At $69.99, McAfee Internet Security 4.0, the security giant's newest do-it-all protective suite, defends your PC against the two most dangerous cyberthreats: direct hacker attacks and sneaky, behind-the-scenes viruses. But unless you're an absolute stickler for online privacy or want to keep your kids within a strict online safety zone, you'll find cheaper, stronger protection elsewhere. At $69.99, McAfee Internet Security 4.0, the security giant's newest do-it-all protective suite, defends your PC against the two most dangerous cyberthreats: direct hacker attacks and sneaky, behind-the-scenes viruses. But unless you're an absolute stickler for online privacy or want to keep your kids within a strict online safety zone, you'll find cheaper, stronger protection elsewhere.
Plenty under the hood
Installing McAfee Internet Security 4.0 (MIS) is a breeze; we had it guarding the digital gate 15 minutes after opening the box. Like its biggest competitor Norton Internet Security 2002, MIS, by default, sets all defenses to medium-high settings. Do nothing, and you're completely safe. Still nervous? Then run MIS's Internet Security Check, an 11-item inspection of the PC's current protection status, from firewall to antivirus update status. Any flaws that MIS finds, it'll fix automatically. Nice.
Three main components make up McAfee Internet Security 4.0: VirusScan 6.0, McAfee Firewall 3.0, and a clutch of privacy tools brought over from the discontinued McAfee Guard Dog. MIS's new interface, which looks a bit like a Web browser (and a lot like Symantec's Norton products), gathers all these tools in one place. You navigate the product like a Web site by clicking buttons or using back and forward arrows.
Malicious code defenses
VirusScan 6.0, which you can launch straight from the main MIS interface, blocks and destroys Trojan horses, viruses, worms, and other computer germs. No scrimping here--MIS includes a full-featured edition of VirusScan 6.0--so all its tools, from e-mail monitoring to scheduled scans, are available. However, VirusScan 6.0 isn't the top virus slayer on the market. Norton Internet Security features our Editors' Choice, Norton AntiVirus.
McAfee Firewall keeps hackers at arm's length. First, it hides your computer so that it's invisible when you're online (what hackers can't see, they can't hurt). Second, it prevents any unauthorized online access, either inbound or outbound, so that if a Trojan horse does sneak into your PC via e-mail, it can't communicate with the outside world without your knowledge. We tested McAfee Firewall, and it does these tasks well. It passed both the ShieldsUp test and the Symantec Security Check with flying colors, completely concealing the computer and closing all online ports.
McAfee Firewall isn't foolproof, however. Unlike Symantec's Norton Internet Security, MIS lacks an obvious way to rescan your drive for newly installed Internet-enabled applications. And McAfee makes it a chore by having you fine-tune each application's online privileges from a series of options. Norton provides a slick wizard for this job.
MIS offers many new tools--so many, in fact, that you'll stumble across them days after installing the product. There are tools that automatically erase your browser's cache to hide where you've been surfing online, block most Web ads, and prevent personal info--such as credit card and Social Security numbers--from leaving your computer without your say-so. Others let you put the brakes on your children's Web time by restricting their surfing to age-appropriate sites and filtering filth from chat and instant messages. The most useful of these new tools is File Guardian, which lets you lock down individual files, folders, even entire drives so that no one, whether sitting in front of your keyboard or hacking into the PC from afar, can steal your personal data. Overall, MIS delivers a solid line of privacy defense.
But although this virtual fortress does its job thoroughly, it's not necessarily your best general security package, especially when it comes to price. Buy McAfee VirusScan 6.0 alone, and you'll get two-thirds of MIS's combined arsenal, including the all-important antivirus protection and firewall, but for only about half the cost of MIS. If you can do without all the kid protection and privacy knickknacks, VirusScan 6.0 alone is a much better buy. And for about the same $70, you can pick up Norton Internet Security 2002, which includes nearly the same mix of defenses but features the better-performing Norton AntiVirus.