Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.0 review

Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.0 combines a so-so antivirus and a not-so-hot firewall. That's it, other than a few experts-only tools. You'll do better choosing one of our Editors' Choice suites.
Photo of Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.0

The vast majority of security suite vendors offer a standalone antivirus for basic security, then add at least a firewall to create their security suite. Most go further, adding some combination of spam filtering, parental control, and other features to build a security suite. Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.0 ($49.95 per year direct; $59.95 for three licenses) takes the minimalist route. Except for a handful of bonus tools aimed at techno-geniuses, it’s strictly antivirus plus firewall. Unfortunately, neither is very good.

The current edition isn’t visibly different from its predecessor; all the enhancements are hidden. It now includes a number of features designed to help with installation on a malware-infested system, including a bootable rescue CD. According to the Agnitum website, it also boasts a major upgrade to its URL blacklisting feature.

Features Shared with Both
This suite is precisely a combination of Outpost Antivirus Pro 9.0 and Outpost Firewall Pro 9.0. For a full understanding of its ups and downs, you should read both of those reviews. I’m just going to summarize here.

Both products include behavior-monitoring components named System Guard and Anti-Leak. In the default Auto-learn mode, both features assume all programs are trusted, so they not only allow all actions, they create rules to allow those action in the future. If you disable Auto-learn, you’ll get a cannonade of popups flagging behaviors by good and bad programs alike. These features aren’t terribly helpful.

Both products include ID Block, a feature designed to prevent illicit or inadvertent transmission of user-defined private data. ID Block can either replace private data with asterisks or block the connection entirely. Because it can’t filter HTTPS traffic, it’s of limited utility.

Firewall Features
The firewall stealths all ports and resists port scans and other Web-based attacks. You can set it to report detected port scans, and to block all traffic from an attacking site for a specified length of time. It’s also tough. A malicious program couldn’t disable it by turning it off in the Registry, killing its processes, or interfering with its services.

When I attacked the test system using exploits generated by the CORE Impact penetration tool, Outpost didn’t detect or block a single one. For full-scale exploit protection, Norton Internet Security (2014) is the best I’ve seen. Kaspersky Internet Security (2014) also does a good job.

In the initial Auto-learn mode, the program control component assumes all programs are trusted, allows all types of Internet and network access, and creates rules to continue allowing access, just as with the behavior-monitoring components. When you disable Auto-learn, the firewall’s Rules Wizard mode makes you responsible for security. Any time it sees an access attempt for which no rule exists, it forces you to decide whether to allow it.

Firewalls that use this old-fashioned ask-the-user security mode can be vulnerable to techniques that hide the existence of a connection; leak test programs demonstrate these techniques without including a malicious payload. Between the firewall and System Guard, Outpost caught almost all of the leak tests. ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 2013 detected every single one, as did F-Secure Internet Security 2014.

The firewall blocks ads from a long list of advertising sites by default, and also blocks images matching certain standard ad sizes. It will also block access to sites that contain any user-specified keywords. And the Application Guard feature protects browsers and other programs against interference by other processes.

A page of tools includes viewers for network activity, active ports, and online activity. A process activity monitor offers much more detailed tracking than you’d get from Task Manager. There’s also a tool to track file and Registry activity. High-tech experts may get some use out of these tools, but they’re a bit arcane for the average user.

Antivirus Features
When possible, I refer to the many independent antivirus testing labs for information about a product’s capabilities. Alas, Outpost only shows up in test results by one lab, Virus Bulletin. It was included in six of the last 12 tests and received VB100 certification in five of those. That’s not remotely enough information to assign an aggregate lab tests rating. The chart below summarizes recent test results. For a full explanation of how I derive the star ratings, see see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.0 lab tests chart

The change history for the current version mentions improved blocking of malware-hosting URLs and other dangerous sites, but I didn’t see this in testing. In fact, Outpost turned in the lowest score ever in my malicious URL blocking test. It didn’t block any malware downloads at the URL level, and caught just 8 percent after download. Top scorer avast! Premier 2014 blocked 79 percent, most at the URL level.

Outpost also lagged in my hands-on malware blocking test. It detected 91 percent of my samples, but several managed to drop executable files on the test system, and one even managed to run despite Outpost’s blocking attempts. With an overall score of 8.5, Outpost lags behind most of the competition. Among products tested with this same malware colletion, VIPRE Internet Security 2014 did best, with a perfect 10 points. F-Secure Internet Security 2014, Avira Ultimate Protection Suite (2014), and several others managed 9.4 points.

For a full explanation of my testing methods, please read see How We Test Malware Blocking.

Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.0 malware blocking chart

This edition offers several new features to aid installation on a system with persistent or resistant malware. It can install and scan in Safe Mode, it now offers a bootable rescue CD, and tech support can supply a no-install scanner, plus diagnostic tools.

For the worst cases, many products will resort to remote-control remediation by a support agent; among these are Norton and Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014). Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 goes beyond, making remote-control diagnosis and remediation by the GeekBuddy service a first step rather than a last resort. Agnitum hasn’t gone that route; support is specifically via email and online forums.

Small Performance Impact
The days of bloated security suites hogging CPU cycles and bogging down normal system operation are long gone. My hands-on performance tests showed only a small impact by Outpost. Even so, it slowed things more than most of the competition. That surprised me a bit, given that it omits many features found in other suites.

My boot-time test measures the span of time between the start of the boot process and the time that the computer is ready for use. I averaged 100 runs with no suite installed and 100 runs with Outpost’s protection active. Adding Outpost slowed the boot process by 26 percent, which is precisely the average for current suites.

A script that moves and copies a monster collection of big files between drives took 17 percent longer with Outpost active. Another script that repeatedly zips and unzips that same file collection took 20 percent longer. Both of these figures are higher than the current suite average, but not by much. The chart below summarizes recent results. For a more detailed explanation of my testing methods, see How We Test Security Suites for Performance.

Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.0 performance chart

That’s All She Wrote
Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.0 qualifies as a security suite, but just barely. Other than a few expert-level bonus tools, it consists of just an antivirus and a firewall, neither of which is rock-star quality.

At $59.95 for three licenses, it is less expensive than  Bitdefender Total Security (2014) or Editors’ Choice Norton Internet Security (2014). However, Norton gives you all expected suite components and Bitdefender, a “mega-suite,” offers much, much more.

Like Outpost, Editors’ Choice Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 omits antispam and parental control, but includes backup, a VPN client, and a virus-free guarantee backed by Comodo’s GeekBuddy service. All that, and it costs just $39.99. I can’t see a reason to purchase Outpost’s suite.

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

Specifications
Tech Support Email and self-support forum
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8
Type Business, Personal, Professional

Verdict
Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.0 combines a so-so antivirus and a not-so-hot firewall. That's it, other than a few experts-only tools. You'll do better choosing one of our Editors' Choice suites.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc