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A look at Intego's 2013 security software for OS X

Intego's new approach to security offers a simple interface with more relevant software.

If you are considering security software for your Mac there are a number of options out there, including those from popular companies like Sophos, Symantec, and Intego. There are both free tools and paid subscriptions to choose from.

A while ago I gave Intego's SecurityBarrier X6 suite a spin, which in testing has been found to be one of the better-performing anti-malware tools for OS X; however, the software did require a bit of a technical approach that was not too appealing to the average user.

In order to cater to a broader range of people, with its 2013 security suite Intego has adjusted its approach to bring more simplified and streamlined security options to OS X.

VirusBarrier 2013 setup window
Both VirusBarrier and NetBarrier offer quick setup options to get you started, which may be far more appealing to those who just want to install something and be back to work instead of spending time configuring the software. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

The 2013 suite is meant for both home and business use. The goal is to provide security in a nontechnical way with a focus on informing the user of potential security issues, rather than by taking control and locking down the system or by providing marginally useful peripheral features.

For example, in the latest suite Intego has done away with the complex dashboard of VirusBarrier X6 and replaced it with a more streamlined and informative view of what the program is doing. Additionally, Intego has removed the FileGuard encryption program since it is redundant with OS X's encrypted disk images and FileVault full-disk encryption.

Even though many of the features available in VirusBarrier X6 are still present in the latest version, Intego has made an effort to place many of them behind the scenes so as not to confuse the user with too much information and too many configuration options.

One of the first major changes in the 2013 version of VirusBarrier suite is that each program serves a dedicated purpose. While VirusBarrier X6 included both malware scanning and firewall options, these have now been placed in separate programs. The 2013 version of VirusBarrier is only a malware scanner, and the firewall has been packaged into a program called NetBarrier.

VirusBarrier 2013
The new VirusBarrier window (below) now somewhat resembles a Mac approach to Microsoft's Security Essentials, whereas the previous version was somewhat cluttered and resembled a submarine dashboard. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

This separation is quite nice to have, as it makes the program more compatible with other security software like Little Snitch or the built-in OS X firewall. This gives people the option not to install the firewall if they have another they would prefer to use.

In addition to the malware scanner and firewall, Intego has a new tool called Identity Scrubber, which offers a quick way to find instances of sensitive information in your system.

Sometimes information you've entered such as credit card information, passwords, and account numbers can end up being saved in easily accessible locations, such as in a text document within a publicly shared folder. To combat this, Identity Scrubber will scan your system and inform you if such information is stored in insecure locations.

While VirusBarrier and NetBarrier can be set to run actively in the background or on a schedule, Identity Scrubber is more passive in that only runs when you choose to use it. Additionally, despite what its name implies, Identity Scrubber does not wipe anything from your drive, but instead only serves to show you where these items are so you can take care of them.

These tools are offered for home users in several different bundles, or as standalone packages for businesses. The first is the standard Internet Security bundle with VirusBarrier and NetBarrier. Beyond this the Internet Security Premium suite includes Identity Scrubber, and finally Intego offers its Premium Bundle that includes backup and synchronization tools, its Family Protector parental controls program, and a cleaning tool called Washing Machine for managing system caches, cookies, and other temporary files.

NetBarrier Intro screen
Both VirusBarrier and NetBarrier offer a quick intro window that shows you what each item is, so you don't need to read a manual to figure it out. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

However, if needed you can pick only VirusBarrier and Identity Scrubber instead of a bundle, which makes Intego's offerings much more appealing than having all things in a single program as was the case with VirusBarrier X6.

When you open VirusBarrier 2013 or NetBarrier, you will see a new interface that is very basic and in part appears like a Mac version of Microsoft's Security Essentials suite for Windows. Gone are the dials, knobs, and indicator panels, and in their place are basic areas for selecting your computer or attached devices, performing either a full or quick scan of the system, and making some basic adjustments to VirusBarrier's scheduling and access.

The interface is a radical change from prior versions of Intego's software, and even though its simple layout should be intuitive to users, when you first launch it Intego offers a quick introduction overlay to point out the essentials of what you can do. This approach is very convenient and welcomes you to the software instead of throwing you in the midst of a bunch of dials and buttons or requiring you to access a separate manual.

Identity Scrubber Scan
Intego's Identity Scrubber will scan for a number of different items that could be used by a criminal who had stolen your system or otherwise gained access. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

In addition to the interface changes, there are major adjustments to the preference settings offered in the program. While the previous settings in VirusBarrier X6 dealt with managing details like log formatting, these often were unused or simply confusing. For example, in the advanced section there was an option to clear the Turbo Mode cache, which requires you to first look up in the manual what Turbo Mode is and then have an understanding of how its cache plays a role.

In contrast to this, the preferences for VirusBarrier 2013 are far more basic and to the point. There are no more options for how to format log files and access details of the program, and instead there are only settings for the exact services you see in the VirusBarrier interface. In the General section you can choose to include e-mails, iPhones and iPods in scans, as well as volumes when they are mounted. In the Scanner section you have options to enable detection of non-Mac malware and archive management, and toggle behavioral analysis options. Beyond this are sections for trusted items (an exclude list) and anonymous feedback to Intego. The only advanced option is to require administrative passwords for making settings changes.

A final feature is the Menu Extra, which serves to pull the separate programs together so you can access them from a single location. From here you can enable or disable a component, or open the respective program for it.

Intego Menu Extra
The Menu Extra offers quick access to the suite's tools. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

While Intego's new programs are a major change from prior versions, the new layout and approach are very inviting and users who are concerned about what to do with a security suite should feel right at home configuring it and getting it up and running to suit their needs.

While it is always fun to have more features, dials, buttons, and things that move on the screen, these can often be peripheral to a program's usefulness and even distracting. In the latest version of Intego's VirusBarrier and other security offerings, the company has really buckled down to bring the basics and bare essentials to its users.

With the new features of Identity Scrubber and by separating its tools, Intego seems to be on track to providing a well-rounded set of options to help users identify and plug potential security holes in their systems. The only gripe I have is with NetBarrier, which unlike Little Snitch does not provide any research or other insight on specific processes and whether or not they may be suspect; however, it still gives you the process name, which you can look up and investigate on your own.

If you are looking for a simple and straightforward security suite for OS X, then Intego's newest 2013 security tools are a convenient option. For home users prices start at $49.99 for the Internet Security suite. The Internet Security Premium and Premium Bundle suites are $20 and $40 more, respectively. Do keep in mind that for VirusBarrier these prices are for a one-year subscription to malware definitions, which would need to be purchased again once the subscription expires.

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