Comodo Internet Security Pro 10
Price: £39.99 from fave.co/2zZQepg
When we previously looked at Comodo’s Internet Security Pro, the company had a habit of bundling software with its security suite – and that trend hasn’t changed with Internet Security Pro 10. Underneath the hassle of warding off extra installs, however, is a security suite that does a good job of detecting threats.
When you install Internet Security Pro 10, you have to read every screen very carefully. If you don’t, the program will attempt to set your browser’s home page and search engine to Yahoo, change your DNS provider to Comodo (fave.co/2jcORvv), set Comodo Dragon (fave.co/2jaVXR6) as your default browser, and import all the data from your current default browser.
Certainly, some might like all that. Comodo Secure DNS is a popular choice among security enthusiasts who don’t want to use their ISP’s default service. Other security suites also route your DNS through their services. As for the browser, Comodo Dragon is a Chromium-based browser that some users might enjoy.
But here’s the thing: most people will click through the install screens without reading them, and software companies count on that. It’s just unseemly. Plus, the attempt to switch your search engine and home page makes all the other extra software look hostile. This approach is just not a good idea, even when acknowledging that companies are trying to make a buck. There has to be a better way.
As for the app itself, Comodo Internet Security Pro has some nice features. Comodo’s interface comes in three parts: the main application window, a widget that sits in the upper right corner of your desktop, and the system tray icon.
That’s a lot, but you can close the main window and get rid of the widget quite easily, leaving only the system tray icon. The widget, though, might be appreciated by some users as it has easy access to Comodo’s primary features.
At the very top there’s a status icon telling you the state of your PC. (Before running your first scan, it’s yellow.) Below that is a counter informing you of your current bandwidth usage for both up and down streams.
Then there’s a minidashboard shows the status of Comodo’s containment tasks (a feature that lets you run untrusted apps as well as browsers in a virtualized space); the number of tasks the security software is currently running; and a listing of suspect files. That last feature isn’t particularly great, given that Comodo treated the EXE files for two common and popular services – CrashPlan and Slack – as suspect.
The widget also has quick access to Comodo’s four basic operations: scan, unblock applications, update, and secure shopping. Finally, you’ll see the symbols for all of your installed browsers if you’re using any of
the big four: Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, plus Comodo Dragon. There isn’t an icon for Edge on Windows 10 PCs.
If you open any of these browsers from the widget, they launch in a security container – one of those virtualized environments that are sandboxed from the rest of the PC. When you run a browser in one of these containers, the entire window will be outlined in green. Oddly, Edge has a tab inside the Internet Explorer container that is supposed to launch the newer browser. It doesn’t work, however. As for other, lesser known browsers like Vivaldi, Comodo ignores them.
This containers feature is supposed to keep you more secure, and it does seem to be a fine feature. However, during one test, my PC became unusable after enabling Internet Explorer in a secure container. Comodo’s secure shopping feature also inexplicably
ate up 25 percent of my CPU resources even though I hadn’t activated it, and I had to restart my PC.
Comodo’s main application is just a bigger version of the widget. It has the same four main options: scan, unblock applications, update, and secure shopping.
Scan opens a second window where you can choose carry out a full scan, quick scan, a ‘rating scan’ for commonly infected areas, or a customized scan. Unblock Applications is where you can re-enable any desktop programs that Comodo may have prevented from running. Update lets you manually check for new virus definitions. Secure Shopping, meanwhile, is a virtualized, sandboxed desktop environment where you can only access Windows File Explorer and a select number of installed browsers that launch in incognito mode. The idea is to create a secure space where you can do online shopping.
Overall, the basic look of Comodo Internet Security Pro is clean and easy to understand. If it’s too basic, however, there’s also an advanced view that provides a lot more at-a-glance data. It includes firewall details, a list of enabled services, blocked applications or network intrusions, and other information. Personally, I prefer the advanced view since it behaves like a security dashboard for your system. It also has a nice drag-and-drop area to scan files for viruses.
Comodo has a reputation for being something of a resource hog. That perception is less deserved these days, but we still found some truth to it.
During our first performance test, which checks how an antivirus program affects system resources during lighter tasks, Comodo held its own against the competition. When we fired up PCMark 8’s Work Conventional benchmark, the synthetic simulation of word processing, spreadsheet editing, web browsing, and video chat churned out a score of 2507. After starting an antivirus scan, the second score for PCM8 was 2535 – ever so slightly within Comodo’s favour, though not significant because the number falls within normal margin of error.
However, when we moved on to our more strenuous Handbrake benchmark, Comodo caused a notable drop in performance. On our test PC, Handbrake v0.9.9 typically takes an hour, 15 minutes, and 30 seconds to transcode a 3.8GB MKV file to MP4 using the Android Tablet preset. With Comodo running, that same file conversion took one hour, 41 minutes, and 31
seconds. That 34.4 percent increase in time is the worst Handbrake result of the suites we’ve tested so far.
As for virus detection, A-V Test rated Comodo’s Internet Security Premium quite high, with 100 percent detection against real-world threats like malware attacks and web and email threats. Virus detection, meanwhile, was equally high at 99.9 percent. A-V Comparatives did not test Comodo’s performance – the organization only tests security suites that are submitted to it by the vendor – nor did SE Labs.
Comodo’s antivirus and malware detection is fine, but it has some of the lowest-scoring benchmark performance
results we’ve seen so far. However, this program does have a very nice price of £39.99 per year for three devices. If you don’t mind the slip in performance for resource-intensive operations, then Comodo is a fine choice. For those with mid-range PCs, however, you’d do well to look elsewhere.
Norton Security Premium
Price: £39.99 from fave.co/2A0OEDw Norton is one of the oldest names in PC security – and despite some ups and downs, it’s still one of the best. Currently, Symantec offers several versions of its longlived antivirus software: the current flagship product is Norton Security Premium, which costs £39.99 per year. Following that are Norton Deluxe (£24.99 per year from fave.co/2zZOLiC), Norton Security Standard (£19.99 per year from fave.co/2jbcODi), and Norton Antivirus Basic (£24.99 from fave.co/2jaZVsV).
This review covers the top dog among the set, Norton Security Premium. Downloading and installing it is simple enough, and the program doesn’t try to add a lot to your system outside of the program itself. It does, however, encourage you to enable its own browserbased password manager once you’re up and running.
One of its standout aspects is its unobtrusiveness. Outside of a small cluster of notifications when you first install it, the program doesn’t inundate you with popups. The interface is also clean and easy to use, though the settings for each category aren’t immediately obvious. (You’ll have to click on a downward-facing arrow on the far right side of the screen.)
Norton Premium’s dashboard is divided into four main categories: Security, Identity, Backup, and Performance. There’s also a fifth section that houses account management, access to extra features, and ads for more Norton services and apps. Like many antivirus programs, Norton Security uses a colour-coded scheme where green means you’re protected, yellow means caution, and red means you’re not protected.
The Security section is the most important section for PC users, as it houses the settings for regular PC scans. By default Norton will do a quick scan, but there are also options for full and customized scans. There’s also a feature called Power Eraser that is supposed to eliminate ‘difficult-to-detect threats’.
The Identity section, meanwhile is about protecting you. You’ll find the anti-phishing settings here, as well as Norton’s ‘Identity Safe’, which is the desktop version of the built-in password manager. Like other
services, the safe can house your username, passwords, addresses, credit card information, and secure notes. Norton does have a nice tags feature to help you better organize your data, which you won’t always find in all password managers.
Backup is where Norton lets you setup and manage the 25GB of free cloud storage that comes with the suite. You can use it to upload files or folders to Norton’s servers via encrypted incremental backups. When you activate the feature, Norton monitors your documents, pictures, contacts, and other items by default. It will not, however, backup your videos by default or any email databases you may have.
Performance is the least useful of the categories, since its features are mostly redundant. You’ll find options like a file cleanup utility, disk defragmenter, and a tool for restricting startup programs – all tools that come built into Windows. If you want to stop programs from starting up at boot, for example, the Task Manager in Windows 8.1 will work just fine. The Backup section does have a graph that details the current processor usage of Norton and Windows, as well as recent security events and alerts from Norton.
Norton Premium 22.9 received high marks from both A-V Test and A-V Comparatives for malware detection. In June, A-V Test threw 10,252 samples of malware at Norton and the software came back with a 99.9 percent detection rate. A-V Test also put Norton up against 202 samples of zero-day, web, and email threats for which Norton came back with a 100 percent rating.
A-V Comparatives got a similar result of 99.8 percent in March using nearly 38,000 samples. However, that was with an active Internet connection: offline, that detection rate fell to 86.8 percent. SE Labs, meanwhile, gave Norton a AAA rating.
Those are all great results. The only concerning aspect would perhaps be the offline detection rate, though you could ameliorate it with other tools such as Windows Defender periodic scanning or Malwarebytes.
Norton did not have an appreciable drain on resources. When we ran PCMark 8’s Work Conventional benchmark, which simulates basic tasks like spreadsheet editing, web browsing, and video chat, our test PC scored 2538 without Norton installed. When we installed Norton Security Premium, started a full scan, and then ran PCMark 8 again, the second score was 2526. That’s a drop of less than one percent and within the PCMark 8 benchmark’s typical margin of error.
