Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 review

The biggest win for Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 isn't in features, but in support. The GeekBuddy service fixes any problem, security or otherwise, using remote assistance. A Virus-Free Guarantee reimburses you for damage if malware gets past Comodo; you can also get reimbursed for expenses related to identity theft. Add a GeekBuddy-powered tuneup tool and an unusually powerful backup utility and you've got a winner.
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If a Trojan or other malware balks the installation of your selected security suite or interferes with its operation, vendors will help you out in various ways. Many offer remote-controlled direct assistance, though you’ll often have to exhaust less-intensive support solutions first. With Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 ($39.99 per year direct for three licenses), remote-control support is the first line of defense, not the last resort. Comodo’s GeekBuddy service offers unlimited assistance for any PC problems, security-related or otherwise. GeekBuddy definitely helped in my malware cleanup test, but I hit a rough spot with support on one system.

The basic antivirus and firewall components are the same as what you get with the free Comodo Internet Security Premium (2013). The addition of GeekBuddy isn’t the only game-changer, though. Once you’ve run an initial full scan to clear out any existing malware, you can activate the Virus-Free Guarantee. If your PC gets infected after you’ve properly installed Comodo and run a full scan, they’ll cover up to $500 in repair costs.

But wait! There’s more! In addition, you can get reimbursement for expenses and lost wages if your identity is compromised while Comodo is supposed to be protecting you. Specifically, they’ll reimburse for up to $15,000 in expenses and $500 per week lost income, up to four weeks. You’ll want to read the terms and conditions, of course. This is definitely an uncommon offer.

GeekBuddy to the Rescue
When I ran into trouble installing or running the free Comodo suite for my earlier review, I emailed tech support and asked for advice. In every case, the first recommendation was to run a scan with Comodo Cleaning Essentials, and in almost every case that solved the problem. One holdout needed quite a bit of back-and-forth with tech support, but we got the job done.

Testing the for-pay suite, I contacted GeekBuddy any time a problem arose. If the program had installed at least partially, I launched the supplied GeekBuddy application. If not, I logged in through the GeekBuddy website and entered my license number.

Malware on one test system makes it unusable except in Safe Mode, and Comodo won’t install in Safe Mode. The GeekBuddy technician solved the problem by digging through the system to find and eliminate the offending program. It took a while, but the job got done.

On another system, Comodo repeatedly hung while attempting a full scan. This one took more work on the part of the tech and on my part; in some cases I had to take care of tasks like rebooting into Safe Mode. Another system completed the scan but hung during the cleanup phase; fixing that took a little longer.

Malware on two systems tries to protect itself by blocking access to many security websites. The malicious techniques used are different, but the effect is the same—on both systems, Comodo would not activate or update. I spent hours and hours with the technicians on these, long enough to go through two shift changes at GeekBuddy central. In the end, they did manage to fix both systems.

With help from the GeekBuddy technicians, I got Comodo installed on these five systems, but it took hours and hours. Installing the free suite without GeekBuddy help, I got those same systems working in much less time just by launching Comodo Cleaning Essentials. On the other hand, as you’ll see below, hand-on diagnosis let the technicians wipe out more malware samples and more traces than Comodo alone.

Thrown Under the Bus?
I’ve related my GeekBuddy success stories; now for a different kind of story. Malware on one of my test systems hooks the system in such a way that partial removal disables an essential Windows component. When this happens, I can’t launch Internet Explorer or Firefox, and even if I could, connectivity is damaged. I see this again and again when testing antivirus products on this particular system.

With no working Internet connection I couldn’t directly invoke GeekBuddy, so I started my chat session on a clean system. The technician recommended that I repair the system using my Windows disk, but I don’t have a disk for this OS. He then advised using System Restore to get back to a better state. Naturally System Restore isn’t working.

Next, he advised going to the computer manufacturer for help getting the operating system back in working order. Given that the test system is a virtual machine, that’s not a possibility. In any case, the technician insisted that “Comodo hasn’t created any issue in your computer. A possible infection has created these issues.” I began to get a bit irked at this point. When he said, “The occurence [sic] of this issue after installing Comodo Internet Security might just be a mere coincedence [sic]” I asked for a transfer to the next level of support.

The second-tier technician went through many of the same steps and then advised me to uninstall Comodo. He concluded that “The issue is not related to Comodo Internet Security.” I asked him to say, for the record, “Comodo broke your system and we will not fix it.” He wouldn’t, but he did say, “We will help you if you have the windows xp installation disk.” Given I made it clear I have no such disk, that means about the same thing.

