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F-Secure Antivirus

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F-Secure AntivirusPROS: Innovative user interface; Advanced A+ rating from AV Comparatives; 24-7 technical support

CONS: No anti-phishing; No auto USB detection

BOTTOM LINE: F-Secure Anti-Virus is among the best performing antivirus software programs.

Easy Install

Recently I've had some real challenges getting antivirus protection installed on my twelve malware-infested test systems. AVG Anti-Virus FREE and Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus+ were particularly challenging and required a lot of back-and-forth with tech support.

F-Secure installed completely without incident on nine of my test systems. The product wouldn't install in Safe Mode, so for the test system that only works in Safe Mode tech support recommended the new, remodeled Easy Clean tool to clean up the malware that made it impossible to boot into normal Windows.

The new Easy Clean relies on the cloud for signatures, so it's a tiny download. However, it got stuck trying to fix this particular system, so I scanned with F-Secure's Rescue-CD instead. On two systems, malware actively interferes with any connection to known security-vendor websites, which prevented the F-Secure installer from downloading the latest components. Rescue CD also got those two into a state that allowed full installation. Easy!

Superior Lab Results

F-Secure doesn't participate in the wide-ranging but mostly static antivirus tests by ICSA Labs and West Coast Labs, but the antivirus has received the VB100 award in all ten of the last ten tests by Virus Bulletin.

Austrian lab AV-Comparatives performs two different on-demand scanning tests. One simply checks the product's ability to detect real-world malware samples from recent months. The other simulates proactive detection of zero-day malware by forcing the antivirus to use outdated signatures against new threats. F-Secure rated ADVANCED+, the highest rating, in both of these tests.

Researchers at AV-Comparatives also run ongoing tests of how well an antivirus product resists the very latest threats. Over a period of months they throw as many as 100 brand-new threats at each product every day. In this real-world protection test, F-Secure also rated ADVANCED+.

Average Malware Removal

In my own hands-on malware cleanup tests, F-Secure didn't display quite the stellar cleanup power that its lab results would suggest. It detected 68 percent of the threats and scored 5.5 points overall. Norton AntiVirus and Kaspersky detected 89 percent of this same collection. Norton took the top score among current products, with 6.6 points. Kaspersky came very close with 6.5. AVG Anti-Virus FREE and Daily Safety Check Home Edition%displayPrice% at %seller% also scored 6.5 points.

I should point out that F-Secure takes a somewhat unusual approach to malware cleanup. At the end of a scan it reports on threats in four categories: viruses, spyware, riskware, and suspicious items. If you select the default automatic cleaning, it won't necessarily remove low-risk items. For testing, I chose the "item by item" option and quarantined every item it found, even the low-risk ones.

Norton, Kaspersky, AVG, Bitdefender, and several others detected all of the rootkit samples in my current malware collection. Kaspersky rooted almost all of them out, earning 9.4 points for rootkit cleanup. F-Secure detected 80 percent and took 7.2 points. Scores overall are lower than with my previous malware collection, but in both groups F-Secure came in right in the middle.

Blocking Malware Attacks

F-Secure includes two different technologies to keep malware from gaining a toehold in a clean computer. Its standard realtime protection scans files on access to identify known threats. For viruses and high-risk threats it immediately goes into a mini-scan cleaning mode that attempts to wipe out all associated malware traces.

When the realtime protection system detects a lower-risk threat like spyware or adware, it offers the user a choice. You can let F-Secure handle the threat automatically, meaning it might choose to ignore it, or you can make your own choice. I always chose to quarantine these lower-risk threats.

If F-Secure detects what it calls riskware, it simply blocks the process from executing. Once again you can choose to quarantine it; I always did.

F-Secure's DeepGuard provides a second layer of protection. DeepGuard watches all running processes, looking for suspicious patterns of behavior. If it detects a threat, it warns the user and recommends blocking the application from running. You'll need to look at these DeepGuard warnings closely and consider what you know about the program in question. It blocked Internet access by a spyware program, but it used an identical window to block a completely valid PCMag utility.

F-Secure Anti-Virus doesn't attempt to block all access to known malware-hosting websites, but it does check files immediately on download. When I attempted to re-download my current malware collection, it blocked almost 70 percent of those whose URLs are still valid. Trend Micro blocked 100 percent of those threats at the URL level, even blocking a number of URLs that aren't currently active. Norton also managed 100 percent through a combination of URL and download blocking.

My main malware blocking test starts when I open a folder containing already-downloaded samples. Like most antivirus products, F-Secure began wiping these out right away. By the time it finished, only one sixth of the threats remained. When I launched the survivors, the realtime antivirus whacked some while DeepGuard detected others. Overall, F-Secure detected 95 percent of the samples and scored 9.3 points, the same as AVG. Daily Safety Check and SecureIT detected 97 percent; SecureIT took the top malware blocking score of 9.7 points.

Does the Job

That's the end of this review. There's no addendum for bonus features or components normally found in suites, as there sometimes are with other antivirus apps. F-Secure focuses on the task at hand. Based on my tests, it's especially good at keeping malware out of a clean system, but less good if the malware got in first. On the other hand, its scores with the independent labs are stellar. It's definitely a step up from the edition.

Conclusion

The detection and removal scores for F-Secure come from an independent testing lab based in Germany called AV-Test. It maintains a large infrastructure for detecting emerging virus threats and incorporating them into its database of identified viruses, worms, Trojans and rootkits. With this vast cache of potential threats, it is ideally equipped to test this software, and F-Secure Anti-Virus came out near the top.

F-Secure scored very well on both Windows 7 and Windows XP protection in repair and usability tests conducted by AV-Test. It tied for second place for Windows 7 protection, and it sits in the top five for repair and usability scores for both operating systems.

The protection rate tops out at 92 percent, so you can feel safe with F-Secure, knowing it will provide you with top-of-the-line protection from even the newest cyber threats.

This software has some of the best detection and removal rates in the industry, but it falls behind slightly when it comes to the comprehensiveness of its feature set. It doesn't have anti-phishing capabilities, nor does it provide a specific mode for gamers or netbooks like other top-of-the-line antivirus software.

F-Secure provides protection for almost all modern Windows configurations, with the notable exception of the 64-bit version of Windows XP. While this isn't an exceptionally common operating system, it still causes F-Secure to drop below some of the more comprehensive and fully featured packages.

F-Secure's manufacturer provides exceptional customer support, ranging from a wide swath of helpful documentation online to responsive and considerate customer support. You can contact the company via email, phone or live chat on its website. The company takes its customers' security seriously, and offers methods to contact its support team at almost any time of day.

While it does come up short compared to a few antivirus software packages on the cutting edge, F-Secure provides plenty of protection for almost any user. You'll be well-protected with F-Secure Anti-Virus.

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