A typical security suite includes antivirus protection, a firewall, spam filtering, parental control, and detection of phishing websites. Some add more; some omit a few. Panda Internet Security 2014 ($59.99 per year direct; $69.99 for three licenses) looks great, and it has all of those expected features, but it just doesn’t measure up to the competition.
With the 2013 edition, Panda had already embraced oversized button/panels as its user interface norm. This year’s edition goes a step further, switching to flat buttons in bold colors and varying sizes, exactly like what you find in Windows 8. It’s certainly a distinctive look, and will fit right in on a Windows 8 installation.
The suite adds antiphishing protection not found in the standalone antivirus, but standard antivirus protection is exactly the same. Please read my review of Panda Antivirus Pro 2014 for full details; I’ll summarize here.
Almost all of the labs that I follow include Panda in their testing, and it gets decent marks overall. A spate of false positives in testing by AV-Comparatives dragged down its aggregate score a bit, to three stars. A few products, notably Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) and Kaspersky Internet Security (2014) earn top scores across the board. For an explanation of how I boil down many different tests to an overall lab score, see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.
Panda Internet Security 2014 lab tests chart
When I challenged Panda to detect and block over 100 very recent malicious downloads, it didn’t do so well, catching just 17 percent. The best score in this test so far is 79 percent, earned by avast! Internet Security 2014.
In my local malware-blocking test, Panda detected 89 percent of the malware samples and earned 8.9 points. It completely blocked installation of every threat that it managed to detect. Top score among products tested with this same malware collection is a perfect 10 of 10 points by VIPRE Internet Security 2014. For full details on how I arrive at the scores in the chart below, see How We Test Malware Blocking.
Panda Internet Security 2014 malware blocking chart
Panda is well equipped to handle resistant malware that prevents installation or interferes with scanning. If Panda Cloud Cleaner, Panda’s online scanner, and the bootable USB or CD antivirus all fail, you can get help from tech support, including remote-control diagnostics and repair. A higher level of paid tech support is also available.
Where many vendors reserve firewall protection for their suite product, Panda includes it with the antivirus. In testing, its program control component detected just one of a dozen leak-test programs. When I attacked with over 30 exploits generated by the CORE Impact penetration tool, the firewall component actively blocked just one.
Panda protects its processes from termination and prevents modification of its essential Registry settings; an attacker would just get “Access Denied.” I did manage to disable its Windows services thoroughly enough that its recovery module couldn’t restore them. A malware coder could do the same, though it would be complicated.
Panda’s firewall is a nice bonus addition to the antivirus, but as a core suite component it leaves a bit to be desired.
Other Shared Features
Panda’s unusual USB vaccine can modify any USB drive in a way that prevents malware from using that drive to propagate. It will also “vaccinate” your PC by disabling the autoplay feature that malware needs. A virtual keyboard lets you enter passwords with no chance of capture by a keylogger. To avoid capture screen-scraping spyware, the virtual keyboard can deploy a flock of decoy cursors.
A handy network map shows all of the computers on your network, with a Panda icon identifying those that have Panda software installed. You can view the overall security status and update status for remote computers, but if there’s a problem you’ll have to walk over to the remote computer and fix it.
Poor Phishing Protection
As noted, Panda reserves phishing protection for the full security suite. I tested its ability to detect very recent phishing URLs and divert the unwary user from these frauds. It did block some of the undeniable fraudulent sites, but missed quite a few. Panda’s detection rate for this particular collection of URLs lagged 40 percentage points behind that of Norton Internet Security (2014).
It’s worth noting that hardly any antiphishing solutions do as well as Norton. Just three suites have beaten Norton’s accuracy in current tests. Bitdefender and Kaspersky PURE 3.0 Total Security managed three percentage points better than Norton; Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) beat Norton by two percentage points.
For a full run-down on how I obtain the very freshest, newest phishing URLs and score this test, please read How We Test Antiphishing.
Panda Internet Security 2014 antiphishing chart
You configure antiphishing on the Identity Protection tab. Here you’ll also find an option to prevent transmission of confidential data out of your PC. You can add bank accounts, passwords, credit cards, or other sensitive data to the confidential information database. Your entries are stored in encrypted form and never revealed, but Panda will block attempts by malware (or a kid with bad judgment) to transmit the private data.
If your PC has a modem attached to a phone line, it’s conceivable that dialer-type malware could steal money from you by dialing premium phone numbers. In that case, you can define permitted phone numbers and have Panda prevent all other calls. This feature seems a bit dated to me, but I suppose some will find it useful.
Dismal Spam Filtering
I maintain a real-world email account that gets a ton of spam and also gets plenty of valid mail. To make testing easier, this account goes into eight mailboxes, not just one. Any time I need to test a spam filter, I install it, configure it, and let it download all the mail from one of those eight mailboxes. After discarding mail more than a month or so old, I analyze the rest.
I sort the Inbox into valid personal mail, valid bulk mail, and undeniable spam, discarding any messages that don’t clearly fit one of those three categories. After doing the same for the spam folder, I run the numbers. Panda’s score was really bad last year, but it managed to do even worse this year.
Over 30 percent of undeniable spam made its way into the Inbox (last year that figure was a bit under 20 percent). Far worse than that, it put two-thirds of the valid personal messages into the spam folder. That’s not going to help anybody. Norton and McAfee Internet Security 2014 didn’t block any valid mail, and missed less than four percent of the spam. Kaspersky blocked a few valid newsletters but missed just 2.5 percent of the spam. If spam filtering is important to you, don’t rely on Panda. For a more detailed explanation of my antispam testing techniques, see How We Test Antispam.
Panda Internet Security 2014 antispam chart
Rudimentary Parental Control
At its most basic, a parental control system is a porn filter, a system to keep your kids from accidentally (or purposefully) viewing the seamy side of the Internet. Like most parental control systems, Panda’s also lets parents filter out other types of inappropriate websites. Parents can choose from predefined filters, or pick and choose among 18 categories, including Gambling, Illegal, and Weapons, among others.
Panda does record all blocked sites, including the URL, the date and time, and the user involved. However, the report is seriously tough to read. With the columns at their default size, you can’t see the URL; with all columns widened to fit their contents, the report becomes much wider than its window, requiring serious horizontal scrolling.
The Web content filter is browser-independent, so your kids can’t evade it by using an off-brand browser. It doesn’t give in to the simple three-word network command that disabled parental control in Ad-Aware Total Security 11, BullGuard Internet Security (2014), and a few others. But since it can’t filter secure (HTTPS) connections, a clever teen can opt out of parental control using any secure anonymizing proxy website.
And here, we come to the end of Panda’s parental control. It doesn’t attempt to control when (or for how long) your kids can surf the Web. There’s no IM tracking or control, no limiting games to appropriate ESRB levels, no social network tracking—Web content filtering is all you get. If you really need your suite to provide parental control, consider Bitdefender, Kaspersky, or Norton.
Small Performance Hit
Subjectively, I felt that my testing activities on Panda-equipped virtual machines were running a bit slow. However, my real-world performance tests didn’t support this feeling. Averaging 100 reboots with no suite and 100 with Panda installed, I found that the boot time increased by just 16 percent, well below the current suite average of 25 percent.
Some suites slow simple file manipulation activities due to real-time scanning. Not Panda. A script that moves and copies many, many huge files too just 1 percent longer under Panda’s supervision. Another script that zips and unzips those same files took 32 percent longer. In both cases, the slowdown figure comes from averaging many test runs.
With relatively low figures like these, you shouldn’t perceive any system sluggishness due to Panda’s activities. On the other hand, if your aim is the lowest possible impact, you might consider Webroot or TrustPort Internet Security 2014, both of which scored very well in this test.
Not the Best
Panda’s antivirus gets good scores from the labs; eliminating false positives would bring those scored up. It earned a decent score in my local malware blocking test but failed my malicious URL blocking test. The antiphishing component missed quite a bit, and the spam filter really bombed. The firewall, while it seemed a nice bonus in the standalone antivirus, just isn’t powerful enough to bring up this suite’s score. As for parental control, it’s seriously limited.
For an inexpensive suite without antispam or parental control, you might consider Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013. All the components of Norton Internet Security (2014), also an Editors’ Choice, do a consistently good job. Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) or Kaspersky Internet Security (2014) could also be a good choice.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc