Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014 review

On top of the features in Trend Micro's entry-level suite, Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014 adds advanced parental control, password management, and online backup and file-sharing. However, only the backup system really shines.
Photo of Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014

There are two main reasons you’d choose to purchase a security suite rather than assemble a collection of individual security tools. First, it’s generally a lot less expensive. Second, having all of your security components integrated into one product tends to reduce the overall impact on performance. Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014 ($89.95 per year direct, for three licenses) is definitely cost-effective, but it’s not nearly as well-integrated as some of its competition.

This product is closer to a security bundle than an integrated suite. With a few exceptions, the main suite portion is identical to Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2014 ($79.95). For $10 more, the mega-suite adds Trend Micro DirectPass for password management ($14.95), Trend Micro SafeSync for online backup and file sharing ($39.95), and parental control from Trend Micro Online Guardian for Families ($49.95). Those components would cost over $100 if purchased separately.

On the other hand, DirectPass, SafeSync, and Online Guardian each require a full, separate installation process. Getting the whole suite installed took significantly longer than most. In addition, the four installations ate up an impressive amount of disk space—over a gigabyte!

Good at Blocking Malware Attack
The antivirus protection in this suite is precisely the same as what’s offered by Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus+ 2014, so you’d do well to read that review first. For this review, I’ll simply summarize my findings.

Trend Micro earned an impressive 9.2 out of 10 points in my malware blocking test. Of all products tested using my current collection of malware samples, only AVG Internet Security 2014 and Ad-Aware Pro Security 10.5 scored higher, both with 9.4 points. For more on how I perform and score this test, see How We Test Malware Blocking.

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014 malware blocking chart

Trend Micro was also especially effective at blocking access to dangerous websites; it blocked 95 percent of those I tried. It didn’t do as well when challenged to clean up a dozen malware-infested systems. Just getting it installed took a lot of back and forth with tech support. It scored 5.8 points overall, just so-so. Best scores in this test went to Bitdefender Total Security (2014), AVG, and Norton 360 (2014)with 6.6, 6.4, and 6.3 points respectively. The article How We Test Malware Removal explains how my malware removal test works.

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014 malware removal chart

Trend Micro skips traditional antivirus lab tests, but participates with the more innovative tests performed by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives. It gets good marks, especially in the whole-product real-world test by AV-Comparatives. The chart below summarizes recent test results; for more information about the tests, see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014 lab tests chart

Features Shared with the Antivirus
Trend Micro’s entry-level antivirus has a plus-sign in its name, for good reason. It offers quite a few security features beyond basic malware protection.

In testing, I found its behavior-based blocking system a bit hyperactive. It flagged quite a few PCMag utilities as suspicious and even quarantined one as malicious. I use a number of hand-coded utilities for testing and analysis; it quarantined every single one of them. I had to add them to the exclusions list in order to finish my testing.

The anti-phishing component, on the other hand, didn’t block any valid websites, and its accuracy was quite impressive. I compare phishing solutions against Norton, because Norton has a consistently high detection rate. Trend Micro came in just one percentage point behind Norton in my antiphishing test. The only suites that have beaten Norton in recent tests are Bitdefender and Kaspersky PURE 3.0 Total Security, both coming in three percentage points above Norton. My antiphishing test methodology is explained in the article see How We Test Antiphishing.

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014 antiphishing chart

Trend Micro’s spam filter also proved quite accurate. I analyze its treatment of over 5,000 recent real-world messages, including spam, valid personal mail, and valid bulk mail (newsletters and such). It didn’t slow email downloading the way McAfee Internet Security 2014 did. On the other hand, it erroneously blocked 1.5 percent of valid personal mail and 5.3 percent of valid bulk mail and it let 5.9 percent of spam into the Inbox. McAfee blocked no valid mail at all and missed just 3.7 percent of spam. For details on the way I analyze antispam accuracy, see How We Test Antispam.

