VIPRE Antivirus 2014 review

VIPRE Antivirus 2014 has a new publisher, ThreatTrack Security, spun off from GFI last year. The product itself hasn't changed much; it remains in that shadowy good-not-great area.
Photo of VIPRE Antivirus 2014

Just about every current antivirus program comes as a yearly subscription. Once a year you must remember to renew—or consider jumping ship to a different antivirus. At $39.99 per year, VIPRE Antivirus 2014 matches that trend. However, where most competitors offer a three-license pack, ThreatTrack will sell you ten VIPRE licenses for $59.99. And if you really want to get out of yearly renewals, $79.99 will buy a license that lasts as long as your PC does. It might not be the absolute best antivirus, but VIPRE may well have the best pricing.

VIPRE (Virus Intrusion Protection Remediation Engine) started life as a product of Sunbelt Software, which was later bought by Malta-based GFI Software. GFI in turn spun off VIPRE development to a new company called ThreatTrack last year. Its overall appearance has changed a bit over the years, matching the modern “flat” user interface style, but if you’ve used any previous version you’ll find it familiar.

The product’s main window displays current security status along with statistics on how many threats VIPRE has detected and eliminated. It lets you know clearly just how much longer your subscription will last, and offers a button to call up the new Facebook scanning feature.

So-So Lab Results
I consider the test results reported by independent antivirus labs to be quite important. These labs have the resources to perform lengthy and detailed tests well beyond my own hands-on testing. Nearly all of the labs I follow include VIPRE in their testing, but it doesn’t get the best results.

ICSA Labs and West Coast Labs both certify VIPRE’s ability to detect malware. ThreatTrack submitted VIPRE for testing in eight of the last twelve tests by Virus Bulletin; it achieved VB100 certification in six of those eight tests. It earned an ADVANCED rating in the standard file detection test by AV-Comparatives, but false positives in that lab’s retrospective test meant VIPRE got no certification at all, rating merely TESTED. VIPRE’s aggregate detection sore is two stars.

When AV-Test evaluated the product, they didn’t come up with any false positives, so VIPRE earned 6.0 of 6.0 possible points for usability. However, false positives dragged down every score in AV-Comparatives’s tests, so VIPRE also rates two stars for false positives.

As for actually cleaning detected malware, ICSA Labs does certify VIPRE’s cleaning ability. In an AV-Comparatives test specifically aimed at thorough malware cleanup, VIPRE rated STANDARD, meaning it passed.

Once you get past any necessary initial cleanup, protection against new attacks is perhaps the most important feature of an antivirus. AV-Test assigned VIPRE just 3.5 of 6.0 possible points for protection. In the dynamic real-world protection test performed by AV-Comparatives, VIPRE rated STANDARD. VIPRE also earned 3.5 of 6.0 points and a STANDARD rating in performance tests by those two labs.

By contrast, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (2014) and Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014) took near-perfect scores in all of the lab tests that I follow. For a more detailed explanation of how I boil down multiple tests into star ratings, please see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

VIPRE Antivirus 2014 lab tests chart

Blocking Malicious Downloads
To start my hands-on testing, I downloaded a list of very recent malicious URLs from a feed graciously supplied by British testing firm MRG-Effitas. I filtered out any that didn’t point directly to a malicious executable; that still left thousands of URLs no more than a few hours old.

Next I launched each URL and noted whether VIPRE completely prevented the browser from accessing the URL, allowed access to the URL but wiped out the downloaded file, or did nothing. Quite a few of the URLs had already degraded to “page not found,” but I continued until I had recorded results for over 100 valid malicious URLs.

VIPRE blocked 14 percent at the URL level, denying the browser access, and wiped out another 25 percent at some point during the download process. At 39 percent, it’s running a little below the average of programs I’ve tested this way. avast! Free Antivirus 2014 has the best detection rate, 79 percent. Ad-Aware Total  Security 11 came in second with 68 percent, outperforming Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 11, which only blocked 45 percent.

Just to see what would happen, I waited 24 hours, updated malware definitions, and let VIPRE scan the files downloaded in the previous test. It wiped out exactly one more file.

Blocking Older Malware
When I pulled out my standard malware-blocking test, using malware samples that are many months old, VIPRE turned in a completely different performance. As soon as I opened the folder containing samples, it started wiping them out. In a fairly short time it eliminated every single one of the samples; that’s a first, for this malware collection.

