Pros

Good feature set
Good disinfection of threats

Cons
Subpar malware detection

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Trend Micro Internet Security 2008
The Trend Micro security suite combines a good feature set and solid malware disinfection, but those benefits are offset by below-average detection as well as interface and installation bugs.

We got off to a rocky start while installing Trend Micro's Internet Security Suite 2008 ($50 for three PCs) and weren't impressed with its malware-fighting performance, but thanks to solid features and a fairly inexpensive price, it managed to capture fifth place (out of eight security suites) in our "All-in-One Security Suites: Tried and Tested" roundup.

The problems began immediately, when a show-stopping bug prevented us from updating the program on two different Vista PCs. What's worse, when we called Trend Micro's tech support number we were unceremoniously disconnected following an automated "all operators are busy" message. A company rep discovered the source of the problem in a firewall component and fixed it in a subsequent update, so we were able to use the program--but then we ran into other bugs and annoyances.

When we tried to kick off a manual scan, the button grayed out, but the scan never started. We had to log off and back on to start the scan, and the problem recurred later. When we switched to another user account and also when we uninstalled the program, the suite thought the program window was open elsewhere (it wasn't), and as a result it either would reopen or wouldn't allow the uninstall to continue until we logged off and back on yet again.

These interface problems arose against a backdrop of mediocre malware detection. Trend Micro's suite finished in fifth place in the critical detection tests against AV-Test.org's giant zoo of dormant malware samples, finding 90 percent of the samples. Its spyware and adware detection rate (84 percent) was also subpar, as were its heuristic detection results. These tests use one-month-old virus definitions to simulate how well each suite would detect unknown malware. The Trend Micro suite managed to produce a 13 percent catch rate.

The suite did do well with malware cleanup, removing 70 percent of all files and Registry changes introduced by malicious infections. Only Symantec Norton Internet Security 2008 did a better job at disinfection, at 80 percent. The Trend Micro package allowed us to copy 732MB of files the fastest of the eight suites while its real-time detection was enabled--an indicator of the drag you can expect a security suite to have on your PC.

In general, Trend Micro has assembled the features you'd expect from a security suite, with antispam, parental controls, and antiphishing to complement the standard antivirus, anti-spyware, and firewall components. Its firewall successfully hid the protected PC from outside attempts to scan it, and it avoided unnecessary warnings when known programs attempted to access the Internet.

But its parental controls fared poorly. If you enable the feature, the filters you can create will apply to everyone who uses the computer. Also, the program doesn't prompt you to set a program password--and if you don't, any other user can open the program and turn the parental controls off.

The suite's antispam tool adds buttons to Outlook, Outlook Express, and Windows Mail that let you label e-mail as spam and approve or block specific senders. Its antiphishing feature blocks known or suspected malicious pages entirely in Internet Explorer and Firefox, but it missed one phishing site that used an IP address as a domain name and should have been an easy catch. In fairness, Firefox's built-in antiphishing tool missed the site, too.

If you can get past the bugs, you'll like the Trend Micro suite's clear interface. The settings for the various features are easy to find, and a nice weekly summary report lists all the threats blocked and other program statistics.

You may need to refer to that report: By default, the suite displays alerts only if it can't automatically handle a threat it discovers in real time or during a scheduled or manual scan. A better approach would be to let users know they may have just opened an unsafe e-mail message, for instance, to give them a better idea of what to avoid in the future.

Until Trend Micro improves its back-end malware detection and forward-facing user interface, it won't be among the best suite options available.

-- Erik Larkin

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