F-Secure Anti-Virus Review
F-Secure create a somewhat utilitarian impression when you visit their website, which will probably appeal to some; especially those put off by big lists containing features and cutting-edge buzzwords.
The F-Secure Antivirus product itself continues the theme. The welcome email you receive prior to downloading the software states that the product “optimises your protection so that you never have to bother about the settings,” great news for novices who want an “install and forget” antivirus product.
Unfortunately, while F-Secure makes things simple for novices it also (arguably) leaves them with the potential to infect their machines as a result of social engineering, as we found in one of our real-life tests – read on to find out more.
Like most Internet security vendors, F-Secure offer an antivirus product and a more expensive (and comprehensive) Internet Security product. The antivirus product is the one we concentrate on here.
There are no real purchase “options” for F-Secure Anti-Virus. All that’s on offer is a one-year licence that covers up to three PCs at the rather competitive price of £19.95 (or $39.95 in the US).
The below-average price is notable as it is lower than the price of similar products from other major vendors.
Like most vendors, F-Secure offer a 30-day free trial of their product. Unlike some, however, F-Secure do require you to complete a small registration process to access the installation file.
F-Secure Anti-Virus has a relatively compact features list, especially when compared to products such as Kaspersky and Norton, which seem determined to out-do each other with promises of cutting-edge technology.
It’s actually quite refreshing to see such a simple list:
Key features include:
Real-time cloud protection: This uses cloud-sourced information to keep on top of the latest threats. This functionality is common to all of the major vendors.
Manual and Scheduled Scanning: This is standard on all commercial antivirus products.
Spyware protection: F-Secure claim their product protects against spyware as well as traditional virus threats.
Simple Installation: All antivirus vendors seem to claim that their products are now easy to install. Some products achieve the objective better than others. See later on in the review to see how F-Secure fares!
Low Footprint: Again, as with many antivirus products, F-Secure claims not to “disturb you or slow down your computer.”
Email Scanning: F-Secure offers email and attachment scanning.
DeepGuard: This checks any applications you run against a cloud-sourced list, and closely monitors the behaviour of any unknown programs.
One feature that is notable by its absence is Web-browsing protection. While many Internet security companies include this functionality in their antivirus product (usually in the form of a browser “plug-in”), F-Secure only include it with their more expensive Internet Security product.
We are not necessarily concerned by this, as we often find that safe browsing functionality duplicates functionality that many web browsers now incorporate as standard anyway.
We were certainly aware that the F-Secure Antivirus features list seemed light compared to other products, but ultimately what matters is how the product performs. We were keen to get it installed and find out.
Installation and Configuration
After registering for the 30-day free trial, we clicked the download link in our welcome email.
The download file was very small, at just over 1MB. We suspected (correctly) that more of the program would download as part of the installation routine.
After running the install file, we first had to select a language option:
We then clicked “Install” and accepted the license terms:
As suspected, the installer then proceeded to download the rest of the software, but this was a quick process, taking less than two minutes to complete.
With the download completed, we were asked whether we were happy to participate in contributing to the “real time protection network” and to automatically upload any suspicious applications.
The install then continued, checking for “conflicting applications” and scanning for malware as part of the process.
The install time was average: we’ve seen slower and we’ve seen quicker. As soon as it was complete, we were shown the F-Secure “Launch Pad.” We were pleased that we weren’t required to reboot; while this used to be standard practice a few years back, very few antivirus products now require this time-consuming step.
We were glad that the “Launch Pad” automatically hid itself, as we would otherwise have found it rather intrusive on our Windows desktop.Once it disappears, it’s easily reactivated from the Windows system tray.
Although F-Secure state that users needn’t “bother with settings,” we did have a quick look around the program interface.
We immediately noticed that F-Secure was already updating itself. This seems like a basic thing, but a surprising number of products seem to wait until you manually trigger the first update, it was therefore good to see. However, the update process seemed to have stalled on “connecting to the update server.”
