Product review: F-Secure Anti-Virus 2010

By Erik Larkin, PC World |  Security, antivirus

While F-Secure Anti-Virus 2010 ($40 for a one-year, 3-PC license, as of 11/19/09) is simple to use and does a reasonable job of blocking malware, it has a few bugs, and it couldn't beat some of its competitors. It came in at number six in our current roundup of stand-alone antivirus apps.

In traditional malware blocking tests, F-Secure Anti-Virus ranked in sixth place overall. Its 99.8 percent performance at blocking known spyware, worms, and other malware from AV-Test.org's massive baddie collection was respectable, but three other programs performed even better. The same goes for F-Secure's 99.3 percent adware block rate.

Its middling performance continued in heuristic tests, which use two-week-old databases and newer malware samples to simulate how well a program can detect malware that doesn't yet have a signature. It scored a 66.7 percent detection rate, behind three other apps. And it finished its fourth-in-four performance in behavioral detection tests, a form of defense that attempts to identify brand-new malware based on how it acts on your PC. It put up warnings of one kind or another about 5 out of the 15 samples, and blocked 3. By comparison, G Data Antivirus offered warnings about 13 samples and blocked 12.

F-Secure Anti-Virus did rise above the pack when it came to removing existing infections. It successfully identified and neutered all 10 test infections, and it also tied for first (with Norton Antivirus) at getting rid of less important malware files and system changes. But it dropped just below the average with a scan speed of 8.1MBps (megabytes per second) for automatic scans--these occur when you save or copy a file, for example. That performance earned seventh place in the rankings.

The Finnish-made program includes an Internet-based layer of protection that asks F-Secure's servers about new, unknown files on your PC. This "cloud computing" approach is meant to identify apps that the company knows are safe, and allows the program to focus scanning resources on potential threats.

F-Secure's app can also scan Web traffic for potential threats before they land on your hard drive, but the feature is turned off by default. If you turn it on (a good idea), be aware that the program displayed a bug with some Firefox downloads. After a few test downloads, it stopped warning about a file that should have triggered a warning every time. This issue didn't affect Internet Explorer in my testing.

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