We also didn’t see any real difference in performance during our Handbrake test, which puts far more stress on a system. It took our test PC one hour, 15 minutes, and 30 seconds to transcode a 3.8GB MKV file. With Norton installed, the time was 22 seconds faster at 1:15:08.
Norton is extremely user friendly and well organized, and it doesn’t interfere too much with users’ dayto-day activities. That last part is key since security applications work best when they stay out of your way. The software also has some handy extras, like the online backup and password manager that make it an all-in-one security suite.
You certainly have to pay for the privilege, however. Symantec will give you a really nice discount for your first year – 45 percent off – but don’t be fooled, as
you’ll ultimately be paying £39.99 for the privilege of running Norton Security Premium.
Windows Defender Security Centre
Price: Free with Windows 10 In 2006, Microsoft added built-in security software to Windows for the first time. Since then, it’s appeared under various names, but currently it’s known as Windows Defender Security Centre (WDSC). What started out as a basic antivirus detection feature has slowly grown into something that resembles a security suite. It doesn’t have anything close to the features you’d see in a third-party suite, but it does a fair job at antivirus and malware scanning.
Briefly, however, WDSC has five sections: Virus & threat protection, Device performance & health, Firewall & network protection, App & browser control, and Family options.
The crucial section is Virus & threat protection. This is where you can manually start a full scan, enable real-time protection, or carry out an offline scan for removing particularly nasty bits of malware.
Device performance & health, meanwhile, just gives your PC a general health report card including Windows Update status, driver status, and so on. It does not report on any potential security weaknesses, short of lagging updates.
Firewall an network protection is fairly selfexplanatory, while App & browser control houses all of your PC’s SmartScreen settings for Edge, downloads, and the Windows Store.
You can dive a little deeper into WDSC beyond this, but not by much. If I had to guess, Microsoft plans to expand its functionality over time, and right now we’re just seeing the basic scaffolding being built. That’s just speculation, however.
Windows Defender stacks up alright in anti-virus detection. A-V Test gave Defender a 99 percent detection rate for real-world testing against 0-day, web, and email threats. For run-of-the-mill malware, meanwhile, Defender scored very highly against more than 10,000 samples at 99.7 percent detection.
A-V Comparatives found a similarly high performance level for real-world protection, with about
nine false positives out of 329 test samples. SE Labs, for its part, gave Defender a AA overall rating in the period of April through June. (The highest that an antivirus can score with SE Labs is a AAA rating.) During its testing, Defender failed to protect against six targeted attacks and four web-based attacks.
As for the drain on your PC’s resources, that’s a little harder to measure than with third-party software. WDSC is built right into the operating system and starts up automatically. To counteract that, we turned off the entirety of Windows Defender (both the scanning tool and the overall program) using the registry. Then we fired up our first benchmark: PCMark 8’s Work Conventional benchmark, which simulates everyday
tasks like video chatting, web browsing, and word processing, and recorded the score. Afterward, we switched WDSC back on and started a full system scan before running PCMark 8 again.
The results fell in line with the best third-party options: Windows Defender had no real effect on performance. Running Windows 10 with Defender off garnered a PCMark score of 2498. Once it was back on, the score went up to 2516 – right within the margin of error for PCMark 8 results.
That story also held true in our Handbrake performance benchmark, which puts far more strain on system resources. With Windows Defender turned off, we were able to transcode a 3.8GB MKV file on the Android Tablet preset in one hour, 14 minutes, and 21 seconds. With Windows Defender turned on, it took one hour, 15 minutes, and 30 seconds. That difference is so small it’s insignificant.
Windows Defender is a fine basic security solution. For advanced users who are hyper-aware about all the various threats out there, this free option might be enough if they also periodically scan their systems with something like the free version of Malwarebytes (fave.co/2zZlV1Z). The average user, however, should look for a more feature-rich third-party solution.
Best overall antivirus suite: Norton Security Premium
Norton Security Premium is an old name in security, but it has an easy-to-use interface, highly-rated protection,
and a number of helpful extra features. It’s on the higher end of the price spectrum at £39.99 per year, but you can install it on up to 10 devices.
Best budget antivirus suite: AVG Internet Security
AVG Internet Security does an excellent job of protecting your PC, but it’s interface could be a lot better. Nevertheless, with unlimited installs for £49.99 per year, it’s hard to beat this popular security solution.
Windows Defender’s device performance and health report
Windows Defender’s primary dashboard
The built-in report card feature
Norton’s security scans settings
The interface is clean and organized
Comodo’s Wi-Fi connection assistant
Comodo Internet Security Pro 10’s advanced view
Here’s the basic view after first launch
Comodo Internet Security Pro’s desktop widget in Windows
Comodo wants to change your default home page and search engine