Security For Everyone - Reviewing Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1
Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 is a product developed by a lesser-known security company from Russia. The company name is Agnitum and they focus on developing traditional security products like firewalls, antivirus and internet security suites. We last tested their products in 2012 and we were curious to learn how they have improved in the meantime. Let's see what we have learned, in this detailed review:
Downloading Outpost Internet Security Pro is a straightforward process which doesn't involve giving away any personal information. You can use the 30-days trial without sharing anything, not even your e-mail address. The installer has 181MB and when you run it, it starts by performing a quick scan for malware, which is great.
You can choose to perform a quick typical installation or a slower paced custom one, which allows you to select whether you want to install optional modules like Web Control, even though we would advise against disabling these modules. You can also select the folder where the suite is installed and whether you would like to download the latest updates during the installation.
Once the installation is performed, the Outpost Security Suite Pro spends some time configuring itself and downloading the latest updates (if you set the installation to do so).
At the end of the whole process, you are asked to reboot your system. When you log back to Windows, you are asked whether you would like to register this product, purchase it or continue using the trial. I have enjoyed the fact that Agnitum doesn't bother its users with this prompt each time the computer starts. You are asked about it the first time you use it and when the trial is close to its expiration, which is great.
Overall, I was pleased by the download and installation experience. I did not have to provide any personal data in order to test Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1, and I was able to use the full trial without creating any accounts on the manufacturer's website. The installation process is customizable and straightforward.
Integration with Windows 8.1 & Modern Apps
When installing Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1, both Windows Defender and the Windows Firewall are disabled, which is good, as it eliminates any possible conflicts and performance issues. Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 also works well with the networking features included in Windows 8.1, including the Homegroup. We were able to easily join and create Homegroups, share folders and libraries, etc. We have used several Windows Store apps and again, there were no issues. Everything worked well without having to manually configure this security suite. When it comes to its integration with web browsers, you will be happy to learn that Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 scans all your HTTP traffic automatically so that you are protected in all internet browsers. It also installs an add-on for Internet Explorer named Quick Tune. In Internet Explorer 11 it seems that it is not working very well, as I was never able to enable the Web Control feature and manage which items it blocks or allows when browsing the web.
A small but annoying aspect is that Outpost still does not have smooth scaling icons. When you use large icons, its shortcuts look ugly and dated. But luckily, this is more of an esthetic problem and it doesn't impact the quality of the protection you are receiving. Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 did a good job at protecting its processes from termination. In terms of memory, it used approximately 182 MB of RAM when idle, which is more than most security products need. Also, the memory consumption will go up when scanning your system and disinfecting malware. When it comes to evaluating the performance impact this suite had on our test system, we started by comparing the system boot timings. Before installing Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1, our test system started in 24 seconds. After installing it, it started in 29 seconds. That is a 21% increase. We also ran PCMark Vantage Advanced Edition and we noticed that the general performance in this benchmark was 8% lower after installing the security suite. That's a relatively high impact.
Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 is generally well integrated with Windows 8.1, its apps and networking features. There are a few minor bugs and quirks but everything works well most of the time. In terms of performance impact, Outpost has a slightly higher negative impact than other security suites do.
Ease of Use & Configuration
The main user interface is clean and easy to use. You have several sections with complementary tools and features that are grouped together for easy access.
When you go to its advanced settings, you have controls for setting in detail how this suite works. You can set all kinds of rules, exclusions, enable or disable features, and so on.
When configuring scheduled scans we noticed a weakness of this product: it only has a quick scan that's scheduled to run daily, at 1 AM. At that hour most users don't have their PCs and laptops turned on, meaning that it won't run. Also, the options available for setting the time when scheduled scans run are more limited when compared to other suites. While Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 doesn't seem too verbose at first, this is because it is set on auto-learn. This means that all your programs are allowed to access the network and the Internet. If you turn off this mode, then you will be asked to make plenty of decisions. You should turn-off auto-learn because otherwise it will allow even malware to access the network and the Internet. Another annoyance factor is that at each startup, you receive a prompt that the latest news is downloaded. Unfortunately we did not find a way to turn off this prompt and we're sure other users won't appreciate it either.
Another small annoyance factor is that, by default, Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 blocks full-screen applications from running and you must approve them before using them. Luckily this type of prompt can be turned off.
In terms of reports, Outpost prefers detailed logs. They are harder to use, but they are very complete and tell you everything that went on with your system.
Outpost also bundles several activity monitors like: Network Activity, Used Ports, Online Activity, Attacks Blocked, Process Activity and File and Registry Activity.
