Total Defense may not be familiar to you as an antivirus product as it’s only been around since 2011. Prior to that, you may have known it as CA (Computer Associates) Anti-Virus.
Unfortunately, it seems as if the rebranding has barely begun. When we downloaded the demo, it was still branded with CA logos. This is a product best avoided until someone pays some attention to it – right now it’s a bit of a mess.
Total Defense Anti-Virus is part of a comprehensive range of Internet security products. Total Defense Anti-Virus is the entry-level product, and above it in the range is “Internet Security Suite,” “Premium Internet Security” and “Unlimited Internet Security.” This review focuses on Total Defense Anti-Virus.
All copies of Total Defense Anti-Virus cover up to three PCs in a household. A standard subscription is for one year, but you can also purchase two and three year subscriptions.
At the time of writing, the vendor offers 40% off the first year’s subscription, making the price £23.99 (usually £39.99) in the UK and $29.99 (usually $49.99) in the US. There was no discount on offer in Euro countries, where the standard price is €49.99. Even so, given that each copy covers three PCs, the standard prices are competitive, and the offer prices are a real bargain (or would be were the software better – read on for more info!)
In common with most vendors, Total Defense offer a free trial of their antivirus product.
Total Defense Anti-Virus’ features list isn’t the longest we’ve seen, but is fairly typical for a modern antivirus product. One minor criticism is that anti-phishing technology is kept back for the vendor’s Internet Security products, where most vendors include it with their entry-level offering.
Key features of Total Defense Anti-Virus are as follows:
Download Defender: This pre-scans all downloads to ensure they are safe before they can do any damage. Useful though this feature is, many modern Web browsers include it as well.
Cloud Defense: In common with many vendors’ products, Total Defense now uses a cloud-based definition database.
AntiSpyware: Total Defense doesn’t only protect against traditional viruses, it also claims to deal with “worms, rootkits, FakeAV, and Trojan horses.”
Fast Scanning: Nearly every modern antivirus product claims to scan fast, but Total Defense claims to scan “up to 8x faster” than “standard virus scanning engines.”
Automatic USB Scanning: This is a feature we like to see, especially as we introduce our test threats via a USB key.
As we mentioned above, Total Defense doesn’t have the longest features list in the industry, but what’s included makes sense. We decided to proceed with our install so we could put the vendors claims to the test.
Installation and Configuration
The free trial for Total Defense Anti-Virus wasn’t that easy to find. In fact, we ended up using the website’s search facility to get to the download. Once we’d found it, the download ran to just under 90MB.
When we ran the installer we were interested to see that the software was still branded as “CA Internet Security Suite”
Our confusion continued as this branding inconsistency continued throughout the install.
Once the install was complete, we had to reboot our machine. More often than not, this isn’t required with modern antivirus software.
Once we’d rebooted, we were even more confused. Now, we seemed to be using a product called CA Anti-Virus Plus.
THEN, an activation window appeared asking us to activate CA Internet Security, but selecting the “Activate Now” button didn’t provide us with a demo option.
We began to get rather annoyed by all of this inconsistency, but decided to press on with trying out the product.
Next, we noticed an alert saying that our virus signature was out of date, so we hit the “Fix Now” button to update it.
While we went through the process, requests to activate the program appeared incessantly, adding to our frustration levels. Then, to make things even worse, the definition update continually failed, but gave us no reason for the failure.
By now, our frustration was turning to anger. We had tried to download a demo of one product, and ended up with what appeared to be a different product, which refused to update and hassled us constantly with activation popups.
We were not even able to clear the alert to update the software and explore the interface underneath. We fired off an email to the support department, and decided to move onto some real-life tests while we waited for a response.
We must admit that we didn’t have high hopes for our real-life tests of Total Defense Anti-Virus. We (laughably) weren’t even 100% sure we were trialling the correct product, and we hadn’t been able to update the definitions.
Even so, with trepidation, we inserted our infected USB key.
Pleasingly, the promised automatic scan function kicked in and offered to scan our device.
The scan identified two threats on our key, a fake “scareware” antivirus program, and a test virus from the European Expert Group for IT Security.
This left our fake Google Chrome installer still accessible on the key.
Unfortunately, Total Defense Anti-Virus or CA AntiVirus+ (we weren’t sure what to call it at this point) failed to do anything about out fake Google Chrome installer. We were able to click all the way through the installer, resulting in multiple malware infections, a hijacked browser, and a horribly slow and buggy test machine (see below screenshot).
Although we felt ready to through the towel in at this point, we kicked off a full system scan to complete the review.
Between all of the Total Defense popups, and those generated by the malware now on our machine, it took some work to get the scan started! Still, once we had, we decided to take our usual look at the program’s CPU and memory utilisation.
Unfortunately, our computer hung as soon as we tried to get into Task Manager. After waiting several minutes, we were eventually able to move forward and saw the program using about 120MB of RAM and about 20% CPU.
All in all, though, we’d seen enough. The program seemed very glitchy, and we were already irritated by the branding confusion. We also found the interface itself rather basic and lacking in information.
Other than a Web design glitch that you will see on the screenshot below, our first impressions of the support options available for Total Defense were good – what was on offer appeared comprehensive.
There are toll-free numbers for several countries, a link to an email ticket system and another link to a support “portal” which promises chat support.
At this point in the review, we hadn’t received a reply to our email about the confusing branding of the software, so we tried to gain an answer via the chat facility, only to find no operators available. By this point, we weren’t surprised.
UPDATE: After a couple of days, we received a rather unhelpful response to our query, saying simply that “The product is called Total Defense” – not an impressive response.
- Automatic USB device scanning
We weren’t so sure about
- Test PC seemed unstable after installation
- Basic and unattractive user interface
- Confused product branding
- Unable to activate “demo”
- Definition update failed
- Failed to catch all of our test threats
We’ve reviewed plenty of antivirus products. Some have impressed us, others have disappointed, but until now, none had left us frustrated and angry.
At no point in this review were we even sure we were reviewing the correct product. The rebranding of the product since the 2011 buy-out is so half-hearted that we saw the program referred to with three different names during the review.
Unfortunately, the program did nothing to redeem itself during testing. The activation pop-ups were infuriating, and the software didn’t manage to catch all of our test viruses.
The only part of Total Defense that anyone seems to have paid attention to since it was rebranded in 2011 is the vendor website. To start with, we thought we might have found something at least half decent. We didn’t. Avoid.
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