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014 antispam chart

Trend Micro products rely on Windows Firewall to do the job it does so well, simply adding a “Firewall Booster” to help with network vulnerabilities. The booster doesn’t attempt to control what programs can access the network, but it did block over half of the exploit attacks I threw at it. In addition, it rebuffed all my attempts to disable protection the way a malicious program might.

Shared Suite Features
With so much protection in the entry-level antivirus, you might wonder just what Trend Micro could add to make a full security suite. Read my review of Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2014. I’ll summarize those shared features here.

The news media are full of stories about people getting themselves into trouble by failing to keep their social media interactions private. Keeping your settings straight can be tough, especially for Facebook, which keeps changing them. The Privacy Scanner will check your settings for Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. If you agree with its recommended changes, it will apply them automatically. Trend Micro also marks up links on social media pages to distinguish safe links from those that lead to trouble.

Data Theft Protection aims to prevent data-stealing Trojans from transmitting private data out of your PC; it can also help you avoid sending sensitive data accidentally. Just record the credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and so on that you want to protect. Trend Micro will prevent transmission via email and instant messaging, and also block them on “untrustworthy websites.”

The System Tuner component streamlines your system by removing useless and erroneous items and also clears away traces of your Internet and computer usage. You don’t get a clear report of just what it did, so if you suspect the cleanup caused a problem you’ll need to run System Restore.

Trend Micro Vault
The Trend Micro Vault is only found in the Maximum edition of the suite. It’s an encrypted storage location for your most sensitive files. When you’ve unlocked it with your password, you can treat it like any other folder, moving files into and out of it, editing files in place, and so on. When it’s locked, those files are completely inaccessible.

Bitdefender, AVG, and Kaspersky offer a similar feature, but with these products you define as many fixed-size secure folders as you want. Trend Micro just gives you one vault, but it’s not limited in size and it has one unique trick.

If your computer ever gets stolen, you can log on to McAfee’s website and “seal” the Vault. I tried it; shortly after I reported the test system stolen, it spontaneously rebooted (sorry, Mister Thief, did you forget to save your work?). On reboot, there was no evidence of the vault’s existence. Yet when I logged back into the online portal reported the test system as recovered, the vault reappeared right away.

When you move a sensitive file into the vault, you’ll want to take care that the original is securely deleted. The best technique is to copy that file into the vault and then use the Secure Erase feature to securely delete the original beyond any possibility of forensic file recovery. Note that the basic suite includes Secure Erase.

DirectPass Password Management
As noted, Trend Micro DirectPass requires a separate installation. During the install process you create a single, strong master password that will protect all of your other passwords.

Like most password managers, DirectPass captures login credentials as you enter them and offers to replay them when you revisit the same site. You can launch a saved website from the program’s main console or click the browser button and choose from a list. Note, though, that the items on the list can’t be sorted or categorized. If you have more than a dozen or so saved passwords you’ll need to use the handy search box. By default it will sync data on multiple devices, including iOS and Android devices, via your Trend Micro account.

DirectPass can import passwords from your browser, delete them from the browser, and stop the browser from offering to remember more passwords; that’s useful. It can also import passwords from password manager Editors’ Choice LastPass 2.0. It includes a built-in password generator. I was surprised, though, to find that it defaults to six-character passwords; eight is generally considered a minimum.

LastPass, Dashlane 2.0, RoboForm Everywhere 7, and others let you store personal information in multiple “identities” for use in filling Web forms. DirectPass only allows one identity profile.

In testing DirectPass’s ability to fill Web forms, I ran into a serious snag. When I clicked a field to enter data for an Amazon purchase, it offered to fill in my data. However, it filled the street address into almost every field, including the name, city, state, and ZIP fields.

DirectPass doesn’t include advanced features like two-factor authentication, shared credentials, or a password-strength report. However, it does have the unusual ability to open a secure browser when you navigate to a known financial site or other sensitive site. The secure browser is isolated from other processes that might attempt to steal your credentials. Alas, it didn’t kick in for bankofamerica.com, and you can’t invoke it manually.