I passed a transcript of the chat conversation to a Comodo VP for comment. He said that the response was not correct, that the techs should have gone to any lengths to solve the problem. To support this statement he showed me details of a GeekBuddy session in which the technician purchased a Recovery Disk for the client. I didn’t ask them to go quite that far, given that my test system is just a virtual machine. The VP concluded, “We will review the support procedure to make sure it does not happen again.”

The lesson seems clear. If you don’t think you’re getting the GeekBuddy support you deserve, you have to speak up. Otherwise you might wind up feeling (as I did, temporarily) like your PC got thrown under the bus.

Help Me, Anti-Error
You can call on GeekBuddy for help with any PC problem, not just with security, and the Anti-Error utility can help you identify problems you didn’t even know about. Run it for a quick list of potential problems, and solutions.

If your system has a lot of browser plugins installed, you may get an alert saying you can speed browsing by disabling some. Anti-Error displays them and lets you choose which to keep. In a similar fashion it offers to speed your computer by selectively disabling programs that launch at startup.

If for any reason Anti-Error can’t handle an issue, it offers a button to launch GeekBuddy. For potentially confusing issues like cleaning up junk in the Registry or eliminating browser traces to protect privacy, it only offers GeekBuddy help.

I definitely like this way of handling system tune-up. Most users have no idea how to interpret detailed reports from a Registry cleaner, for example. Having an expert control the whole process is just plain smart.

GeekBuddy-Aided Malware Cleanup
For testing purposes, I invoked GeekBuddy help only if an actual problem came up. Technically, I could ask for help even if the product seemed to clean up just fine, but I figure an ordinary user wouldn’t do that.

It’s no surprise, then, that the paid Comodo suite scored exactly the same as the free one on the systems where GeekBuddy was not needed. The extra hands-on cleaning and diagnosis on the other systems made a significant difference. With 6.6 points for malware removal, Comodo is tied for top score with Norton Internet Security (2013) and Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2013.

That extra attention to detail also earned Comodo the new high score specifically for rootkit removal, 9.8 of 10 possible points. Kaspersky Internet Security (2013) was the previous rootkit king, with 9.4 points. For full details on my malware cleanup test, see How We Test Malware Removal.

Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 malware removal chart

Impressive Malware Blocking, with a Caveat
With no GeekBuddy intervention needed, the paid suite’s handled malware blocking exactly the same as the free suite. Do read that review for full details.

Briefly, Comodo wiped out over 80 percent of the samples on sight. What happened next depended on whether or not I left the Behavior Blocker turned on. With it on, every single remaining sample was sandboxed or otherwise isolated. None managed to install more than a few junk data files. That should earn a perfect 10 points for malware blocking.

But there’s a catch. That same Behavior Blocker kicked in even more strongly when I tried to install 20 older PCMag utilities. Five wouldn’t install at all, most of the rest displayed error messages, and only seven ended up with a functional installation. It’s easy to block bad files if you have no compunction about blocking good ones as well—easy, and not fair.

I wound up giving Comodo two entries in my malware blocking chart, an asterisked entry showing the perfect scores turned in using Behavior Blocker, and a more realistic line for its specifically antivirus-related blocking. Comodo scored 9.1 points for malware blocking overall, and 8.0 points for blocking rootkits.

Webroot managed a near-perfect score of 9.9 points without smacking down valid programs. Along with a number of others, it scored a perfect 10 for rootkit blocking. Comodo’s score is still good, just not as good as those at the top. For a full explanation of my malware-blocking test, see How We Test Malware Blocking.

Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 malware blocking chart

Lab Results Minimal
Even if Comodo routinely submitted antivirus tools for evaluation by the independent testing labs, the GeekBuddy component wouldn’t fit most standardized test schemes. Innovative real-world tests like those performed by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives are automated, as much as possible. They don’t necessarily include time for a researcher to sit with a GeekBuddy representative for hours. In any case, Comodo doesn’t participate in those tests.

West Coast Labs and ICSA Labs both certify Comodo’s technology for virus detection, but not for cleanup. Out of all the times Comodo has been tested by Virus Bulletin, it received VB100 certification just once. To learn more about the labs and their tests, please read How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 lab tests chart

Other Shared Features
Comodo Internet Security Complete shares a number of interesting features with the free suite and with Comodo’s free firewall. All come with Comodo Dragon, a hardened browser based on Chrome, and all include the option to secure your Internet connections by using Comodo’s Secure DNS.

Secure DNS is designed to block known fraudulent (phishing) and malicious websites, but in testing with the very newest phishing URLs it did quite poorly. Its detection rate lagged 91` percentage points behind Norton’s and 47 percent below Internet Explorer 8′s SmartScreen Filter. Comodo’s designers are looking into improving this feature. For an explanation of how I test antiphishing, see the article How We Test Antiphishing.

Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 antiphishing chart

By launching Dragon or your other browsers within Comodo’s sandbox you prevent Web-based attacks from making any permanent changes to your system. You can also launch Virtual Kiosk, a fully sandboxed virtual environment that you can wipe clean if you suspect the slightest problem.

Comodo’s firewall protects against outside attack and manages which programs can access the Internet. When it encounters an unknown program it will ask you to make the decision whether to allow access. It doesn’t handle exploit attacks, but it can be configured to handle malware that attempts an end-run around program control. For a more detailed report on these shared features, see my review of Comodo Firewall (2013).

Powerful, Flexible Backup
Anybody can get 5GB of free hosted online backup from Comodo. Your Comodo Internet Security subscription gives you 10GB of storage, and you can upgrade to 250GB or 1024GB for a price.

Many suites simply partner with a backup company like Mozy or iDrive to offer online backup. Like Webroot, Comodo hosts its own online backup; unlike Webroot, it offers local backup options as well. You can direct a backup job to any local or network drive, to optical storage, or to an FTP site. You can even have the backed-up data sent via email.

The backup utility offers a number of predefined jobs, for example to back up the Documents folder, email folders, and even saved games. You can also define a custom backup job, selecting what to back up, where to store the data, and scheduling when the job should run. You can also choose from a variety of backup formats, among them Comodo’s own .CBU format, ZIP, and ISO. If you’re backing up a whole drive there’s an option to clone the entire drive to another drive, for example when upgrading for more capacity.

Other features are less visible. Volume Shadow Copy compatibility means Comodo can back up in-use files. You can choose your desired compression level, select from a half-dozen encryption algorithms, and even split the backup into multiple files for archiving to removable media. This is definitely a full-featured backup utility, not the afterthought found in some suites.

TrustConnect WiFi Protection
Comodo’s TrustConnect VPN works almost invisibly to keep you safe when you’re connected through a wireless network. It runs all your traffic through an encrypted secure session, so the hacker at the next table can’t “sniff” your traffic.

The standalone TrustConnect utility costs $3.99 per month and requires you to log in with a username and password. When I launched the version supplied with Comodo’s suite, it logged in automatically with pre-stored credentials. Nothing changed visibly, but checking my system’s IP address I found it was connecting through a Comodo server in London. There’s another benefit—hiding your IP address. Using TrustConnect is crazy simple; it’s a nice bonus.

Minor Performance Drag
Like the free Comodo suite, Comodo Internet Security Complete displayed a measurable effect in my performance tests. In fact, the results were almost identical, differing by no more than one percentage point.

On the plus side, real-time protection didn’t slow any file operations appreciably. My file move/copy test took 8 percent longer with Comodo active than with no suite, and my file zip/unzip test took 7 percent longer. Recent suites averaged 22 and 16 percent respectively in these two tests.

Adding Comodo to the test system increased boot time by 25 percent. That’s almost twice the average value for current suites. However, 25 percent longer still isn’t all that long.

More significantly, a script that times full loading of 100 websites took 35 percent longer with Comodo’s Web security components at work. I also observed a slowdown in my antiphishing test. When I launched the same URL simultaneously on three systems, the one protected by Comodo consistently finished behind the others. Even so, I don’t think I would have noticed a slowdown without the other two PCs for comparison.

For details on my security suite performance tests see How We Test Security Suites for Performance.

Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 performance chart

An Excellent Choice
Despite the name, Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 doesn’t offer the complete range of security suite components. In particular, it doesn’t include spam filtering or parental control. On the other hand, not everyone needs those components. Its unusual GeekBuddy service will solve any security problems or other PC problems you may encounter, its backup component is unusually powerful and flexible, and its easy-to-use TrustConnect VPN protects your Internet connection on unsecured WiFi networks.

I’m not entirely pleased with the Behavior Blocker component preventing installation of valid programs, and SecureDNS didn’t handle brand-new phishing URLs very well, but overall this is a very good suite. With GeekBuddy support, the Virus-Free Guarantee, and reimbursement against the cost of identity theft, Comodo takes care of your security more actively than the competition. It joins Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2013 and Norton Internet Security (2013) as an Editors’ Choice for security suite. 

Sub-ratings:
Firewall:
Virus removal:
Virus blocking:
Performance:
Antispam: n/a
Privacy:
Parental Control: n/a

More Security suite reviews:

Specifications
Tech Support Online support, live support and community support.
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7
Type Business, Personal, Professional

Verdict
The biggest win for Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 isn't in features, but in support. The GeekBuddy service fixes any problem, security or otherwise, using remote assistance. A Virus-Free Guarantee reimburses you for damage if malware gets past Comodo; you can also get reimbursed for expenses related to identity theft. Add a GeekBuddy-powered tuneup tool and an unusually powerful backup utility and you've got a winner.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc