure scored well in our spyware testing, but we’ve toughened up this section of the labs and the poor showing of Ad-Aware in our spyware Labs was also reflected here. In fact, it failed all three of the benchmarks by some margin: detection 52 per cent (pass 90 per cent), removal 65 per cent (pass 85 per cent) and blocking 48 per cent (pass 60 per cent). We recommend using a standalone anti-spyware product to accompany it.
Not so when it comes to anti-spam, where F-Secure managed to surpass last year’s already impressive test performance. By adding real-time blackhole listing, F-Secure draws upon a database of verified spammer IP addresses, as well as those of known affiliated services to aid the identification of phishing emails. This, combined with the existing F-Secure SpamLab update service, seamless Outlook integration and advanced content-analysis technology made for quite remarkable filtering considering there was no training session involved. F-Secure successfully trapped 96 per cent of the spam we threw at it, and only 20 messages were wrongly identified as spam, giving a truly excellent false-positive rate of 0.2 per cent.
Parental control has improved with the addition of a child time-lock feature to enable appropriate times for online activity and these, combined with the highly configurable content-filtration categories, make for solid protection from unwanted content for all the family. However, F-Secure didn’t pass our parental-control test, because it applies restrictions globally rather than on an individual account basis. Although it’s easy to toggle restrictions on or off using the master password, that isn’t enough in our search for security perfection.