VIPRE Internet Security 2013 review

VIPRE Internet Security 2013 does a good job keeping out malware, and its ten-PC home site license is quite a bargain. It won't put a big drag on system performance, which is good. However, it's less effective cleaning up existing malware, and its firewall needs a total overhaul.
Photo of VIPRE Internet Security 2013

User interface trends in the security suite business come and go. This year the big influence is Windows 8, with its flat, matte style. VIPRE Internet Security 2013 has adopted that style throughout, getting rid of last year’s 3D buttons. The change is only skin-deep, though. Everything I didn’t like about last year’s edition is still present.

On the plus side, if you have a house full of computers, GFI’s “home site license” is quite a bargain. For $69.99 you can install the suite on every PC in your household, up to ten of them. Given that most vendors charge roughly that price for a three-license pack, GFI seems quite generous.

Antivirus Drama
With one small exception that I’ll dig into later, this suite’s antivirus protection is identical to that of VIPRE Antivirus 2013. Do please read that review to get all the details. I’ll summarize results here.

The independent testing labs all pay attention to VIPRE, but few give it high marks. In three important tests, AV-Comparatives assigned VIPRE the rating STANDARD, the lowest passing rating. In one recent certification test by AV-Test, VIPRE squeaked past with 11.5 of 18 possible points, just a half-point above the minimum. See the chart below for a summary of recent results. The article How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests offers more detail about the labs themselves.

VIPRE Internet Security 2013 lab tests chart

Getting VIPRE installed on my twelve malware-infested test systems was an ordeal that required hours and hours of remote-control tech support, diagnosis, and repair. The expertise of the GFI technicians impressed me, but a simple installation without any need for support would have impressed me more.

With VIPRE installed on all twelve systems I launched into my malware cleanup test. VIPRE detected 74 percent of the malware samples and scored 5.8 points, just slightly above the current average. Norton Internet Security (2013) and Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2013 both scored 6.6 in this test, the best score among current products. See the article How We Test Malware Removal for the low-down on how I come up with these scores.

VIPRE Internet Security 2013 malware removal chart

Like most security products, VIPRE earned a significantly higher score in my malware blocking test. 9.2 points sounds pretty good, but Webroot scored 9.9. Among the other eight recent products that beat VIPRE’s score are Avira Internet Security 2013, F-Secure Internet Security 2013, and Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2013 .

To learn more about this test, see How We Test Malware Blocking.

VIPRE Internet Security 2013 malware blocking chart

Blocking Bad Web Sites
The suite does have one malware-fighting tool not found in the standalone antivirus, and that’s Bad Web Site Blocking. Found in the firewall’s settings, this feature promises to protect the user from “drive-by downloads and other exploits.” Note that protection against phishing isn’t mentioned. My GFI contacts confirmed that this suite’s phishing protection comes from the spam filter, not from attempting to identify and block fraudulent sites.

The site blocking feature proved very effective when I tried to download my current malware collection again. Of course some of the URLs are no longer valid, but VIPRE blocked 78 percent of those still functioning. The antivirus component wiped out the remaining items during download, given VIPRE 100 percent coverage in this small-scale test. Trend Micro and Norton also achieved 100 percent protection.

Shared Features
GFI packs some bonus tools into the VIPRE antivirus, and naturally into the suite as well. Once you wipe out a file with the Secure File Eraser, even a technician using forensic recovery software can’t get it back. If you’re concerned about people learning too much about you from your online and computer-use habits, the History Cleaner will wipe traces including cached files, cookies, and recently-used lists from many commonly used programs. The third tool, PC Explorer, is strictly for experts. Average users can actually do damage by using this one without understanding it.

Small Effect on Performance
In my timed tests of real-world activities, VIPRE didn’t have a big speed impact. I averaged 100 runs of the boot-time test with and without VIPRE installed, and couldn’t measure any slowdown at all. A script that zips and unzips a large collection of files took just six percent longer with VIPRE installed and watching than with no suite, well below the average of 16 percent.

The management and monitoring of Web browsing for parental control purposes will occasionally put a drag on browsing speed. VIPRE doesn’t include a parental control component, though, and my browsing speed test ran just five percent slower with VIPRE watching for bad websites. The average browsing slowdown for current suites is 17 percent.

VIPRE only displayed a noticeable drag on the file move and copy test. This test times a script that moves and copies a large collection of files between drives. It took 38 percent longer with VIPRE installed than with no suite, while the average is 21 percent. Even so, you probably won’t notice any performance hit. For more about my timed tests, see How We Test Security Suites for Performance.

VIPRE Internet Security 2013 performance chart

Antispam Trouble
Some spam filters include pages of configuration options. Others don’t work properly unless you manually “train” them by supplying folders of valid mail and spam. VIPRE’s spam filter is refreshingly simple. You can turn it on or off, and you can manually add email addresses or domains to its whitelist or blacklist. That’s it; no other settings to worry about.

Last year VIPRE did quite well in my antispam accuracy test. It filed 0.4 percent of valid personal mail in the SPAM folder (whitelisting would have helped here) and missed only 4.1 of the undeniable spam. It didn’t score nearly as well this year, and a new driver caused all manner of problems in my testing.

I use a real-world email account that gets both spam and valid mail for testing. The server slots each incoming message into not one but ten email accounts. Whenever I want to run a test, I simply use the account that has gone untouched for the longest. I wind up downloading many thousands of messages at once. Apparently VIPRE’s driver can’t handle that. I eventually managed to complete my test by letting Outlook get mail for five minutes, then canceling the email download and waiting five minutes, over and over.

My GFI contacts point out that downloading thousands of messages at once is not normal for most email users. That’s true in most situations, but I picture trouble for someone coming back from, say, a two-week vacation.

When I analyzed the results, I found that VIPRE misfiled just 0.2 percent of valid personal mail in the spam folder, and correctly let all the valid bulk mail into the Inbox. However, this time around it missed fully 20 percent of the undeniable spam. That’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. If you’re going to use the VIPRE suite overall, I’d suggest turning off the spam filter and adding the free Cloudmark DesktopOne Basic 1.2. In my antispam test it blocked zero valid mail and missed just 2.6 percent of spam; impressive!

For a full explanation of how I analyze antispam accuracy, read How We Test Antispam.

VIPRE Internet Security 2013 antispam chart

Easy Update
There is one brand-new feature in the 2013 edition, buried on the page where you manage tasks like checking for updates and scheduling scans. Called “Easy Update,” it checks to make sure you’ve got Windows Update configured correctly and also checks for dangerously out-of-date applications.

Easy Update will scan and list any browsers, browser add-ins, or vulnerable applications that aren’t fully up to date with security patches. It also applies the patches automatically. I like this feature, though the free Secunia Personal Software Inspector 3.0 handles the same task for a much larger number of programs.

Firewall Dilemma
If you leave VIPRE’s firewall’s settings at their default values, you’ll get limited protection. Sure, it puts the system’s ports in full stealth mode, but the built-in Windows Firewall can do that. Its program control is extremely simple. Internet and network permissions are predefined for a few programs; for all others, it allows outbound connections and blocks inbound connections.

Cranking up protection to a higher level is tough, because the setting is hidden. You have to open firewall settings, click the “Reset to Defaults” button, and choose learning mode. In learning mode, VIPRE’s firewall asks you, the user, to make a decision every time a new program attempts network or Internet access. Even if you check the box to have it remember your choice, you’re likely to get multiple popup queries about different ports and protocols.

I enabled learning mode and tried running a collection of leak tests, programs that use malware-like techniques to evade this type of program control. VIPRE blocked exactly one of these.

The firewall includes an IDS (Intrusion Detection System) and HIPS (Host Intrusion Prevention System), but both are turned off by default. Switching to learning mode turns on IDS. I enabled HIPS manually and continued testing. Even with IDS turned on, VIPRE only blocks the highest priority intrusions. I set it to block high, medium, and low priority intrusions and notify me of its actions.

With all defenses on high alert, I tried attacking the test system using about 30 exploits generated by the Core IMPACT penetration tool. VIPRE’s firewall didn’t block a single one, though the antivirus component quarantined malicious payloads dropped by about a quarter of the attacks.

The firewall is also totally vulnerable to any malicious program that might actively attempt to disable it. I had no trouble terminating most of its processes using Task Manager, and likewise no trouble stopping and disabling all of its essential services.

With all of its fancy settings, this firewall looks powerful, but it’s just a paper tiger. You’ll get significantly better protection from the intelligent firewall found in Norton or Kaspersky Internet Security (2013) . I’d like to see VIPRE’s firewall overhauled from top to bottom.

Look Elsewhere
VIPRE’s malware blocking skills are good, and it won’t put a big drag on system performance, but in my tests and independent lab tests it showed less ability to clean up existing infestations. Getting it installed on infested systems was an ordeal, as was getting past a driver problem with the spam filter. And the firewall is a not-very-effective combination of too simple and too complex. The one bright spot is its unusual $69.99 home site license, which lets you install on up to ten PCs in your household.

Really, though, you’ll do better choosing one of PCMag’s Editors’ Choice suites. For a traditional suite with powerful protection in all areas, try Norton Internet Security (2013) . If you’d prefer a super-lightweight suite with innovative behavior-based malware detection, Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2013 is the one for you. You won’t get a ten-PC license, but you will get thorough security

protection.

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

More Security suite reviews:

Specifications
Tech Support Phone, Email, Live Chat.
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7
Type Business, Personal, Professional

Verdict
VIPRE Internet Security 2013 does a good job keeping out malware, and its ten-PC home site license is quite a bargain. It won't put a big drag on system performance, which is good. However, it's less effective cleaning up existing malware, and its firewall needs a total overhaul.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc