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Junk of­fender: Panda Free An­tivirus

There’s good and bad things to say about Panda Free An­tivirus. The good is that it scores well in in­de­pen­dent an­tivirus (AV) tests and is named af­ter pan­das. The bad is that its in­staller is rid­dled with so many PUPS - in­clud­ing a browser hi­jacker “pow­ered by Ya­hoo” - that it lost my trust long be­fore it had a chance to prove it­self.

Why do the mak­ers of free AV soft­ware force us to choose be­tween safety and a junk-free PC? Reg­u­lar read­ers will know I’ve ex­posed the PUP tactics of Avast, Mcafee and Ad-aware in the past – all of whom make free tools that claim to pro­tect you but are bun­dled with un­wanted ex­tras. It doesn’t even make com­mer­cial sense, be­cause it turns users off – and makes peo­ple like me write ar­ti­cles like this.

Panda PUPS

Panda Free An­tivirus has a lot go­ing for it. It scores top marks for mal­ware-de­tec­tion in in­de­pen­dent tests by Av-test ( www. snipca.com/24597) and Av-com­par­a­tives ( www.snipca.com/24598), and at around 100MB it’s nine times smaller than Avast Free An­tivirus. But I can’t and won’t rec­om­mend any prod­uct that tries to trick Ya­hoo ad­ware on to your com­puter.

Be­fore you even get its in­staller, you have to ne­go­ti­ate an as­sault course mined with up­grade traps. The ‘Free’ but­tons on Panda’s home­page ( www.pan­dase­cu­rity. com/uk) are free tri­als for paid-for prod­ucts that cost from £20.99 per year. To find a gen­uinely free in­staller you have to click Home Users, then Free, then Down­load, then ‘No, thank you’ in an up­grade pop-up - at which point you’re dumped on to an ex­ter­nal Cnet page, which feels like a pun­ish­ment.

Per­haps this process is de­signed to leave you so ex­hausted you fail to notice the three lit­tle pre-ticked boxes for Panda Safe Web in the in­staller. Two and three (Ya­hoo and home page) sound dodgy enough, but the first one (‘pro­tec­tion against ma­li­cious web­sites’, see screen­shot) seems use­ful. It cer­tainly is not. Panda Safe Web is an ex­ten­sion that’s com­pletely sep­a­rate from the AV. Even if you man­age to dodge the browser hi­jacker by untick­ing the Ya­hoo box, you’ll still in­stall an un­nec­es­sary ex­ten­sion that could po­ten­tially slow down your com­puter.

Panda Safe Web is not part of the AV - and it’s pow­ered by the dreaded Ya­hoo

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