This week we welcome F-Secure Internet Security 2011 to the Security for Everyone series. The team at F-Secure developed their first antivirus product in 1994. Today their antivirus suites include such technologies as Blacklight for rootkit detection and DeepGuard which takes advantage of the power of their community to identify and extinguish threats. The previous review of F-Secure Internet Security 2010 awarded the 'Buy for Grandma!' badge after a bit of a shaky start. Let us see how the F-Secure solution fares almost a year later.
Accessing the trial version of F-Secure proves a bit inconvenient if you choose to download it from the F-Secure website. You'll first need to complete a form which results in the download link being delivered to you in an e-mail. I fail to see why this is necessary for any reason other than e-mail address harvesting. Thankfully you can download from alternate resources; Major Geeks is one such resource, Softpedia is also an alternative.
Once you've downloaded F-Secure internet Security 2011, which comes in pretty light at just under 60 MB, you'll find a very easy install process ahead of you. It is worth noting that the install does take some time to complete as the necessary updates are also downloaded. My installation took just over 20 minutes.
It isn't quite a one click install, probably closer to 8 or 10 clicks, but I do have a quick word of caution. If you choose the Automatic (recommended) Installation', the Parental Control feature is also installed. Adding Parental Control introduces another 8 to 10 clicks to the process and requires you to enter a password. This is all well and good until the install is complete and you notice that each firewall prompt issued requires entering the Parental Control password before you can respond to it. This would have been humorous had it not been annoying. If you do not need the Parental Control features I'd recommend you choose the step by step installation which allows you to perform a Full Installation without Parental Control. If you require the Parental Control feature you can manage the setting, and prompts, via the application settings.
A single reboot is necessary after which you can launch the main F-Secure interface and bask in all its minimalist glory. The interface is quite reminiscent of the BitDefender design which I was rather fond of as well. The interface is task oriented and should resonate very well with the novice user. The main tiles available to you include: Status, Tasks and Statistics; each with a light, plainly worded description that is just enough to clue you in as to what may result from selecting them. You'll also find smaller icons that will allow you to start a scan, run an update, open settings and access help.
F-Secure includes a browsing protection module as evidenced by the tool bar added to Internet Explorer and Firefox. This feature is similar to browsing protection implemented in other solutions. Search engine results are validated and a friendly icon displays indicating whether or not the site is considered safe or a possible threat. This service seems pretty snappy as search results did not appear to be delayed as a result of the safe browsing toolbar.
Simple and non intimidating, just the way I imagine Grandma would like it.
Ease of Use and Configuration
F-Secure certainly lacks intimidation out of the box. Let's see if this unassuming outward presentation remains consistent as we peel back the first layer.
The Status pane gives you the ability to turn on and off the various features via a toggle switch. You have the ability to turn on or off the Virus and spyware scanner, Firewall, DeepGuard, Application control and Browsing protection. This is also where you can configure a scheduled scan (more on this in a moment). E-mail filtering and Dial-up control round out the features you can manage here.
We'll take a moment to look at setting up a scheduled scan since one is not scheduled by default. I believe this is one place F-Secure could improve upon. A scheduled scan, even a quick scan, will improve the default security for those that may not think to investigate this area.
There are very few options when scheduling a scan. You simply need to select the checkbox to turn on scheduled scanning, choose when the scan should be performed and designate when the scan should start. An important item to be aware of is in the note at the bottom of the window.
The note indicates that 'Scheduled scanning uses the currently defined manual scanning settings'. This means it is in your best interest to have an understanding of what the manual scan settings are. When you select the Manual scanning option you'll find there are really very few options here as well. These settings include an option to scan only known file types, how archived or compressed files should be handled, whether or not to use advanced heuristics and which action should be performed when a threat is identified. The default selections are shown below.
Moving through the remainder of the settings I found most interfaces as sparse of options as those presented above. Even the network and firewall options were relatively light considering all they are capable of accomplishing. Of course, we will be determining the effectiveness of these modules in the following sections.
Returning our attention again to the main screen, you will find two additional panes: Tasks and Statistics. The Tasks pane provides quick access to a handful of functions. You can review your subscription information, start a scan, check for an update, open a firewall port, allow a program to start and restore an item from quarantine. This is an excellent collection of functions. When I consider the tasks a novice user may want to perform, those listed here are chief among them. Unlike many other applications that provide quick access to under the hood features, F-Secure does not take you directly into the settings associated with the function. This results in a positive experience as the user interacts with a window designed for the function at hand without the distraction of other settings in the perimeter.
