A variety of anti-virus and firewall tools
May 12, 2006
Overall, Symantec and McAfee seem to control the market for anti-virus and Internet security products. However, there are still a few rivals worth considering that aren't as well known. F-Secure, with its Anti-Virus Client Security software is mainly aimed at the corporate market.
But it has just released Internet Security 2004, which combines anti-virus and other online security features in a single package, for home and small business users.
There's nothing especially innovative about Internet Security 2004. It provides a fairly standard range of anti-virus and firewall features, but it's reasonably priced and, for the most part, quite easy to use.
Its main advantage is that it has a slightly tidier interface than its Symantec and McAfee rivals, which makes it a bit more accessible for less technical users.
When you install the software it places an F-Secure icon in the taskbar. This loads automatically each time you start your PC, and checks to see if you're connected to the Internet.
If you're online it automatically checks for new virus updates and can also display regular notices that warn you about newly discovered viruses and other threats. This feels quite reassuring, as it lets you know the software's always there doing its job in the background - you can turn both these options off if you find them intrusive.
You can also right-click on this icon to open a menu that allows you to quickly scan a particular folder or volume, or to open the main Internet Security program itself.
This initially opens up to its Home page, which provides a simple summary of the various protection measures currently in place. Running down the left-hand side of the screen is a series of buttons, which can be pressed to provide more information about the various anti-virus and security options.
Press the Anti-Virus button, and the screen will display the currently selected virus-protection settings.
There are preset levels of protection that can be selected from a simple pulldown menu, but you can also customise these settings by selecting specific options such as scanning incoming and outgoing emails, or compressed files such as zip archives downloaded from the Internet.
One interesting option is the realtime scanning feature, which can be used to automatically scan document files whenever you open or save them. You can set this option to work with specific file types, such as Word or Excel documents, so it could come in handy if you're sharing files with colleagues or clients at work.
The program takes a similar approach with its 'Internet Shield' settings. You can select a preset security level from a menu, or use the customisation option to gain more detailed control over the various settings.
You can specify which applications on your PC are allowed to access the Internet, perhaps allowing your kids to play games while preventing them from browsing the web without your permission.
You also have the ability to create rules that determine how the program's built-in firewall works. Unfortunately, this part of the program isn't very well explained.
This is the one area where the program's ease of use lets it down, and we got the impression the firewall features were simply copied from one of F-Secure's corporate products without properly adapting it for the needs of home users.
The final set of options is accessed through the Update button. This allows you to determine how often you check for virus updates and news bulletins. If you decide not to update automatically you can ask for a reminder every few days just to jog your memory.
It's all fairly straightforward, although F-Secure could have done a better job explaining how the firewall works.
However, most home users will probably be happy to go with the preset firewall options so this isn't a major flaw.
Internet Security 2004 doesn't have the sheer depth of features found in rivals such as Norton Internet Security, but it's got all the basic features you need and is quite a bit cheaper, so it's a good choice for home users on a tight budget.
There's also a free trial version available, so you can try before you buy.
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