Comodo Internet Security Premium 7 review

Despite the word "Premium" in its name, Comodo Internet Security Premium 7 is free. However, you'd be better off combining the free Comodo Firewall 7 with a top free antivirus.
Photo of Comodo Internet Security Premium 7

Everybody should be running an antivirus and a firewall, for basic computer protection. You can pick and choose separate components, or you can get an integrated security suite. With some suites, you get a whole raft of additional components, such as parental control, spam filtering, and more. Comodo Internet Security Premium 7 keeps things simple. It merges precisely the features you find in Comodo’s standalone antivirus and firewall product—no more and no less. And despite the “Premium” in the name, it’s free.

Technically the names of Comodo’s free products don’t include a version number. To help distinguish current reviews from previous ones, I’ve added the version number of Comodo’s paid products, currently at version 7. Switching away from year-based versioning will give Comodo the option of updating more than once per year, according to my contact.

If you’ve been following my Comodo reviews, you won’t be surprised to learn that this suite’s main window looks almost exactly like that of the firewall and antivirus. Tiles of different sizes report overall security status, and most can be clicked to reveal more details. Switching to the advanced view reveals all of the details. You can also flip the main window over to work with the list of tasks on the back. For those who miss the old “big circle” user interface, switching to Classic View will bring it back.

Features Shared by All
Comodo Internet Security is precisely a mashup of Comodo Antivirus 7 and Comodo Firewall 7. Quite a few features are common to all three products. Before going further, please read the two previous reviews, as I’m just going to summarize here.

The Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS) prevents unknown programs from meddling with sensitive system areas. When it detects a possibly dangerous action, it asks the user whether to allow it, block it (and optionally terminate the program), or treat it as a particular kind of application such as an installer.

Running an application in Comodo’s sandbox limits its ability to make permanent changes to your system. There are degrees of sandbox protection, but any changes made by a program that’s fully sandboxed will vanish when you reset the sandbox.

On the Behavior Blocker page, you can set Comodo to automatically sandbox any unknown programs. By default it uses the “Partially Limited” sandbox mode; you can change that if you wish. This page also controls the new Viruscope feature, which isn’t fully active yet. When Viruscope is up to speed, it will detect malware based on behavior patterns. Viruscope is designed to roll back any changes that were made by a program it later determines to be malicious, much the way Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) does.

Sandbox, HIPS, and Behavior Blocker are lumped together under the heading Defense+, which is included in the firewall, antivirus, and suite. All three also include a scanner that tells you Comodo’s trust rating for every active program on your system.

A desktop widget displays security status and offers quick access to important tasks. From the widget, one click will launch any of your browsers in the sandbox. Comodo installs its own hardened browser, Comodo Dragon, which comes with website inspection and a Do Not Track tool. For a fully sandboxed session that vanishes when you shut it down, try the virtual desktop.

Expert users will have a field day with the advanced tools. If a scan with Comodo Cleaning Essentials doesn’t handle persistent malware, you can up the ante by creating a bootable Rescue CD. The Killswitch process monitor provides extremely detailed information about what’s running on the computer, and its associated Autorun Analyzer identifies every program that launches when Windows starts. Once again, everything I’ve mentioned so far is present in the firewall, antivirus, and security suite.

Configuration Variation
HIPS is enabled in the firewall, but not in the antivirus or suite. Automatic sandboxing of unknown programs is enabled in the antivirus and suite, but not in the firewall. I can see why you wouldn’t want both. When I tried to install 20 ancient PCMag utilities, all but a handful were flagged by HIPS for various suspect behaviors. One utility triggered 18 popups; the average was over five popups per utility.

The same test under the suite produced quite a different result. To start, it identified two of the utilities as malware. That’s bad! It offered to run almost all of the remaining utilities in sandbox isolation. Accepting that offer caused problems with installation or operation in well over half of the utilities. If you’re the kind of person that often runs oddball, non-mainstream programs, you’ll probably be tempted to turn off these features.

When an unknown program attempts Internet access, the standalone firewall pops up an alert and asks whether or not to allow it. Comodo trusts programs digitally signed by a huge number of vendors, so there won’t be too many unknowns. However, the firewall within the suite is configured to skip the popups and just allow all access. I’m not kidding!

That’s similar to what Outpost Firewall Pro 9.0 and TinyWall 2.1 do, except that they also create a rule to always allow access. If you choose to install Comodo Internet Security, I strongly recommend that you change this setting. Until you do, the firewall’s program control is impotent. Give that few users will realize they need to do this, I’ve knocked the suite’s firewall rating down by half a star, to four stars.

There are differences in the firewall’s Global Rules, too, but I’m not enough of a firewall expert to interpret what those differences mean. As far as I can see the standalone antivirus and the antivirus within the suite use the same default configuration.

