Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) review

Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) offers protection for PC, Mac, and mobile devices. It doesn't include every common suite feature, but the features it does include are dandy. And it is tiny!
Photo of Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014)

A typical security suite includes antivirus, firewall, spam filtering, parental control, and some kind of privacy protection, often antiphishing. Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) ($59.99 direct for three devices) skips spam filtering and parental control, since many users don’t need these. The security components it does include are uniformly impressive, and it’s the smallest suite around as far as disk space and resource usage goes.

Webroot’s standalone antivirus includes an outbound firewall (relying on Windows Firewall for inbound protection) and a powerful antiphishing component. The most visible thing that the suite adds is a full-featured password manager, powered by LastPass. What you don’t see immediately is you can use your three licenses to install the Webroot suite on any combination of PCs, Macs, and Android devices. A handy online console manages all your installations and lets you access your passwords from any Web-equipped PC.

Unusual Antivirus
The typical antivirus relies on a combination of signature-based detection and behavioral or heuristic detection, but Webroot isn’t typical. It does include signatures for common threats in its cloud-based system, but its primary means of detecting malware involves tracking hundreds of program behaviors and traits. I put extra effort into testing, to verify that it does what it says. You really, really should read my review of Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (2014) to fully understand the antivirus, as this review will simply summarize my findings.

Webroot installs in minutes and immediately performs a full scan; it’s done with that scan before most products would have finished installing and updating. It installed in a flash on all but one of my malware-infested test systems, and a quick session with Webroot’s bootable remote-control diagnostic system solved a ransomware problem on that holdout.

At the end of any scan that found malware, Webroot re-scans to make sure no traces remain. On two systems it advised contacting tech support for manual removal. The process took hours of remote control by tech support and involved threat-specific tools from Webroot and third parties, as well as one-off cleanup scripts written by the support agents.

Webroot detected 89 percent of the samples, more than any other suite tested using the same sample collection. It scores 6.6 points, sharing first place with Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) and F-Secure Internet Security 2014. For more detail on how I conduct this malware removal test, please see How We Test Malware Removal.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) malware removal chart

Webroot’s handling of unknown programs just isn’t compatible with most independent lab tests, though the company has announced that AV-Test is working on switching to a compatible test regimen. The chart below summarizes recent test results, but there’s just not enough info from the labs to help evaluate Webroot. For a description of the third-party testing labs I follow, please read see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) lab tests chart

Webroot doesn’t flag an unknown program as malicious until it performs a malicious action, so after my baseline malware blocking test I let it run overnight. In the morning it had detected a few more samples. To check its claimed ability to journal activity by an unknown program and roll it back upon detecting it as malicious, I repeated this test with Webroot cut off from the Internet, then reestablished an Internet connection after launching all samples. The results were comparable.

Webroot detected 91 percent of the malware samples and scored 8.8 points in this test. That’s roughly in the middle of the pack, and a bit higher than the 8.5 points earned by Norton Internet Security (2014). Note that Symantec, like Webroot, isn’t entirely compatible with some current tests. If you’re wondering how I evaluate a product’s malware blocking skills, see How We Test Malware Blocking.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) malware blocking chart

Other Shared Features
When I tried to download my malware samples again, Webroot blocked 100 percent of those with a still-viable URL, the same as Norton. That same Web-based protection also blocks fraudulent (phishing) websites, and it proved extremely effective. Webroot’s detection rate came in two percentage points higher than that of consistent phishing champ Norton. Bitdefender and Kaspersky Internet Security (2014) are the only other recent products to beat Norton, each by three percentage points. To learn my secret technique for identifying the very freshest phishing URLs, see How We Test Antiphishing.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) antiphishing chart

Webroot also includes a limited firewall component, specifically aimed at managing outbound network traffic. It relies on Windows Firewall to perform tasks like blocking port scans and stealthing ports. In its default setting, it only queries the user about unknown programs accessing the Internet at times when malware cleanup hasn’t finished. If you do see a firewall popup from Webroot pay attention; it’s significant.

Since leak test programs have no malicious behaviors, it didn’t detect the ones I used in testing. It also doesn’t attempt to block cross-network exploit attacks. However, it’s very tough; I couldn’t find any way a malware coder could disable its protection.

The suite and antivirus also share a number of tools, most of which should be labeled “experts only.” There is a handy set of options to undo system tweaks some malware makes for the purpose of evading detection or removal, and getting the system rebooted into Safe Mode is a snap.

Excellent Password Management
If you’re familiar with Editors’ Choice password manager LastPass 2.0, then you’ll have no trouble with Webroot’s password manager. It’s a licensed version of LastPass that works exactly the same, with the exception of lacking a few advanced features.

As always, you must define a single very strong password to protect your collected login credentials. Notice that this also becomes the password for your online Webroot account; more about that later.

When you log into a secure website, Webroot will offer to save your login credentials. If you haven’t logged into the password manager yet, you’ll have to click the browser button and log in at this point. Once logged in, you’ll stay logged in until the browser closes; there’s no equivalent to LastPass’s option of automatically logging out after a specified idle time.

If you hit an oddball login page that Webroot doesn’t immediately recognize, you can fill in your credentials and choose “Save All Entered Data” from the browser button’s menu. Like LastPass, Webroot can capture logins that many other password managers miss. As expected, when you revisit a site with stored credentials Webroot fills them in, or asks you to choose between multiple credentials.

The browser button menu becomes a multi-level menu of all your saved password data, organized using user-defined categories. Drill down to the site you want, click it, and Webroot will navigate there and log in. And of course it will generate strong password you, with advanced options like avoiding easily-confused character pairs or creating pronounceable passwords.

You can define any number of personal profiles with full personal details, including a credit card, as well as any number of separate credit card-only profiles. In testing, Webroot’s form-filling proved very accurate, unlike that of Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014, which filled many fields incorrectly.

Google Authenticator support for two-factor authentication was planned for this edition, but had to be pulled for reworking at the last minute. It will be slipped back in as an upgrade as soon as the feature is ready.

Webroot’s password manager doesn’t quite do everything LastPass does. You can’t have it generate One Time Passwords, or restrict mobile devices to specific UUIDs. Until Google Authenticator support comes back online, it doesn’t have any two-factor authentication options. But the features it omits tend to be ones the average user is less likely to need.

Mac and Mobile Support
You can install Webroot’s SecureWeb browser on any iOS or Android device and link it to your Webroot account. Doing so gives you mobile access to your saved passwords, and the ability fill Web forms using your saved profiles. SecureWeb also incorporates Webroot’s blocking of malicious or fraudulent websites; this feature is available to anybody for free.

Installing Webroot SecureAnywhere on a Mac or Android device will use up one of your three licenses, but you get serious protection by doing so. New this year, the Mac edition looks almost identical to the PC edition, and its features are comparable. Webroot SecureAnywhere Mobile (for Android phones and tablets) copies the same UI as much as the different screen size permits. In addition to scanning for malware, it blocks new threats, warns about dangerous settings, and offers a full-scale antitheft system. The Android edition also includes call / SMS blocking as well as an app inspector that reports apps with undue permissions, apps that can drain your battery, and more.

My Webroot Online
As mentioned, logging in to the Webroot online console gives you full access to your saved passwords and form-fill profiles. This is also the spot to track a missing Android device, or activate antitheft features. You’ll notice a grayed-out panel for Backup & Sync. That’s a feature of Webroot’s mega-suite, not available in this entry-level suite.

The PC Security tab gives you an overview of all the PCs where you’ve installed Webroot. If you had to buy more than one keycode because you have more than three PCs, that’s not a problem; just register the new keycode and those PCs will appear. At the highest level, you’ll see whether everything is hunky-dory security-wise on each PC.

Installing Webroot on an additional PC is also easy. Log in, open the PC Security Tab, and click “Add A PC.” You’ll get a link to download the software, a link to check available keycodes, and (just in case you’re out of keycodes) a link to purchase a new code.

What if one of your PCs doesn’t display the happy green checkmark? Just click it for details. From the detail window you can view all scans along with a list of recent malware detections. The online console also lets you launch a scan remotely. You don’t get full-scale remote configuration, but you can change the overall protection level to Low, Medium, High, or Maximum. Did you walk away from your desk and forget to turn off your PC? From the PC Security console you can lock the PC, or shut it down.

Tiniest Performance Hit
This suite uses the same installer as Webroot’s basic antivirus; it installs one product or the other based on the license key you enter. At less than three quarters of a megabyte, it’s the tiniest installer around. Even with the additional suite features installed, I measured an on-disk footprint of about 80 megabytes. Most suites run 300 to 500 megabytes. Some, like Trend Micro and Bitdefender, can hit a full gigabyte or more.

In addition to taking up minimal space on disk, Webroot uses a minimal share of your system resources. A script that zips and unzips a large collection of very large files didn’t take measurably longer with Webroot installed. Another script that moves and copies those files between drives took 4 percent longer, quite a bit less than the suite average of 20 percent.

Slowing boot time is probably less important than slowing file operations, since most users boot no more than once a day. Still, I do measure the time it takes for a test system to be full ready with and without a suite installed. That test took 5 percent longer under Webroot, way under the suite average of 23 percent.

In fact, the only recently-tested suite with less impact than Webroot is Astaro Security Gateway Version 8 Home Edition, and it’s not really a fair comparison. Astaro runs on a separate, dedicated computer, so it naturally has zero impact on the test system. For a more detailed explanation of my performance tests, see How We Test Security Suites for Performance.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) performance chart

A Very Good Choice
This suite carries over the powerful (if unusual) protection found in Webroot’s antivirus and branches out to support Mac and mobile devices. Antiphishing and one-way firewall protection are already present in the antivirus; the suite adds a powerful password manager that’s integrated into Webroot’s online console.

From that console you can find a lost Android device, launch a scan on one of your PCs, edit the password manager’s form-fill data, even shut down a PC remotely. Yes, the password management is almost identical to what you’d get for free from LastPass, but its integration with the Webroot console is a big plus.

So why isn’t Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) an Editor’s Choice for security suite? It doesn’t have all the usual suite features, in particular no antispam and no parental control. It does add features not found in many suites. But I’m reserving the Editors’ Choice nod for this suite’s big brother, Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete (2014), which adds even more high-end features. I’ll have that product review ready very soon.

You can definitely choose this product as your security suite if its small size and powerful protection outweigh the lack of some common security features. But also give a look to Editors’ Choice suites Norton Internet Security (2014), Bitdefender Internet Security (2014), and Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013. They’re all quite different, and all worth consideration.

Virus removal:
Virus blocking:
Antispam: n/a
Parental Control: n/a

Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2014) offers protection for PC, Mac, and mobile devices. It doesn't include every common suite feature, but the features it does include are dandy. And it is tiny!
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc