Monday, April 11, 2011

Trend Micro Internet Security 2010

Review:

If you're looking for a robust feature set from your security suite, and you're looking for an affordable price, you could do worse than Trend Micro's 2010 products. Trend Micro has refreshed it Internet Security Pro, Internet Security, and the stripped-down AntiVirus plus AntiSpyware packages; and according to the publisher, they gain significant performance enhancements.

According to Trend Micro, the programs boot times are 20 percent faster and use 40 percent less RAM, the download size is 25 percent smaller, and that the quick scan on Windows XP and Vista ... Expand full review

If you're looking for a robust feature set from your security suite, and you're looking for an affordable price, you could do worse than Trend Micro's 2010 products. Trend Micro has refreshed it Internet Security Pro, Internet Security, and the stripped-down AntiVirus plus AntiSpyware packages; and according to the publisher, they gain significant performance enhancements.

According to Trend Micro, the programs boot times are 20 percent faster and use 40 percent less RAM, the download size is 25 percent smaller, and that the quick scan on Windows XP and Vista is 20 percent faster. There are new features, too. Although, many of them didn't make it into Trend Micro Internet Security or Trend Micro Antivirus and Antispyware suites. This is problematic because the feature set is Trend Micro strength, but to get it, you have to pay for the Pro version.

Installation
One thing that Trend Micro doesn't do is tell how it calls out its behavioral engine, which is used to determine when a program is acting in an unsafe manner. There is a box you can check at installation to opt out of the behavioral program, but there's no clear explanation of what it is or what it does in the application. On the one hand, technology that lets the publisher leverage supposedly anonymous data from customers to catch surreptitiously-running threats faster isn't new; it's been around for a few years. However, this year more security suites are adopting behavioral engines. On the other hand, companies like Trend Micro must consider whether users will panic if it is mentioned clearly and then disable their computers from contributing data to the cloud.

As long as the data is truly kept anonymous, a behavioral engine can be an exceptional tool for preventing malware. But in Trend Micro's installation process, it looks like nothing more than another box and line item to read before installing; it could benefit from a more detailed explanation.

A customized installation process is available for people who wish to configure program location and tweak components. Trend Micro will also run a virus check once it's done installing and automatically update its definition files.

Interface and features
Trend Micro's 2010 interface has been refined from the previous year's version, with less dead space and more emphasis on both security status and ease-of-access to its security tools. The program launches into its Overview tab that highlights your security status with a large colored icon: green for Protected, and Red for Unprotected. Underneath that tab are links to your protection status, your license information, and a security report.


Each of these links drills down to essential information, exposing them in an elegant and uncluttered manner on the main page. The Protection Status link opens a window that details the status of your virus definition files, updates, firewall, unauthorized change prevention, spam filter, parental controls, and data theft prevention. Each of these has a green On or red Off status icon with a hidden explanation of each that can read by clicking on it. Unfortunately, there's no way to get from the list to the deeper controls for each--it's simple for toggling the status.

Also on the Overview tab are two buttons: one for activating a scan and one for manually updating the definition files. The scan button defaults to a Quick Scan, although it has a drop-down menu on its right side for selecting a Full Scan or Custom Scan. Scanning opens the scan window, which details which threats it's looking for, what files it's scanning, live results, and options to run in the background or shut down the computer after the scan has finished. Depending on how you set up the program, it will either automatically fix any threats found or ask for input. If you choose to auto-fix it, the app will still show you a window after the scan is complete, detailing what action was taken, and the threat links to more detailed information on Trend Micro's Web site.

The Virus & Spyware Controls tab offers four drop-down menus. The first checks for real-time viruses and spyware when you download files, leveraging the behavioral heuristics. The behavioral scan can be toggled on or off with a button, and it offers a configuration menu with a secondary, advanced features window, and a whitelist/blacklist link that is for cookie control. Despite what sounds like a confusing series of submenus, in practice, it was easy to navigate.

The Prevent Unauthorized Changes drop-down menu offers more control of installations. This is where you would manage programs that Trend Micro doesn't recognize, with the same on/off toggle and links to settings and exceptions. The next tab is for configuring scheduled scans and custom scans. It's frustrating that such a key feature is buried deep in the interface, especially since most users are still wary of holes in real-time protection. This scheduler only controls scan schedules--it doesn't offer update scheduling. There's another scheduler for updates, in another part of the program. Underneath the scheduler is the Quarantine section that helpfully categorizes the quarantined files as viruses, spyware, and Trojans.

The Personal Firewall Controls tab continues the interface scheme, with headline-style options that expose key information in a drop-down menu and link to options configuration windows. Through the advanced settings pane, the personal firewall exposes a wealth of firewall data, including the IP version, protocol used, and a simple description. Editing a protocol exposes even more data, for those who know how to use it.


Also in the Firewall Controls tab is the Network Connection status, which offers a cutoff switch to kill the Internet connection. We're not sure how useful this feature is, or if it's just a hand-holding measure.

The Internet & Email Controls tab--the next major section--contains the data theft prevention lists, parental controls, spam filter, and protection against Web threats. Its features share lists, although not features use all of the lists. For example, the Data Theft Prevention feature will block numbers and names that you specify from being sent through Web-based forms. The theft prevention feature only works in SMTP e-mail and instant-message clients in the Pro version. You can also select protocols that are allowed to send protected data, and which aren't. You can also insert customized data field to protect. The Web threats protection, which works to stop phishing and pharming, is heavily based on a firewall-style slider combined with whitelists and blacklists. Again, its efficacy is debatable, especially when a Web site's backend servers or ad server can be hacked without the site itself registering as risky.