Shared Firewall Features
Comodo’s firewall does a fine job protecting your system from outside attack, and the standalone firewall unusually good at detecting attempts to subvert program control. Note that in the suite you won’t get the latter protection unless you take my advice and turn off the setting that suppresses popups.

I managed to set the firewall’s essential services so they’d be disabled after reboot, but the program detected and fixed the problem. On the other hand, I couldn’t disable ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall 2015′s services even temporarily.

Like ZoneAlarm, Comodo doesn’t attempt to block exploit attacks at the network level. That’s something more typically found in major suites. Norton Internet Security (2014) and Kaspersky Internet Security (2014) are particularly good at blocking exploits.

Comodo’s Web filtering component, found in the suite and firewall, claims to include detection of phishing websites. In my hands-on testing, it didn’t do anything at all. The minimal blocking of phishing websites that did occur was handled by Comodo SecureDNS. With a detection rate 89 percentage points behind Norton’s, Comodo is nearly at the bottom. ZoneAlarm, by contrast, did quite well, lagging Norton by just nine points. Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) and Kaspersky PURE 3.0 Total Security actually beat Norton by three percentage points.

For a full explanation of how I obtain the very newest phishing URLs and score this test, see How We Test Antiphishing.

Comodo Internet Security Premium 7 Antiphishing Chart

Shared Antivirus Features
Comodo earned an excellent score in my hands-on malware blocking test, 9.9 of 10 possible points. Only VIPRE Internet Security 2014 did better, with a perfect 10.

Comodo didn’t fare nearly as well in my malicious URL blocking test, which uses a feed of extremely new malware URLs supplied by MRG-Effitas. The standalone antivirus detected just 20 percent of those samples. SecureDNS blocked one URL. For the rest, Comodo intervened during the download process to wipe out the executable payload.

Given that Comodo Internet Security includes Web filtering, I thought it might do better. I re-ran the test, using a new set of 100 samples no more than a few hours old. The results hardly differed. The suite blocked 21 percent of these samples, all of them during the download process. To learn more about my malware blocking tests, see How We Test Malware Blocking.

Comodo Internet Security Premium 7 Malware Blocking Chart

Comodo doesn’t participate with all of the antivirus testing labs that I track. My Comodo contact explained that they don’t see value in the detection-only tests performed by some labs. The labs that do include Comodo give them a wide range of ratings. I’ve aggregated and summarized recent lab results in the chart below. For details about the labs, the tests, and the way I come up with the chart, see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

Comodo Internet Security Premium 7 Lab Tests Chart

Noticeable Effect on Boot Time
Every time I install a security suite, I note how long the installation took and I measure free disk space before and after. Most times there’s not much to report, but I noted that Comodo’s installation occupied over 1GB of disk space, nearly twice the average. That’s a little surprising, given the minimalist set of suite components. Bitdefender Total Security (2014) takes even more disk space, but it contains every suite feature imaginable.

Before starting my hands-on performance tests, I had already noticed that it took quite a long time for Comodo to visibly load at system startup. And indeed, my boot time test bore out this observation. I measure how long it takes from the start of the boot process until the computer is ready to use, defined as ten seconds in a row with no more than five percent CPU usage. Averaging 100 tests with no suite and 100 with Comodo installed, I found the boot process took 66 percent longer under Comodo.

On the other hand, Comodo’s effect on file operations was minimal. A script that moves and copies a large collection of large files between drives took just four percent longer with Comodo installed. And it had almost no effect on the time required to repeatedly zip and unzip those files. Most people don’t reboot more than once a day, so Comodo’s effect on boot time isn’t such a big issue.

Even so, some products, notably Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete (2014) and TrustPort Internet Security 2014, displayed next to no impact on my performance tests. For more about how I perform these tests, see How We Test Security Suites for Performance.

Comodo Internet Security Premium 7 Performance Chart

At Least It’s Free
Comodo’s standalone firewall is an Editors’ Choice, but not Comodo Internet Security Premium 7. Poor antiphishing counts against it, and the antivirus protection overall is just average. If your security budget is nil, you’d do better by combining Comodo’s free firewall with a different free antivirus.

Better yet, scrape up the cash for a top-of-the-line security suite. Norton Internet Security (2014) is an Editors’ Choice. For a little more cash you can get a mega-suite that’s chock full of security goodies. In the mega-suite realm, Bitdefender Total Security (2014), Norton 360 (2014), and Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete (2014) share the Editors’ Choice honors.

Sub-ratings:
Firewall:
Antivirus:
Performance:
Antispam: n/a
Privacy:
Parental Control: n/a

Specifications
Tech Support Online, community-based, paid live support
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8
Type Personal
Free Yes

Verdict
Despite the word "Premium" in its name, Comodo Internet Security Premium 7 is free. However, you'd be better off combining the free Comodo Firewall 7 with a top free antivirus.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc