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Our Review of F-Secure Internet Security 2015

Paid Anti-virus Programs

Introduction

Founded by Peter Allas and Risto Siilasmaa in 1988 as Data Fellow, F-Secure has been producing anti-virus software since 1991. Data Fellows changed its name to F-Secure in 1999 because of the virus scanner's wide brand recognition in Europe. Since its initial release, F-Secure anti-virus has consistently received good scores in many independent tests. In this review of the latest release, F-Secure Internet Security 2015, we see if the product lives up to its proud legacy.

Cost and Value

At a cost of $49.99 for an annual single-PC subscription and $69.99 to protect three computers, F-Secure Internet Security 2015 is a bit more expensive than many other security suites we have tested. Add to that the fact that F-Secure lacks many of the features that ship with other AV suites (such as a true firewall component and optimization tools,) it's difficult to label F-Secure a great value. However, the suite does include very effective anti-phishing and malicious website tools. Therefore, if you often venture into the darker side of the Web, F-Secure may be an option to consider.

Installation

Downloading and installing F-Secure Internet Security 2015 is tedious and time-consuming to say the least. Even downloading the online installer is a chore, as you must click the "Try Now" button, enter your email address and password and then respond to several other prompts before the download even begins.

Once the download of the online installer finishes, and you proceed to run it, the setup wizard prompts you to download a cleanup tool to scan your computer for malware applications that may prevent the installation of F-Secure. If you're installing the suite on a new computer, you can probably skip this step. If your system already has malware or viruses, though, downloading the tool is essential. In our tests, F-Secure failed three times to install on systems with minor malware issues. Other suites we tested detected and neutralized the malware during installation. To be fair, though, the cleanup tool did do a thorough job of detecting and removing the infected files before proceeding with installation of the main F-Secure application. After the cleanup tool completed its task, the remainder of the installation was relatively straightforward.

User Interface

At first glance, we were pleased with the simple, colorful user F-Secure interface. The main screen of the UI has just three tabs that include Status, Tools and Statistics. The main screen also three links for configuring Browser Protection, SAFE Search and My Safe.

The Statistics tab is probably where you'll spend most of your time when using F-Secure, as it has buttons that lead to the quick scan feature and application settings. The screen also displays the status of your application and virus definition updates.

The Tools tab enables you to run advanced or full-system scans, check for updates, view application permissions and view or manage quarantined files. Additionally on the Tools tab, you can edit Windows Firewall settings (F-Secure does not ship with its own firewall,) check for updates and turn the F-Secure suite on or off. Finally, the Tools tab offers a link to the same Cleanup Tool used during installation. Clicking the link, though, forces you to download the tool again and run it. We found this confusing and didn't understand why the link just did not lead to the tool downloaded in the beginning. Perhaps, it is because F-Secure updates the tool regularly and wants to ensure you always use the latest version. Still, offering an "Update" feature in a Cleanup Tool window could probably make it easier to understand and use.

The Statistics tab offers a couple of colorful pie-chart graphs that display usage and results histories, but nothing else. The tab offers no links to reports, individual scan histories or any other type of selectable information. The simple design of the tab is aesthetically pleasing, but doesn't really offer any useful data.

The Browsing Protection link leads to several functions, which include anti-phishing and malicious website protection, banking information configuration, parental controls and search-filter settings.

The F-Secure SEARCH feature opens a secure web page that allows you to performed filtered searches. If you select the "Add F-Secure Search as your search provider" option on the Web page, it will be the primary search feature for all users of the browser, which helps to protect children from undesirable content. If you don't select the option, though, the feature is essentially useless. An option to enable the Safe Search as the default search provider during installation would make it much easier to use. However, this option was never offered during setup.

Clicking the Setting button on the Status tab opens a new window that enables you to configure settings for Virus Protection, the Windows Firewall, Deep Guard (a malware application monitor) and Parental Controls. As with many security suites, F-Secure merely provides an interface for configuring native Windows Parental Control settings.

Initial Scans and System Performance

Scan times with F-Secure are reasonably fast, but far from exceptional. During our initial scans of a clean test system, quick and full-system scans took 1 minute 15 seconds and 7 minutes 19 seconds respectively. While the scan times may appear fast, F-Secure checked only small sets of files during the scans. F-Secure examined only 1416 files during the quick scan and a paltry 41824 files with the full-system scan. This is roughly only a third of the number of files scanned with other suites.

Another measure of performance when testing AV products is multitasking during scans, and again, F-Secure lags far behind the competition. During scans, it took more than 6 seconds to open IE or Chrome browsers and small programs such as the Windows Snippet Tool, WordPad and Windows Media Player (which should open almost immediately) all took three seconds or more to launch. The multitasking test results indicate that F-Secure is very resource intensive and may prohibit productive use of the system during scans. The tests were conducted on a system running Windows 7 with an Intel dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM.

Virus, Malware and False Positive Detection

Historically, F-Secure AV products have always scored reasonably well in virus detection/removal tests. However, during our review, we found virus/malware detection and removal in Internet Security 2015 does not live up to that reputation. During the initial scan on the infected system, F-Secure managed to detect all nine infected files introduced to the test system, but only neutralized three (even after we directed the program to do so.)

A second manual scan of the system resulted in the removal of two more infected files. However, even when scanning the file locations manually, F-Secure was unable to clean 4 virus files buried in ZIP, 7Z or RAR archives. The fact that the program can detect the infected files should mean it is also able to remove them. Instead, though, F-Secure prompts you to open the archives and run a new scan. This is potentially very dangerous, as you may inadvertently launch an infected file. Consequently, in our single-pass test, F-Secure scored a dismal 33.3% rating, as it was able to detect and remove only 3/9 files without a lot of added work.

During the three scans performed with F-Secure, the application identified 1 of the 16 safe "false positive" files we introduced to the test system as a potential threat. False positive testing is just as important as virus detection and removal, as flagging safe files as threats could cause you to remove files needed for legitimate applications. Consequently, F-Secure did well in this phase of the testing, scoring a very respectable 93.75% rating.

Below is a screenshot of the files used in the false positive test.

Pros

F-Secure offers excellent anti-phishing and malicious website protection tools that successfully blocked all problem websites we attempted to access. Additionally, F-Secure scored very well in false positive tests.

Cons

Besides excellent anti-phishing tools and above-average legitimate file recognition, there is not too much else that we liked about F-Secure. Virus/Malware detection and clean rates were abysmal when compared to other AV suites we have tested. The fact that F-Secure cannot quarantine infected archived files automatically may be a serious problem for users not familiar with opening and managing ZIP or other compressed file types.

F-Secure is a system-resource hog. It uses many system resources during scans, which will prevent most users from users their computers productively while the program is running. If you have a super-fast computer, you may not notice too much of a slowdown. If you have a relatively modest setup, though, expect programs to launch and run very slowly during virus/malware scans.

With its high price tag, you would expect F-Secure to include a stand-alone firewall component. Instead, though, F-Secure relies on the built-in Windows Firewall to prevent intrusions and unauthorized access. The Windows Firewall does provide reasonably good protection, but is not nearly as good as many firewall components included with other suites we have tested.

Installing F-Secure is a real chore and requires you to overcome several hurdles during the process. When compared to other products we have tested, F-Secure installation is as difficult as it gets.

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