Our Review of McAfee Internet Security 2014
Paid Anti-virus Programs
While anti-virus applications for other computing platforms appeared on the market several months earlier, John McAfee's VirusScan (introduced in 1987) was the first such program designed for PCs running the MS-DOS operating system. This makes McAfee the oldest in terms of companies creating anti-virus products for Windows-based machines.
Intel purchased McAfee and its anti-virus technology in 2010 and made the company a subsidiary of its Intel Security division. Nevertheless, Intel decided to keep the McAfee brand name because of its solid, long-standing reputation in the anti-virus space. The latest offering, McAfee Internet Security 2014 continues the company's long tradition of providing top-notch anti-virus software and value.
When compared to many other anti-virus suites that offer only single computer subscriptions, McAfee's $55.99 annual plan for up to three PCs is a real value. The McAfee 3-PC plan not only helps you protect your computers from viruses and malware, but also adds added security value with an e-mail scanner, anti-phishing tools, parental controls and even utilities for tuning up your system. Therefore, if you're looking for an effective security solution with a lot of added features at an affordable price, McAfee Internet Security 2014 is certainly worth a closer look.
While McAfee Internet Security 2014 is as about as feature-packed as you will ever find in a security suite, the company does making installing the application a bit arduous to say the least. While many other anti-virus applications require that you only download and install the installer before creating an account, McAfee forces through you past other obstacles before you can even download the setup file.
After registering your McAfee account, you must log in to the site and go to your My Account page. Once on the My Account page, you can begin the download process for your trial version of Internet Security 2014. Afterwards, you must accept the License Agreement, record your serial number and click "Download" again. After following the browser prompts to "Run" the setup file, the McAfee installer will remain additional files needed to set up Internet Security 2014. The download is over 160 megabytes so it will take a while if you have a slower Internet connection. Once the installer downloads and starts to run, though, the remaining setup process is relatively straightforward.
The McAfee Internet Security 2014 user interface is bright and easy to read on a PC monitor. The main interface window has four large buttons and three smaller ones that allow you to access the various options and tools in the application. The four primary buttons, "Virus and Spyware Protection," "Web and Email Protection," "McAfee Updates" and "Your Subscription" lead to the core functions and settings. The three smaller buttons, "Data Protection and Backup," "PC and Home Network Tools" and "Parental Controls," provide access to other utilities and settings. While the interface buttons are large and easy to read on computer screens, their text labels may appear small on mobile phones and tablets. Nevertheless, the user interface is relatively straightforward and easy to navigate.
As with most modern security suites, the default configuration settings in McAfee Internet Security 2014 work well for most users. However, should you need to make changes to the default settings, you can do so by accessing them either from the small links at the bottom of the large menu buttons or from the Navigation window. You can access the Navigation window by clicking its link in the right-side menu bar.
McAfee Internet Security 2014 offers very fast scan performance and does not hinder multitasking or system speed too much when scanning for viruses and malware. With our test system, opening browsers such as Chrome or Internet Explorer took only about 5 seconds during quick and full system scans. Furthermore, less demanding programs like the Windows Snippet Tool and WordPad opened in just over a second.
The initial quick scan performed on our infection-free test system took only 3 minutes 46 seconds while scanning a large number of objects (63,591 to be exact.) The time is even more impressive if you consider that many scanners do not scan nearly as many folders and items during a quick scan. Likewise, the full-system scan on our clean system was equally impressive with a blistering fast scan time of only 5 minutes 57 seconds.
For the purposes of this review, the same test machine setup was the same one used when testing other current anti-virus and security applications. The test machine has an Intel dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and runs Windows 7 with all updates and service packs installed. The test machine is comparable to that used in many homes and offices at the time of publication.
To test how well McAfee Internet Security detects and neutralizes viruses, the AV suite was first disabled. After introducing a test set consisting of eight virus files to the machine, McAfee was re-enabled and another quick scan performed. The quick scan did not detect any of the viruses transferred to the computer. However, this is common with most AV suites we have tested, as the files were not moved to a commonly used path or folder location.
A full scan of the system provided much better results, with McAfee quickly detecting and neutralizing all eight of the test viruses. Consequently, McAfee scored a perfect 100% in the virus and malware detection and removal test.
Along with the test virus set, we introduced a group of 16 false positive files. False positives are legitimate or safe files that may resemble a virus or malware file because of missing author or signature information or contain other anomalies. Still, these types of files are safe and shouldn't be detected or removed by the AV software. Therefore, if the AV application fails to detect or remove any of the 16 files, it receives a perfect score. McAfee identified one of the test-set files as potentially unsafe, but didn't remove it automatically and prompted the user to delete the file manually. Nevertheless, because McAfee Internet Security did detect the safe file and report it as potential threat, it received a false positive detection score of only 93.75 percent, which places it in the above-average class of AV products tested here.
Below is a screenshot of the files used in the false positive test.
While McAfee Internet Security performed very well in detection and removal tests, its malicious and anti-phishing blocking features did not fare as well. When tested using 2-day old blacklist links, the application's Site Advisor (the suite's anti-phishing feature) detected and blocked 10 out of 10 known phishing or malicious websites successfully. However, when tested with 10 known 0-day links, McAfee's Site Advisor recognized only 7 out of the 10 sites as potentially dangerous.
As with many other modern security suites, McAfee offers other security tools such as Parental Controls, Email scanning and a Firewall component. All of the extras provided with McAfee Internet Security performed their respective tasks as expected and were relatively easy to configure and use.
The Parental Controls component uses Window's native settings for its configuration. However, you can access and configure the parental controls feature directly from within the McAfee application. Likewise, many of the tune-up and performance utilities included are merely links to native Windows system tools like "Defrag" and "Disk Clean Up." The Shredder feature bundled with the suite, though, is McAfee's own offering and works well to remove sensitive files completely and securely.
McAfee Internet Security 2014 offers superior virus and malware detection with extremely fast performance and little impact on system usability. McAfee Internet Security also provides convenient access for PC users to many useful system tools and utilities, with its well laid-out and easy to navigate user interface.
McAfee Internet Security's malicious and anti-phishing engine Site Advisor has problems with some of the newest 0-day threats and may not recognize problem websites as fast as other security applications. Nevertheless, if you avoid clicking unrecognized links in emails and chat messages, the application should provide sufficient security against malicious websites.