In terms of help and support, Outpost offers local help files with documentation about the product and its features, an online knowledgebase and a link that takes you to their online support page where you can email the support team.
From a user experience standpoint, Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 is a rather old-school product that's aimed at more knowledgeable users. Beginners might be turned off by the number of prompts and decisions they have to make.
The firewall module can be configured in detail and you can set all kinds of rules. The only unfortunate part about it is that it doesn't use the network profile assigned in Windows and you have to manually change the trust level for each new network connection. By default, a new network connection is set to allow NetBIOS communications (meaning file sharing).
However, when you are connected to an untrusted network, you need to manually uncheck this setting, so that the network is set as restricted. This is a bit of a pain, especially for novice users. While using the firewall, you will encounter alerts and prompts when network attacks or port scans are detected.
In order to test the effectiveness of the firewall protection, we have performed several scans with Nessus, both when NetBIOS communications were enabled and when they were not. When the NetBIOS communications were enabled, Nessus did not detect any open ports and it was able to identify only the MAC address, which is not a threat to security. When the network connection was set as restricted, Nessus was able to find 1 open port with a low impact on security and identify the MAC address. These results are very good. The firewall protection offered by Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 is good but it does require a bit of manual intervention from the user's part. For example, configuring the trust level assigned to the active network connection is more complicated than it should be.
Antivirus and Antispyware
The anti-malware protection provided by Outpost Security Pro 9.1 was generally effective both when trying to run malware from a USB memory stick filled with infected files, when trying to download malware from the web and when accessing malicious websites. The only downside we discovered was that it had some issues with false positives. For example, when updating Starcraft 2 to the latest version, it identified one of the patches as malware and we had to add it to exclusions, in order to correctly update and run Starcraft 2.
When the user inserts removable media, Outpost automatically asks whether it should scan it or not. We recommend that you scan such media, especially when it was used by other people or on other computers.
When dealing with malware, Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 was reasonably effective at removing it and detecting it. We also installed it on a test system that was previously infected and it was capable of removing all threats.
When browsing the web, this suite scans all your HTTP traffic automatically, so that you are protected in any browser you are using. We have tried to visit several malicious websites and it blocked our access to all of them. In terms of scanning speed, we have scanned a 38GB system partition with 23 GB of files and it took 18 minutes to finish. This is an average result in terms of scanning speed. Before ending our test, we also looked at what other independent organizations had to say about Outpost. Unfortunately, the only organization that has tested their products is Virus Bulletin. In their latest testing they have awarded Outpost their VB100 badge and they have provided a rating of 70%+ for its reactive detection and a 40%+ for its proactive detection. This doesn't position Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 in the list with the most effective security products on the market. In our testing, Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 was effective in dealing with malware. However, we did identify an issue with false positives. For example, a legitimate patch for Starcraft 2 was identified as malware.
Unlike other security products, Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 doesn't bundle any extras like parental controls, products for backing up your data in the cloud and so on. It offers only the mandatory modules in order for it to be named a security suite: firewall, anti-malware, protection when surfing the web, an ad-blocker and that's pretty much it. Personally I don't mind, as I prefer more light weight security products that are focused mostly on security and not on extra features that don't really improve the security offered to users.
Default Settings You Might Want to Improve
There are some settings you might want to improve in Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1, as its defaults are not exactly perfect:
- If you are annoyed by the fact that you cannot use full-screen applications without approving them, you may want to disable a setting named "Detect attempts to launch full-screen applications" in the General section.
- In order to turn off the auto-learn mode, go to Settings and set this feature to Disabled.
- In the Anti-Malware section, you may want to enable the detection of "Commercial keyloggers, password recovery tools".
- You may want to schedule a full system scan on a weekly basis, to complement the daily quick scan that's scheduled by default. Also, you may want to change the hour for the daily quick scan because, by default, it is scheduled to run a 1 AM, which is a time when most users are not using their computers and devices.
- If you are using CD-ROMs or DVD-ROMs with data from others, you may want to turn on the setting that says "Enable CD-ROM protection under "Proactive Protection -> Removable Media Protection".
Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 requires its users to perform some manual configuration in order to provide the best possible protection.
Outpost Security Suite Pro 9.1 looks, works and feels like a traditional security product. It doesn't bundle any extras and it sticks to the protection modules that are important for a security suite. However, in order to be effective, it does require quite a bit of configuration and decision making on the user's part, making it unattractive to beginners and casual users. Only knowledgeable users and IT experts will be able to use this product to its full potential and receive the level of protection they want.