The value of a Swiss Army Knife lies in the quality of its tools--more tools are worth their space on the knife only if each is as useful as the last. McAfee Internet Security 2005 (MIS 2005) provides tools that increase your computer's Web-based security, but they vary in terms of depth, effectiveness, and necessity. McAfee Internet Security 2005 includes four basic modules:, , , and Privacy Service, a feature that blocks info from entering the Web without your approval. If you're buying a security suite only for its antivirus and firewall capabilities, MIS should score well with you. But if you want a complete desktop security package, one that includes first-rate spam blocking and privacy controls, ZoneAlarm Security Suite offers much more for a similar price without sacrificing ease of use.
McAfee Internet Security 2005 is available via download from McAfee.com or as a boxed CD from McAfee or one of its resellers. There's no trial version of MIS 2005, although you can try McAfee VirusScan 9.0, McAfee Personal Firewall Plus, McAfee SpamKiller 6.0, and Privacy Service as individual downloads for 30 days each.
We had some problems installing MIS 2005. If you currently have antivirus software installed, whether or not it's active, you need to uninstall it. After we did that, our 70MB installation was relatively painless. Unlike Norton Internet Security, MIS doesn't require an activation code to unlock the suite, but you will have to register each individual McAfee module upon first use. For most, this automated process will be free from hassle, but we had problems.
As with other McAfee releases this year, we found bugs that the company should have caught before it released the software. In our case, the SQL server in Act 2005, the contact manager, read and deleted each newly created McAfee registration on our hard drive. McAfee technical support was able to duplicate this on its machines and ultimately suggested an appropriate workaround, but at press time, there was no word whether the company will patch the software.
The main interface for MIS is called the McAfee Security Center. Click one of the four modules along the left side to open its own screen window. The window offers further configuration options and displays your level of current protection, with additional explanations and links to a context-sensitive help system. Wizards and assistants help configure individual components for first-time use.
We were impressed with MIS 2005's overall ease of use, but a few controls struck us as awkward. For example, if you right-click within the Event Logs of Personal Firewall Plus to trust a Web site, then decide to change back, you can't simply block that site. You'll have to go to the Firewall Utilities page, then to the Trusted and Banned IPs page, and manually change the entry. We don't see why this couldn't be handled automatically from within the Event Logs page.