As with many of Trend Micro's competitors, the parental control section can be configured for Adult, Teen, or Child. However, here you also have the option for "Mature Teen" and to customize a setting. The Adult user or system administrator can set access times based on user log-in, and customize the protected data field. Each of these options under Internet & Controls sports a green On or red Off toggle for quick verification.

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The Other Settings tab offers more information about the Trend Micro subscription; Automatic Updates and a definition file scheduler; toggling the Trend Micro Smart Protection Network, which controls the behavioral information your computer submits; security warning pop-up controls; password protection to keep Trend Micro from being used by others; and logs access. Its interface scheme, with a simple-sentence drop-down explaining what a feature does as well as links to dig down for more settings, backfires here. Most of the options in this tab only contain one settings link, meaning that what should take one click takes two.

Frustratingly, the update scheduler can't be set to check for updates more often than once an hour.


Features only included in the pro version of the suite are: protection for mobile phones, the Trend Micro toolbar that installs on Internet Explorer and Firefox, a system tuner for recovering disk space and defragmenting of hard drives, and a password-protected vault that seals if your computer is stolen and accessed. The mobile protection is available only for Symbian- and Windows Mobile-based phones, and because of the variation of models, it requires configuring a download for your specific model. Mobile threats are growing, so being able to prevent browser-based attacks on your smartphone for the same cost of protecting your PC might appeal to some users.

Trend Micro has published a comparison chart so you can see which features made it into which products.

Performance
Although there were no problems navigating within Trend Micro, and there were no noticeable slowdowns to the naked eye, certain Trend Micro performance hang-ups did appear. For one, the suite had a difficult time respecting the default Web browser setting on our Windows 7 laptop. Sometimes it would open internal program links in Firefox, our default browser, but more often, it would open them in Internet Explorer. These links, opening into either browser, took much longer to load. It wasn't clear whether this lag was because of the main suite or the Trend Micro toolbar scanning the links before loading them.

CNET Labs' benchmarks reveal that all three of Trend Micro's 2010 products had an uneven impact on computer performance. Trend Micro Internet Security Pro and Trend Micro Antivirus with Antispyware slowed boot time by 4 seconds, while Trend Micro Internet Security only affected boot time by 1.5 seconds. The Pro version also dramatically slowed down shutdown performance, by nearly 8 seconds, while the basic Antivirus dragged on the shutdown cycle by less than 1 second, and Internet Security added 1.65 seconds.

The benchmark of Trend Micro's full scan was quite slow, with the Internet Security Pro and Antivirus with Antispyware products taking 19 minutes, and the standard Internet Security taking 20 minutes. The nonbenchmarked quick scan compared favorably with industry standards, coming in at 53 seconds. The full scan took an average amount of time, at one hour and 28 minutes. Besides potential hardware conflicts, keep in mind that these differences can often be attributed to the generally clean state of the benchmarking computer's hard drive, versus the numbers programs and files that reside on a real-world machine.

Trend Micro's results were also uneven on processor-intensive tests. On Microsoft Office tests, the Pro suite was, again, the slowest, followed by the stripped-down Antivirus. The basic suite, Trend Micro Internet Security, was the fastest of the three, running an average of 18 seconds slower than an unprotected computer. This pattern repeated with our CineBench tests. However, in iTunes decoding tests, all three notched nearly identical scores. In the multimedia test, the basic Antivirus was faster than its two siblings were by 20 seconds.

CineBench
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Trend Micro AntiVirus with AntiSpyware 2010
Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Trend Micro AntiVirus with AntiSpyware 2010
iTunes decoding (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Trend Micro AntiVirus with AntiSpyware 2010
Microsoft Office performance (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Trend Micro AntiVirus with AntiSpyware 2010
Performance speed times (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Trend Micro AntiVirus with AntiSpyware 2010

Unfortunately, Trend Micro's efficacy is debatable. It no longer participates in the trials run by AV-Comparatives.org, and the most recent data from AV-Test.org is for the 2008 version. Keeping in mind that the data is for a test from September 2008, but the 2008 release is actually from fall 2007 because of the security industry's naming conventions, Trend Micro had lukewarm results. It was able to detect between 90 percent and 95 percent of malicious software on demand; and it detected between 85 percent and 90 percent of adware and spyware on demand, but only it notched one to two false positives.

Support
Trend Micro offers free customer support, although if you're looking for help through the program, it will merely shove you via hot linked FAQs toward the Trend Micro Web site. The Product Help link will keep you on your computer, but the rest jump you online. Once there, Trend Micro offers prerecorded video help, manuals, online chat service, and phone service. The phone number is only listed on the Web site behind several links, and is difficult to find.

Conclusion
Trend Micro looks and feels like a professional security suite, but it's worrying that it doesn't participate in the major tests that their competitors are comfortable with. At the same time, it includes behavioral detection, which is becoming more important for catching more complicated threats. The mobile support is worthwhile for peace of mind, and for reminding users that just because you're on a cell phone doesn't mean you're risk-free. However, that's only available in the most expensive of Trend Micro's three packages. Overall, Trend Micro gives users a lot for their money, but lacks the verification from independent testers to be considered your best bet.

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