The arms race between malware creators and anti-malware software companies is at an epic stage. As the hackers become richer and smarter, security software developers find it increasingly difficult to keep one step ahead when using traditional methods of local protection such as signature scanning, heuristic analysis and so on.
Trend Micro is one of several companies starting to investigate a new approach that, in effect, uses the idea of crowdsourcing to offload the core database duties from the PC to the web, and Titanium Maximum Security 2011 is its first consumer product to use this technology.
This cloud-based approach to protection in theory allows the software on the PC to be much less resource-hogging. Instead of keeping a list of virus signatures on your PC that needs updating regularly, the software uses a remote server that stores a constantly-updated database of threats gathered from Trend Micro’s own malware research and from those encountered by other users of the software. In this way, the service can identify possible threats and block them before they are even downloaded to the PC. Trend calls this system its Smart Protection Network.
Given that we’re seeing significant decreases in the time period between traditional malware database updates (every couple of hours is not unexceptional, and some can be several times per hour), anything that reduces those annoying ‘updates are being downloaded’ messages every time you boot up a PC is to be welcomed. A pop-up when launching the control interface proclaims ‘Never click an update button again’, so it’s slightly puzzling to see a ‘Check for Program Updates’ link on the notification area icon, until you realise that’s just for client software updates, not the virus database.
It was quite odd not seeing any ‘signatures last updated on…’ messages in the status screen, but a check confirmed that the program was securely connected via two HTTPS links to Trend’s remote server. The program also adds what it calls a ‘firewall booster’ to the standard Windows Firewall, but it’s not explicit about what this actually does.
There’s nothing remarkable about the program’s main interface; it’s clearly arranged with links to settings and the other bundled tools. Parental Controls allow category-based blacklists (preset or custom lists, but you can’t change the categories or add specific websites) and usage scheduling. System Tune Up is a fairly standard cleanup utility that duplicates a lot of Windows’ own Disk Cleanup tool plus a few other items such as cookies, file lists and instant messaging histories.
Secure Erase is just a secure file deletion tool, but more interesting is the Data Theft Prevention module. This lets you block the entry of almost any kind of text information (such as names, credit card numbers or phone numbers) into email or instant messages. Most popular email programs and IM clients are supported.
An add-on browser toolbar gives you live security ratings for search results and links in webmail, plus there’s an anti-spam toolbar for Microsoft email clients. Laptop users might be interested in the Micro Vault, a special encrypted, password-protected folder that can be locked remotely in the case of laptop theft or loss. If this folder is sealed, even the password will not work until it is unsealed if the laptop is recovered. A Wi-Fi Advisor also lets you know if you’re connecting to dodgy hotspots with suspicious credentials. Finally, there’s an online backup service with 10GB of free storage from Humyo (now owned by Trend Micro).
In use we found the program unobtrusive and pretty miserly on resources: five services were installed taking up about 50MB of RAM in total and just a few percent of CPU time. Quick scans were rapid, and even during full disk scans this only went up to about 100MB and 40 percent CPU usage, leaving the PC still responsive enough for undemanding tasks.
Maximum Security is the flagship version, but three cheaper Titanium products with fewer add-ons are also available: Internet Security 2011 (£39.95 inc. VAT), Antivirus+ 2001 (£29.95 inc. VAT) and Security for Netbooks (£29.95 inc. VAT).
Company: Trend Micro
Contact: 01628 400500