We waited over five minutes, and then the update eventually began. We put this down to a glitch or temporary problem with the update server. Once the update began, it completed quickly.
With the software installed and fully up to date, it was time to test it out with some real-life virus threats.
We inserted our infected USB key containing a selection of three threats, all with varying levels of complexity.
Strangely, our machine seemed to hang for a minute or two on inserting the key. While we cannot confirm that this was connected to F-Secure, we hadn’t noticed this behaviour before.
Once the key was ready to use, we clicked “open folder to view files.” As we did, we noticed one of our test viruses, a fake “scareware” antivirus product, disappear before our eyes. Straight after, we saw an alert from F-Secure to say that a virus was found and blocked.
The other two viruses, however, still sat waiting on the USB key.
We started with the “easier” of the two, a harmless test virus from the European Expert Group for IT Security. We ran the file (eicar.com), and F-Secure instantly jumped to action, removing the virus as it had with the previous one in the screenshot above.
We were then left with our final virus, a fake Google Chrome installer that attempts to convince users to install a host of undesirable malware.
What happened next was interesting: when we ran the installer file, the “Deep Guard” feature of F-Secure popped up, advising us not to run the “rare application.”
While this would (arguably) be enough to stop most people proceeding further, it’s fair to say that anyone convinced that they had a legitimate installer for Google Chrome might be tempted to choose the “let it continue” option.
It’s also fair to say that we have encountered other antivirus products that know exactly what the malicious file is and detect it as such, rather than purely as a “rare application.”
With this in mind, we decided to select “let in continue” to see what happened. We were able to continue with installing the program.
Although F-Secure blocked some Adware during the install, we were still left with a very messy test machine by the time it had completed. Various nasty programs like Driver Pro and Desk 365 were installed, and our search settings had all been hijacked. In addition, popups starting appearing all over the place.
It’s important to keep this in perspective: F-Secure did warn us not to run the program, so it’s fair to say that it did its best to protect us from this situation. However, by only identifying our fake Google Chrome as a “rare application,” it failed to protect novice users from themselves, which one could argue is equally important.
We decided to run a “virus and spyware” scan with F-Secure to see if it could identify and remove all the malware now residing on our test machine.
The scan completed very quickly, and rather disappointingly reported that nothing had been found. As several of the malware items on our machine are widely know, we were not very impressed by this.
We decided to run a “full computer scan.” This took a while longer, but we did notice pleasingly low memory and CPU usage while it was in progress (around 90MB and 10% respectively). This was better than many products we have reviewed, albeit sadly meaningless if the software is missing real-life threats!
Once the full scan was complete, we were sad to see that it had still failed to pick up the remaining malware, and that our test machine was still in disarray.
F-Secures’s technical support options are impressive and include community support, online chat, email (ticket) support and, most impressively, phone support, which in some countries is available 24/7/365.
We found nothing anywhere to indicate that the full range of support options are not available to those using trial versions, which pleased us after encountering this scenario while reviewing Kaspersky’s product.
- Lots of support options, including 24/7/365
- Low footprint during scans
We weren’t so sure about
- Real-life test results not perfect
- Poor spyware protection
- Protects users from viruses, but not from themselves
We were careful not to heavily penalise F-Secure for what happened in our fake Google Chrome test. The software DID warn us not to run it. However, we were simulating what a novice user might do in reality, and in a world where many security threats rely on some level of social engineering we consider it fair to take this into account. We’ve also seen competitor’s products deal with this threat far more comprehensively.
If F-Secure had then gone on to mop up at least some of the system damage caused by installing the fake product, we could have been more kind in our conclusion, but unfortunately the software failed to notice any remaining threats.
While we liked F-Secure in some ways, the simple fact is that we’ve reviewed other products that have dealt with our real-life tests better. Even if you disagree with the logic behind our criteria, we’d recommend checking those out before committing to F-Secure.