In recent years all the big names in Internet security software have added ‘all-in-one’ products to their ranges. Each new release sees more features being added to these packages (with some exceptions), and the latest 2007 release of F-Secure Internet Security follows that trend.
Last year’s incarnation of the program offered core facilities: firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam and parental control software. These are now joined by F-Secure’s trademarked DeepGuard technology, a process that involves constantly monitoring program activity on the host PC, the aim being to detect and prohibit suspicious program behaviour from code that may have slipped under the fence during real-time monitoring. Personally, we’d rather have a better fence.
The upshot is that after installing the program you can expect constant interruptions to your work for the next few days as warning messages pop up to tell you that such-and-such a program has made a ‘system modification attempt’, when all it is doing is the job it was designed for. You then have to stop what you’re doing to give the offending program the green light, but once placed on the safe list a program can run unhindered, and the warning pop-ups soon cease.
What doesn’t cease is a performance penalty that affects everyday operations and makes the host PC slower to boot into Windows. The performance penalty is difficult to quantify and not significant on a fast Core 2 Duo system, but it’s irritating on an older PC such as a 2GHz Athlon. Booting into Windows takes 30 seconds longer than when using a stand-alone anti-virus product, and while this doesn’t sound like much, it’s enough to rankle.
Installing the program is straightforward and the only significant decision to be made is whether to install for adult users only, or for adults and children. Separate browsing regimes are imposed on teenagers and younger children, with teenagers being given relative freedom to browse where they like, subject to content filtering, while younger children are restricted to browsing only those sites placed on a safe list by the parent. Time-locks can be used to bar access to the Internet at certain times of day.
Establishing a list of safe sites for young children needs to be done manually, but the default settings for everything else are fine for most users. The program integrates seamlessly with Outlook and Outlook Express and can be configured to work with other e-mail clients that support e-mail filtering based on header information.
Phishing e-mails are detected and moved to a separate folder, but during our evaluation two genuine e-mails from eBay were incorrectly identified as phishing attempts. Spam detection was much better, with none of 150 test spam messages escaping detection, and very few false positives; a big improvement on the performance of the 2006 version.
The firewall is of the packet-filtering type with stateful packet inspection, intrusion prevention and data leak detection. It can be configured in the usual way to permit specific inbound services to use designated ports.
The real-time anti-virus and spyware detection facilities are excellent, with signatures being kept current by daily automated updates. There is the option of automated rootkit detection (at the expense of speed), and there’s a Web traffic scanner that identifies threats such as embedded malware. Supplementing the real-time scanners are the usual on-demand scans for embedded viruses and spyware.
The scanner missed only two of the twenty spyware threats we planted on the hard disk (both key loggers), but this is par for the course and is why it’s always better to run spyware scans using several products instead of relying on one. Unfortunately F-Secure Internet Security detected Ad-Aware, another anti-spyware package, on our system and insisted on removing it during installation.
Most of the key settings and controls are just one click away from the main menu, and another nice touch is that the program CD can also be used as a bootable emergency CD to scan – but not repair – any computer.
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