DirectPass is effectively free with this suite, but LastPass is free regardless. I’d skip the separate installation of DirectPass and just go with the Editors’ Choice.

Trend Micro Online Guardian for Families
The entry-level Trend Micro suite comes with a very basic parental control system that doesn’t go much beyond Web content filtering and Internet time scheduling. Trend Micro Online Guardian for Families adds quite a bit more, but also comes with some really surprising flaws. As with DirectPass, you must install Online Guardian separately. On the plus side, if you don’t need parental control it doesn’t take up any space.

The vast majority of parental control systems allow per-child configuration using Windows accounts, with an option to apply one configuration to all users. Online Guardian takes a very different approach. From its online portal, you define up to five children, giving each a name, an icon, and a three digit code. Configuration rules are enforced by a small, local client, much in the way Norton Family works.

When Online Guardian is active, nobody can use the Internet without logging in. For kids, that means clicking on their name and entering that three-digit code. If you share the computer with your kids, you’ll need to disable Online Guardian while you’re using it. Don’t forget to re-enable when the kids come to play!

For each child, you can preconfigure Web content filtering by selecting an age range, or pick and choose among the categories. Normally I’d advise making sure to check “Hacking / Proxy Avoidance,” but since Online Guardian doesn’t filter secure (HTTPS) sites your high-tech teen will have no trouble evading parental control with a secure anonymizing proxy.

In truth, all a smart teen needs to do is use a browser other than Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome. It’s hard to believe, but Online Guardian is not browser-independent. I found that if I used an off-brand browser I could view any page at all. The standard blocking screen did appear, but it showed up in the default browser. This is really egregious.

You can set a schedule of permitted Internet times for weekdays and weekends, or tweak the schedule individually for each day of the week. There’s also an option to set a daily maximum. And you can define too-personal information that the kids aren’t allowed to send via Internet or instant messaging.

Online Guardian can monitor your child’s social networking activity on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr. Enabling this feature also enables monitoring Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger.

On my test system, I logged in as a child and tried to visit many inappropriate websites. Like McAfee, Online Guardian can only block a whole domain. I visited porn-themed Tumblr feeds with impunity, since they wouldn’t dare block all of Tumblr. Kaspersky and other smarter parental control systems actually check page content. So, for example, Kaspersky blocked only erotic stories on a short story site.

The social networking monitor can’t begin until the child logs in to each site. I logged in to Facebook and made a few comments, and logged in to Twitter to post a tweet. I viewed a couple YouTube videos and did some searching on Flickr. (I learned later that I would have had to actually log in for YouTube and Flickr activity to be monitored). I also engaged in a conversation using Yahoo Messenger.

I did receive a flurry of parental notification email messages. Every site-blocking event generated a new one. Clicking the link “Want fewer notifications?” took me to the configuration portal, but I didn’t see any choice between notifications on and notifications off.

A lengthy scrolling report page summarizes all activity for everyone, or for each child individually. The list of top websites visited, top five categories, and top five blocked categories filled in pretty quickly. Other areas didn’t do so well.

I deliberately searched on several dozen keywords, appropriate and otherwise. The report listed just two keywords. It didn’t report any Yahoo Messenger activity, or Twitter activity, even after I waited two days.

Online Guardian did manage to capture Facebook activity including the last week of Facebook wall activity, events, and messages. A page of Friends Recently Contacted was clearly meant to display images, but even after I waited 30 minutes, it didn’t.

I reviewed Trend Micro Online Guardian for Families when it came out a couple years ago. I concluded it was a “good first effort,” but I don’t see any progress since that time. If you actually need parental control software, try Editors’ Choice AVG Family Safety.

SafeSync Backup and Sharing
SafeSync requires another separate download and install process, but this one’s definitely worthwhile. Immediately on installation it creates a special SafeSync folder on your desktop. Anything you put into this folder will be synced to your 5GB of online storage, and also to the SafeSync folder on your other Trend Micro installations. But that’s just the beginning.

It’s a snap to add another folder; just right-click and choose SafeSync. While files are being uploaded, you’ll see a little double-arrow overlay on their icons. When the sync is complete, that changes to a green checkmark overlay.

