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Antivirus vendors have included “2011” in their product names since the summer of 2010. Now that the year 2011 has actually arrived it’s time for a new look at the whole collection. Several of the latest additions attempt to crank up protection by running two different antivirus engines, and some actually succeed. This batch also brings a new Editors’ Choice for free antivirus and a new shared Editors’ Choice for commercial antivirus.
As always, when I say “antivirus” I mean a utility that protects against all kinds of malicious software, not just viruses. Trojans, spyware, rootkits, keyloggers, adware, scareware – a proper antivirus must handle all of these.
Standalone or Suite?
Many of this year’s products blur the line between standalone antivirus and security suite. In the past the presence of a personal firewall has been one defining suite element; not any more. There’s a fully-functional firewall inside Panda Antivirus Pro 2011. eScan Anti-Virus 11 and McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2011 also offer firewall protection. Norton AntiVirus 2011 doesn’t include a complete firewall, but its intrusion prevention feature is more effective against exploits than most full-blown suites.
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Ad-Aware Pro Internet Security 9.0
BitDefender Antivirus Pro 2011
BullGuard Antivirus 10
Double Anti-Spy Professional v2
Spam filtering is another component typically found in a suite. The spam filter built into BullGuard Antivirus 10 is reasonably accurate and unusually helpful at setup time. eScan also offers a spam filter, but it’s not something you’d want to inflict on your Inbox.
StopSign Internet Security 1.0 includes an optional firewall with spam filtering built in. None of the independent labs have tested it, though, and its performance in my own malware blocking and removal tests was so poor that I didn’t bother evaluating those optional features.
BitDefender Antivirus Pro 2011 offers full remote management of other BitDefender installations across the network. McAfee can monitor other installations remotely and fix problems. Panda and Norton can at least let you know when another installation has problems, though they won’t fix those problems remotely.
BitDefender includes a very effective phishing prevention tool, as does G Data AntiVirus 2011. The LinkScanner component in AVG Anti-Virus Free 2011 also works to block phishing sites, as does McAfee’s SiteAdvisor. AVG and Norton both scan the links on your Facebook pages to protect you from Facebook scams and viruses. BitDefender and Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2011 both check your system for security vulnerabilities, though BitDefender takes the concept a bit farther.
Outpost Antivirus Pro 7.0 and BitDefender can block transmission of user-defined private data, a feature usually found only in suites. Ad-Aware Pro Internet Security 9.0, AVG, Kaspersky, and McAfee will tune system performance and wipe out traces of computer and Internet use. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the product is “only” an antivirus, not a full suite.
The true standalone antivirus isn’t dead, however. For example, F-Secure Anti-Virus 2011 sticks to the business of virus protection without any sign of morphing into a mini-suite.
Several late-season additions aim to double your protection by using two antivirus engines, with varying degrees of success. G Data’s dual scan doesn’t take much longer than the average single-engine product, and it includes powerful phishing protection. However, it doesn’t thoroughly clean up the threats it detects, and a failed cleanup effectively killed one test system. TrustPort Antivirus 2011 ran a bit slower than G Data and failed significantly in my testing. After its alleged removal some threats were still running. In the malware blocking test a few threats that it claimed to block managed to install and launch anyway.
Double Anti-Spy Professional v2 turned in the best performance of the twin-engine antivirus tools. It scans first with one engine, then with the other, and it also requires two separate updates. It’s noticeably slow, but effective enough that it’s worth waiting for.
Adjustable Interfaces, Built-in Support
Some users want to hear about every little security event, but most prefer a product that just does the job, without making a fuss. Ad-Aware Pro appeals to both with a choice of simple or advanced mode. BitDefender goes even further. Not only can its users choose basic, intermediate or expert view, they can build a personal collection of their most-used tools.
Webroot AntiVirus with Spy Sweeper 2011 totally focuses on keeping everything as simple as possible. It updates automatically, scans while the system is idle, and interacts with the user through a completely redesigned interface. All the detail a tech-savvy user might want is available, but hidden when not needed.
The user interface for Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus + 2011 discards the standard landscape-orientation window for a skinny vertical panel that takes up minimal space. McAfee, too, has switched to a vertical interface.
Norton reserves a panel across the bottom of its main window for interaction and communication with other security components. Initially the panel shows an interactive world map of security activity, but it can also connect with Norton Safe Web for Facebook or with your Norton Online Backup account.
Built-in and automated support features grace many of these tools. BitDefender includes a search box for help topics right on its main screen; a built-in tool will gather system information and contact an agent for chat-based support. Norton’s one-click support system gathers diagnostics and offers relevant FAQs or chat-based support. Kaspersky’s built-in support tool can send diagnostic reports to the company and process purpose-built scripts to fix specific problems. Panda’s PSCAN lets remote analysts request samples and push fixes without requiring full chat-type interaction. BullGuard offers built-in access to e-mail and live chat support with a message center to manage your support interactions. eScan links to live chat and online help.