If you're looking for a robust feature set from your security suite, and you want an affordable price, you could do worse than Trend Micro's 2010 products. Trend Micro Internet Security Pro, Trend Micro Internet Security, and the stripped-down Trend Micro AntiVirus plus AntiSpyware have been refreshed, with the publisher claiming significant performance enhancements to each.
Trend Micro is claiming that boot times are 20 percent faster than with the previous versions, that the programs use 40 percent less RAM, the download itself is 25 percent smaller, and that the quick scan on Windows Vista and Windows XP is 20 percent faster. There are new features, too, including an autorun disabler for USB keys, a gaming and video mode so that scans don't start while you're deep into your entertainment, and system restore features in the System Tuner. The interface has been streamlined slightly, as well, making for easier navigation.
The Trend Micro installation process is about as smooth and pain-free as you could hope a program that will have such deep hooks into your system could be. It will detect other antivirus programs and then ask for approval to remove those installed on your machine, but it doesn't require a reboot after it's done--something most competitors do.
One thing that Trend Micro fails to do effectively is call out its behavioral engine. There is a box you can check at installation to opt out of the behavioral program, but there's no detailed or clear explanation of what it is or what it does. On the one hand, technology that allows the publisher to leverage supposedly-anonymous data from customers to catch surreptitiously-running threats faster isn't new; it's been around for a few years, although this year is seeing more security suites adopt it. On the other hand, companies like Trend Micro must consider whether users will panic if it is mentioned clearly and then disable their computers from contributing data to the cloud.
As long as the data is truly kept anonymous, a behavioral engine can be an exceptional tool for preventing malware. But in Trend Micro's installation process, it looks like nothing more than another box and line-item to read before installing; it could benefit from a more detailed explanation.
A customized installation process is available for people who wish to configure program location and tweak components. Trend Micro will also run a virus check once it's done installing and automatically update its definition files.
Interface and Features
Trend Micro's 2010 interface has been further refined from the previous year's version, with less dead space and more emphasis on your security status and the ease of access to security tools. The program launches into its Overview tab, which highlights your security status with a large, colored icon: green for Protected and Red for Unprotected. Below that, there are links to your protection status, your license information, and a security report.
Each of these links drills down to essential information, exposing data in an elegant and uncluttered manner on the main page. The Protection Status link opens a window that details the status of your virus definition files, updates, firewall, unauthorized change prevention, spam filter, parental controls, and data-theft prevention. Each of these has a green On or red Off status icon, with a hidden explanation of each that can be exposed by clicking on it. Unfortunately, there's no way to get from the list to the actual deeper controls for each, but it's simple for toggling the status.
Also on the Overview tab are two buttons, one for activating a scan and one for manually updating your definition files. The scan button defaults to a Quick Scan, although it has a drop-down menu on the right side that lets you choose a Full Scan or Custom Scan. Scanning opens the scan window, which details which threats it's looking for, which files it's scanning, live results, and options to run in the background or shut down the computer after the scan is finished. Depending on how you set up the program, it will either automatically fix any threats found or ask for your input. If you choose to autofix, it will still show you a window after the scan is complete, detailing what action was taken, and the threat links to more detailed information on Trend Micro's site.
The Virus & Spyware Controls tab offers four drop-down menus. The first checks for real-time viruses and spyware when you download files, leveraging the aforementioned behavioral heuristics. It can be toggled with an on/off button, and it offers a configuration menu with a secondary, advanced-features window, and a whitelist/blacklist link that also allows for cookie control. Despite what sounds like a confusing series of submenus, in practice it was easy to navigate.
The Prevent Unauthorized Changes drop-down menu offers more granular control of installations. This is from where you would manage programs that Trend Micro doesn't recognize, with the same on/off toggle and links to settings and exceptions. The next tab is for configuring scheduled scans and custom scans. It's frustrating that such a key feature is buried deep in the interface, especially since most people are still wary of holes in real-time protection. This scheduler only controls scan schedules; it doesn't offer update scheduling. There's another scheduler for that, in different part of the program. Below the scheduler is the Quarantine, which helpfully categorizes the quarantined files as viruses, spyware, or trojans.
The Personal Firewall Controls tab continues the interface scheme, with headline-style options that expose key information in a drop-down, and then link to configuration options windows. Through the advanced-settings pane, the personal firewall exposes a wealth of firewall data, including the IP version, protocol used, and a simple description. Editing a protocol exposes even more data, for those who know how to use it.
Also in the Firewall Controls tab is the Network Connection status, which offers a cutoff switch to kill your connection to the Internet. I'm not sure how useful this feature is, or if it's just a hand-holding measure.
The next major tab, Internet & Email Controls, contains the data-theft-prevention lists, parental controls, spam filter, and protection against Web threats. The features here share lists, although not all lists are used by all the features. The Data Theft Prevention feature, for example, will block numbers and names that you specify from being sent through SMTP e-mail, Web-based forms, or instant message clients. You can also toggle which protocols are allowed to send the protected data, and which aren't, and insert your own customized data field for protection. The Web threats protection, which works to stop phishing and pharming, is heavily based on a firewall-style slider combined with whitelists and blacklists. Again, the efficacy of this is up for debate, especially in an age when a site's third-party server or ad server can be hacked without the site itself registering as risky.
As with many of Trend Micro's competitors, the parental control section can be configured for Adult, Teen, or Child, although here you also have the option for "Mature Teen" as well as to create a customized setting. The Adult user or system administrator can set access times based on user log-in, and customize the protected data field. Each of these options under Internet & Controls sports a green On or red Off toggle for quick verification.