If you're interested in a few statistics regarding F-Secure's activity, you need look no further than the Statistics pane. While this is far from exhaustive reporting, it does provide a measure of comfort that F-Secure Internet Security 2011 is on task.
Unfortunately, this is pretty much all there is as far as reporting is concerned. You do have the option to move back into the settings and review network activity logs. You could even go so far as to enable real-time logging if you like. The result of the latter is a very tech heavy log that allows you to dig directly into the network conversation.
When drilling into the F-Secure Internet Security 2011 application I appreciated the persistence of the plain speaking language used throughout. The designers seemed to have their own grandmothers in mind when putting together this suite. At the sake of sounding like a newly converted F-Secure fanboy, I can think of very few things that could have been done to make this suite more appealing to the novice user.
Shortly after you complete the installation you will begin receiving prompts to allow or deny the various applications that communicate across the network. The prompts are displayed only once if you tell F-Secure to remember your choice. If you are unsure what an application is, a Details button is provided.
In the event you deny an application that was meant to be allowed, the Tasks pane allows you to correct this easily. As we covered in the previous section, you can also utilize the task pane to open a port in the firewall. Both interfaces provide minimal fuss and handle their respective functions well. This same basic approach is found when you dive into the meat of the firewall and network settings.
You'll find the firewall, and other network settings, within the Network connections menu. Upon selecting Firewall you'll see which profile is being applied. By default, this is the normal profile. You have several pre-defined profiles to choose from including one for the office and another that is strict. You also have the option to create a custom profile where you can pick and choose the rules that should be applied.
I performed an intrusive scan against the firewall to see how well the normal profile held up. The results were a little less than satisfactory as both the nmap and nessus evaluation tools identified more than 10 open ports, however nessus did identify them as low threat ports. The operating system was also identified successfully. I switched the profile to office and re-ran the scan. These results only found 4 open ports, the strict profile identified none. As with most other suites, it is important to know where and how to change a security profile or level. F-Secure is no exception. Another improvement the folks at F-Secure should entertain is the option to display a prompt to set the firewall profile when a new network connection is identified.
I checked to see how well the F-Secure services and processes negated an attempt at shutting them down and wasn't disappointed. Each attempt failed with an access denied error. When attempting to end a critical process F-Secure displays a prompt where you can proceed to end it if you wish. I consider this another nod toward the applications usability.
The firewall is very easy to manage. The basic functions are handled without navigating into the setting, with the exception of setting the firewall profile. The default security could be a bit better but should provide adequate protection for the home user.
Antivirus and Antispyware features
F-Secure's scanning technologies have performed very well historically and this latest version is no exception. The previous review did cite some difficulty F-Secure had with removing some keyloggers. To test this, I installed a couple of commercial keyloggers prior to installation. F-Secure Internet Security 2011 had no difficulty identifying and cleaning them.
I found similar results with the other viruses and malware I tested against. It was interesting to see the breakdown of my test files in the F-Secure system. F-Secure categorizes threats as viruses, spyware, suspicious and riskware. You can access any history related to virus and spyware scans by going into the setting and selecting the Computer menu. You can access the quarantine from this same interface or release an item from Tasks pane of the main screen. The latter does require administrative access.
The team behind AV-comparatives.org was also impressed by F-Secure's 2011 scanning engine. F-Secure was not only awarded the Advanced+ rating, they also had the least number of false positives of any other suite tested, and were in the top 5 for best performance. Another antivirus testing group, Virus Bulletin, also awarded F-Secure their passing certification. Virus Bulletin has a long history of test results which tells a story of its own about the progressive maturity of F-Secure. If you're interested in seeing this historical list you will need to create a free account on the Virus Bulletin site.
F-Secure has a solid scanning engine and the technology behind it appears to be adapting at a good pace. There are few options associated with scanning, however all the critical items are present such as performing a manual scan, identifying exclusions and releasing items from quarantine. With its low number of false positives and high detection rates, F-Secure provides excellent protection that you can trust.
I understand this is a bit of a glowing review. I do want to share that we are not paid to review products here at 7 Tutorials nor would I allow an incentive to skew my personal opinion. It is my opinion that F-Secure has produced the best solution, aimed at the novice user, that I have seen thus far. There is little question that someone experienced in mapping ports and forwarding traffic would find F-Secure Internet Security 2011 very light and that is just fine. Grandma, however, will be very satisfied with this solution.