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Panda Antivirus Pro

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Panda Antivirus ProPROS: Includes optional firewall and virtual-machine safe browser. USB Vaccination permanently prevents USB-based malware attacks. Checks for missing Windows patches.

CONS: So-so scores in PCMag's malware blocking test. Web-based protection didn't block download of most threats. Firewall program control disabled by default. Easily disabled by turning off its services.

BOTTOM LINE: Panda Antivirus Pro's colorful user interface breaks out of the trend toward pastels for security. It offers some uncommon features including a firewall, a virtual-machine safe browser, and network management. For actual protection against malware, though, you can do better.


Panda is a security company founded in 1990 in Spain by Mikel Urizabarrena. It's one of the largest antivirus software vendors and has a 3.2% share of the market place. Panda Antivirus has many features and tools and they are designed to protect your PC from malware (malicious software), identity theft and hackers.

Panda Antivirus Pro works with Microsoft Windows and Macintosh operating systems. Both versions include antivirus, anti-worm, anti-spyware and ID theft protection. So you get protection when you are online, e-mailing, chatting and you also get security as you use your iPhone, iPod or iPad.

Panda Antivirus Pro has been tested and certified by AV-Test, ICSA and West Coast labs. These tests give it excellent scores for usability, protection and repair and its protection on Windows 7 for example was 83% as shown on the AV-Test and this was better than most antivirus programs except BitDefender and Kaspersky who scored 100% each on this test. On the Windows XP protection test it scored 92% and was equal with Kaspersky.

Many online customer reviews of Panda antivirus are positive and show that it is one of the best antivirus software programs. On Top Ten Reviews it has received the bronze award for performance and features. And this new version has outperformed other well-established programs like Norton AntiVirus and AVG antivirus.

Minor Installation Challenges

Panda Antivirus installed just fine on ten of my twelve infested test systems. Malware prevented activation on two of those, but it didn't block access to updates, so I had no trouble running scans. On one system, malware prevented the installer from downloading the latest components; tech support offered an offline installer that worked around that problem.

Ransomware prevents normal use of Windows on the remaining system; it only works in Safe Mode. Tech support Panda's PScan, a kind of message-based remote control tool, to diagnose the problem and eventually switched to real-time hands-on remote control to effect a fix.

With all the installations complete, I ran a full scan on each system. On my standard clean test system the scan took 37 minutes, which is about average. However, a subsequent scan finished in less than half a minute. That's fast!

Good Malware Cleanup

After running a full scan on all twelve test systems, I tallied the results. In a few cases Panda asked whether I wanted to remove a particular less-risky item; I always said yes.

At the end of a scan, Panda simply displays the number of items checked, the number of threats found, and the number of threats resolved. You can click a link to expand the display with details, or click another link to open a full report that includes all recent activity.

Independent Lab Results

Panda stopped participating in static tests by Virus Bulletin some years ago, but most labs continue to rate Panda technology. ICSA Labs and West Coast Labs both certify Panda for virus detection and removal. rated Panda ADVANCED+ (the highest rating) in its on-demand detection test and ADVANCED in a test using old virus definitions to simulate proactive response to zero-day threats. AV-Comparatives also runs months-long real-world tests to see how antivirus tools fare against literal zero-day threats; Panda earned a rating of ADVANCED in this test. rates antivirus tools by assigning up to six points in three categories: protection, repair, and usability. A total of 11 points (out of a possible 18) is required for certification. Panda comfortably made the cut with 14 points. For more details about the independent labs, see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

Simple Firewall

Panda's simple firewall isn't installed by default. The first time you click its icon, it launches a setup process. Once in place, the firewall won't bug you about program control. By default, it automatically assigns permissions, letting programs make outbound connections but not receive inbound connections.

In testing, it successfully stealthed all ports and resisted port scans and other Web-based attacks. However, it didn't do anything at all when I attacked the test system using the Core IMPACT penetration tool. None of the thirty-odd exploits actually breached security, as the system is fully patched, but the only response from Panda came when the Web-based antivirus detected a file component from one of the exploits.

Norton Antivirus doesn't pack a full firewall, but it does include exploit protection. Norton detected every single one of the exploits and identified two-thirds of them by name. I definitely prefer getting a notification when a website is attacking my system.

Of course, security protection does you no good if the bad guys can just reach in and turn it off. Panda's processes are protected against termination, and its Registry settings can't be modified. However, using the Windows Services app I had no trouble stopping all but one service. Setting all the services to start disabled and rebooting completely crippled the program.

Safe Browser

Quite a few security companies include some form of safe browsing to protect sensitive online transactions. Kaspersky's Safe Money and Bitdefender's SafePay launch browsers that are isolated from other processes and protected against tampering. Panda's Safe Browser takes this concept substantially further.

In order to use it, you must install Sun's Virtual Box tool; note that this is free only for personal and evaluation use. Safe Browser runs inside a virtual machine, totally separate from processes running under Windows. You can't even take a screenshot of it, under normal circumstances. When you want to quit, you can either save the session and resume later, or terminate the virtual machine and discard all evidence.

This is definitely a powerful mode of protection, but some users may find it a bit more challenging than the simple, automated protection of Safe Money, SafePay, and such. Like the firewall, this component is installed the first time you go to use it.

Network Management and More

In a multi-PC household, you can use Panda's network management to keep track of all your installations. From any Panda-equipped PC, you can view the status of other Panda installations. Specifically, it lets you know whether Panda is enabled and up to date on those systems. You can also use it to push Panda protection to systems that don't yet have it.

Many modern threats use USB thumb drives as one mode of propagation. They configure the drive so that on insertion into a system it automatically runs malicious code. Panda's USB Vaccine feature, installed at first use, permanently prevents malware from making use of any USB drive you vaccinate. It will also thoroughly disable autorun features on your PC.

Your best bet for Windows safety is to turn on Automatic Updates and accept all updates from Microsoft. If your Windows installation is somehow not fully patched, Panda's automatic vulnerability scan will let you know about the problem. A link to Windows Update online lets you get your system patched easily.

Good, Not Great

Panda Antivirus Pro has a number of features not commonly found in standalone antivirus products. It includes a firewall, for example, and a virtual-machine safe browser. Unfortunately, it's merely good at protection, not great like some of the competition. Even Panda's own Cloud Antivirus scored better at malware blocking.

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