If you stop there, all files in that folder will be backed up, and that’s good. But you can take the process a step further by associating the online folder with a folder on one of your other system that has Trend Micro installed. That will create a sync relationship, so any change to the contents of one folder propagates to the other.

The fun really begins when you log into your SafeSync files online. Whether or not you’re on a Trend Micro-equipped computer, you can download any file or folder and even edit document files directly. SafeSync retains earlier versions of changed files, so if you want to go back to last Tuesday’s version of a presentation, you can easily do that.

SafeSync also allows secure sharing of folders or individual files. You can simply copy/paste the generated link where you wish, or use a collection of buttons to post on social media sites or popular email services. For added security you can set a password, and define an expiration date for the link. You can even make it a one-use link, disabled after the recipient uses it.

Folders that contain image files or videos get special treatment. You can click a link to view all the media content slideshow-style in the SafeSync viewer.

This is not the comprehensive backup system found in Norton 360. It doesn’t back up specific file types, for one thing, and backup is strictly online. However, it’s a friction-free experience, so easy and fun that perhaps you’ll actually back up your important files.

Unusual Drain on Performance
A well-written integrated suite can cut down on system resource usage by sharing code between modules. Conversely, a loosely clustered suite of separate programs will almost certainly take more disk space than an integrated suite, and runs the risk of increased impact on system performance. As noted earlier, this suite takes over a gigabyte of disk space, and it slowed my hands-on performance tests more than most suites.

My boot time test queries Windows for the official start of the boot process and then checks CPU usage once each second. When ten seconds have gone by with five percent CPU usage or less, it concludes the boot process has finished. I averaged 100 runs with no suite and 100 with Trend Micro installed. It slowed the boot process by 15 percent, the same as the entry-level Trend Micro suite. That’s well below the current suite average of 23 percent.

On the other hand, you probably boot your computer no more than once each day. You (and the programs you work with) spend a lot more time manipulating, copying, and creating files and documents. For testing, my script takes a really large collection of files, many different types, and moves and copies them between disks. With all of Trend Micro Maximum’s components installed, that test took 55 percent longer than with no suite, over twice the current suite average of 21 percent.

Another script times how long it takes to move all those big files into and out of ZIP archives. Averaging many runs with and without Trend Micro installed, I found it slowed the process by a whopping 71 percent, more than any other current suite. It’s fortunate that simple move and copy operations happen much more than zip/unzip operations. Even so, Trend Micro’s impact on the file move/copy test was greater than all but one other recent suite.

Just to make sure everything was in order, I rolled the test system back to a drive image just prior to installing Trend Micro and re-ran the baseline measurements. The updated results were very close to the original.

A Break-Even Proposition
I don’t see a reason to install DirectPass or Online Guardian. If you need the functions offered by these utilities, you’re better off getting it elsewhere. SafeSync, on the other hand, is quite useful. Note, though, that the $39.95 price I quoted for standalone SafeSync gets you 20GB of online storage. The edition bundled in this suite gets 5GB, so one could say it’s worth $10. $10 is precisely the amount you pay to get the Maximum edition instead of the entry-level suite, so you’d at least break even.

Really, though, if you’re looking for a mega-suite, something that goes beyond the basic security suite, you’ll be better off with one of our Editors’ Choice products. Bitdefender Total Security (2014) has just about every feature you can imagine, and gets top scores from independent testing labs. Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2013 omits antispam and parental, but its backup and file-sharing system rivals SafeSync. Norton 360 (2014) falls somewhere between the two, and includes a comprehensive local/online backup system. Take your pick!

Sub-ratings:
Firewall:
Virus removal:
Virus blocking:
Performance:
Antispam:
Privacy:
Parental Control:

Specifications
Type Business, Personal, Professional

Verdict
On top of the features in Trend Micro's entry-level suite, Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014 adds advanced parental control, password management, and online backup and file-sharing. However, only the backup system really shines.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc