F-Secure Internet Security 2011

F-Secure Internet Security was reasonably successful at blocking threats and is easy to use, but it scans slowly.

Simple, simple, simple. That's the marching order of F-Secure Internet Security 2011 ($60 for one year, three PCs, as of 12/2/2010), an antimalware utility that focuses on safeguarding the computers of novices and especially families.

You'll see this approach right from the start: Even before the software is installed you are asked to configure parental controls and set an access password, which is used to change settings. And once you do get F-Secure up and running, that aim to make things simple continues: The F-Secure home screen has only six real options to choose from, and even the most oblivious novice should be able to figure out how to get around its interface. Our only quibble: Clicking the Scan button only runs a quick scan by default; you have to use the pull-down arrow to run a full scan of your PC.

You might think that this focus on newbies would result in stripped-down security levels, but although F-Secure has been an also-ran in prior years, for its 2011 release, the company has stepped up its game to compete with the big boys. In our tests, the software fully blocked 22 of 25 real-world attacks (it partially blocked an additional two) and detected 98.1 percent of known malware. False positives? Absolutely none. And F-Secure's 80 percent success rate at disinfecting active malware components on virus-ridden systems was among the top performers.

Operation speed was another issue: While F-Secure barely slowed our test systems during background operation, it was terribly slow at on-access scans, pulling a dismal last place in the time it takes to scan a file as it opens. Things were marginally better, but not much, with on-demand scanning; the app was still in the bottom tier of performers though at least it wasn't camping out at the end of the list.

F-Secure's approach to hand-holding is that you don't need it. Internet Security 2011 has one of the most Spartan help systems of any application we tested, just a handful of entries in a typical help tree, and zero documentation aside from a browser-based tutorial. F-Secure, fortunately, is basically correct: We can't imagine actually needing to refer to the documentation for the app, unless you're dying to know, say, what "DeepGuard" is and what it means to turn it on and off.

It's inspiring to see a company which has languished as an unimpressive performer for years finally get back on the horse and take a leadership position in the security software space. While its speed problems are seriously troubling and it left behind some code remnants after we uninstalled it, those are really the only sore spots in what is otherwise an impressive and worthwhile security suite.

This story, "F-Secure Internet Security 2011" was originally published by PCWorld.

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