I also checked its reaction to another folder containing hand-modified versions of all the same samples. For each piece of malware, I changed the filename, appended nulls to change the size, and tweaked some non-executable bytes. Interestingly, VIPRE didn’t wipe these out “on sight,” but as soon as I single-clicked a file it began its analysis. Once I clicked every file in the folder, VIPRE eliminated all but two. That’s impressive.

The chart below summarizes results from both the malicious URLs test and the local malware blocking test. For details on how I perform these tests, see How We Test Malware Blocking.

VIPRE Antivirus 2014 malware blocking chart

Phishing Protection Not So Hot
Phishing websites appear, hang around long enough to gather security credentials from a few gullible victims, and then shut down, only to reappear with a different URL later. A security product that’s going to actually protect users from being vicitmized needs to handle the very latest frauds. As in the recent malicious URLs test, VIPRE didn’t do so well.

I kept testing using reported (but not yet verified) phishing URLs until I had 100 that were definitely attempting to steal login credentials. VIPRE did detect and block some of these, but its detection rate lagged 58 percent behind that of Norton AntiVirus (2014), which consistently does a great job. For full details on how I obtain these super-fresh phishing URLs, see How We Test Antiphishing.

VIPRE Antivirus 2014 antiphishing chart

Beware Ransomware
On my standard clean test system, getting VIPRE installed was a snap. Once I clicked “Agree and Continue,” it went through the remaining steps automatically, including downloading the latest program version and antivirus definitions. After the required reboot, VIPRE completed a full scan in 24 minutes, a bit quicker than the current average. Because VIPRE avoids re-scanning known good files, a repeat scan finished in under 90 seconds.

Many modern malicious programs actively work to prevent installation of antivirus software, or interfere with scanning. If you manage to install VIPRE but find it can’t complete a scan, you may have better luck scanning in Safe Mode. However, if you just can’t install it Safe Mode won’t help. In that case, the no-install VIPRE PC Rescue scanner may clear the way for a full installation.

Tech support can extract diagnostics from VIPRE to help with resistant malware, and a live-chat remote-control interface is built into the program. With your permission, a tech support agent can log in and perform manual remediation. Of course, if VIPRE won’t install at all they’ll have to find a solution that doesn’t require those built-in tools.

If ransomware takes over the PC, or if malware completely prevents booting into Windows, you’re in a tough spot, as no bootable rescue system is available. I see that as a significant minus, at least for those who need help with ransomware.

Bonus Tools
The most prominent of VIPRE’s bonus tools is the new Social Watch Facebook scanner. Once you install the Facebook app, it checks your news feed periodically (every two hours, by default) for dangerous links. By default, it will post a warning comment when it discovers a malicious link. You can set it to send you a private message instead of or in addition to the comment.

The History Cleaner will wipe out file and Registry traces that could reveal your computer usage and Web surfing habits to a snooper. It handles Windows applications, popular browsers, and a handful of common third-party applications like Foxit Reader, Adobe, Reader, and WinZip.

Secure file deletion, often called “shredding,” is a popular security bonus feature. When you securely delete a file there’s no way to recover it, not even with expensive forensic hardware. Most such utilities let you balance speed against thoroughness by choosing how many times the file will be overwritten. VIPRE’s Secure File Eraser doesn’t offer a choice, and doesn’t even specify how many times it overwrites files. It does seem to do the job.

If you’re computer-adept enough that you frequently use Task Manager to check on running processes, you may like VIPRE’s PC Explorer. In addition to details about running processes that Task Manager doesn’t, it can display a number of other lists, among them startup programs, Layered Service Providers (LSPs), and Browser Helper Objects (BHOs). Note that unlike Task Manager, PC Explorer won’t let you terminate a running process; it’s strictly a viewer.

Good, not Great
Although its ownership has changed, VIPRE Antivirus 2014 isn’t much different from previous editions. It did manage to detect all of my local malware samples, but those samples are many months old. Challenged with brand-new malicious URLs and phishing websites, it didn’t do so well. Social Watch Facebook monitoring and a handful of other bonus tools are nice, but they don’t improve the basic antivirus functionality. And it doesn’t score very well with the independent labs.

I’d recommend choosing a product that gets praise from the labs, like Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014) or Editors’ Choice Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (2014). Norton AntiVirus (2014) and Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (2014) are also Editors’ Choice antivirus products, though the labs don’t love them. One of these will do the job for you.

VIPRE Antivirus 2014 has a new publisher, ThreatTrack Security, spun off from GFI last year. The product itself hasn't changed much; it remains in that shadowy good-not-great area.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
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