ByNeil J. Rubenking
Many antivirus vendors release new model year editions each fall, just the way the automakers do. Others schedule their new versions independently of the season, waiting until there are enough significant enhancements and new features.
IObit Malware Fighter 4 Pro doesn’t seem to fit either of these patterns.
It’s not next year’s model, and it’s not significantly better than the dreadful IObit Malware Fighter 3 Pro that I reviewed last year. Don’t even consider relying on this product to protect your devices and data.
The list price for a one-device, one-year subscription is $39.95, the same as Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2016 and Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2016). However, Malware Fighter seems to be perpetually on sale for $19.95.
IObit’s other security product, IObit Advanced SystemCare Ultimate 9, costs $29.99 per year. However, Advanced SystemCare Ultimate also includes a significant system tune-up component, and its performance against malware, while not great, is significantly better than that of Malware Fighter.
I still can’t understand why the company maintains both products.
There’s also a free edition of Malware Fighter, but given the dismal performance of the Pro edition I see no need for a separate review of the free edition.
Getting StartedGetting the product installed starts out quick and easy—just click the Accept and Install button and sit back. However, after installation it reported its status as “Unprotected by any antivirus engine.” I had to enter the registration code and separately install the licensed Bitdefender anti-malware engine before it was happy.
I also had to click a link to download the latest antivirus definitions.
Even then, the product wasn’t completely ready for use.
The Browser Protect and Security Guard buttons (two of the four large buttons that dominate the product’s main window) both reported the computer was not fully protected.
I had to click each and turn on a couple of important features.
Dismal Malware BlockingI haven’t updated my malware samples since the previous review, so I wound up testing this product with the same set of samples I used against the previous edition. With most vendors, that would mean a much better performance the second time around. With Malware Fighter, not so much.
As always, I began by opening the folder containing my samples. Many antivirus tools eliminate 70 percent or more of the samples immediately, thinning the field considerably. Malware Fighter managed to wipe out just 7 percent of the samples on sight, leaving me to launch the others and note its behavior.
Most of the samples installed and ran without any reaction from Malware Fighter. Of those it did nominally block, some installed executable files, and one actually managed to execute despite endless blocking attempts by the antivirus.
This product’s detection rate of 18 percent and overall score of 1.4 (out of ten possible points) look good only in comparison with the previous edition’s 14 percent and 1.3 points, and with the zero points earned by My PC Watchdog.
The best products achieve far better scores in this test.
Avast Pro Antivirus 2016 detected every sample in this set and earned 9.3 points; Bitdefender also got 9.3 points.
Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security 2016 came close, with 9.1 points.
I also test each product’s ability to block downloads of the very latest malware, using a feed supplied by MRG-Effitas.
These malware-hosting URLs are generally no more than a day or two old.
I launch the URLs one after another, noting whether the antivirus keeps the browser from accessing the dangerous URL, wipes out the malware during download, or lets the download proceed without taking any action to protect the test syste.
I tested Malware Fighter in parallel with ThreatTrack Vipre Antivirus 2016 and one other product, since all three were in my queue. Had I not done so, I might have given up halfway through, convinced that Malware Fighter does not block malware downloads at all.
Of the 100 verified malware-hosting URLs, Malware Fighter blocked exactly two at the browser level.
Somewhat confusingly, the blocking screen credited Advanced SystemCare with the discovery.
It eliminated four other malware payloads immediately upon download.
This product’s total of 6 percent protection is better than the previous edition’s big fat zero, but still among the very lowest.
The top score in this test, 91 percent, is shared by McAfee AntiVirus Plus (2016) and Symantec Norton Security Premium.
See How We Test Malware Blocking
Dismal Phishing ProtectionThat painfully weak performance in the malicious URL blocking test didn’t raise my expectations for success in the somewhat similar antiphishing test.
In fact, before spending any time on this test I double-checked the IObit website to make sure phishing protection is an included feature.
Finding a clear statement that the product’s “enhanced Security Guard and Browser Protect…protect users from phishing site attacks, scams and other potential threats,” I proceeded with the test.
Just about every antivirus I’ve seen implements phishing protection by replacing the fraudulent page with a warning page that explains the problem and, in some cases, lets the thus-warned user proceed. Malware Fighter takes a different approach, as far as I could see.
In testing, it denied access to the phishing site’s HTML page using the same notification popup that occurs when blocks access to known malware.
Malware Fighter’s phishing detection rate wasn’t the lowest I’ve seen, but it lagged a full 88 percentage points behind Norton’s.
The built-in phishing protection components in Internet Explorer and Chrome also beat out Malware Fighter by a wide margin.
Admittedly, few products can match Norton’s antiphishing accuracy.
Even so, Kaspersky, Avast, and Qihoo 360 Total Security Essential came within 1 percent of tying Norton, and Bitdefender actually beat Norton.
These products clearly do antiphishing right.
See How We Test Antiphishing
Bonus Features Malware Fighter’s Browser Protect page includes several security-related bonus features.
I observed the home page protection in action when Malware Fighter prevented a home page change by a malware sample that it did not otherwise detect.
Surfing protection is the feature that (minimally) handled malicious URLs.
I assume DNS protection works, but I can’t say for sure as my samples don’t attempt to take over the system’s Domain Name System settings.
Likewise, I did not see the protection against malicious toolbars kick in.
And while the product promises anti-tracking, it doesn’t offer anything like the visible Do Not Track feature found in Avast, AVG AntiVirus (2016), Check Point ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2016, and others.
If you click the Action Center button on the main window, you’ll see a list of recommendations for “better security protection.” You can click a link to get any one of the recommended items, or click a button to get all of them.
But be warned; most of these aren’t precisely bonus features. Rather, they are free editions of other IObit programs, and getting their full feature set will require another purchase.
Long, Crashed Scan My notes show that the last time I reviewed this product, a full scan took about 15 minutes.
I’m not sure what changed, but this time the scan took well over three hours to finish, reporting discovery of several dozen malware samples.
These were samples that were not found by the on-access or on-launch scan.
I clicked a link to save the report to disk before proceeding with removal…and the product crashed.
Seriously! I don’t remember ever having this happen before.
Unwilling to spend another three hours on a full scan, I directly scanned the folder containing my samples.
Including those caught by the full scan along with samples that that were eliminated on sight earlier, Malware Fighter managed 86 percent detection. What this says to me is that Malware Fighter’s real-time protection systems are failing (by a long shot) to use all of the product’s capabilities.
What’s Up, Bitdefender? In this review, I’ve mentioned Bitdefender quite a few times as a product that does extremely well in my tests.
It also earns excellent scores across the board from the independent testing labs.
Alas, none of the labs include IObit in their testing.
And from my own hands-on evaluation, it’s very clear that, despite incorporating some Bitdefender technology, IObit can’t deliver the same test results as Bitdefender.
The labs themselves state clearly that results apply only to the tested product.
The discrepancy between Editors’ Choice Bitdefender and dismal flop Malware Fighter was so great that I sent up a query to my Bitdefender contacts.
They explained that Bitdefender only licenses core technologies to third parties; it’s up to the licensee to integrate these technologies correctly.
They also noted that IObit doesn’t license all of Bitdefender’s technologies.
Indeed my testing shows that they clearly don’t license Bitdefender’s impressive ability to block malicious URLs and fend off phishing sites.
This point is especially important because Malware Fighter strongly emphasizes its use of Bitdefender technology. Point to the Bitdefender icon and the tooltip says, “Your PC is protected by the world leading Anti-malware & Anti-virus Engine.” The press release states, “Combined with the world-leading Bitdefender antivirus engine, [this product] delivers a more comprehensive antivirus and antispyware security solution to users.” Yes, it includes some Bitdefender code, but no, it doesn’t use that code very well.
I Just Don’t Get ItI never feel thrilled to assign a low rating to any product.
I always hope the vendor will take my review as constructive criticism, and I’m quite pleased when I see a much improved subsequent version.
I got no thrills at all from reviewing IObit Malware Fighter 4 Pro. While there are some minor improvements over the previous edition, this product still floats near the very bottom of all the security products I’ve reviewed.
I hope the next version will do better in my tests.
In the meanwhile, please, stay away from it.
If you need to choose a new antivirus, go for one of our Editors’ Choice products.
There are plenty to choose from: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, McAfee AntiVirus Plus, and Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus.
And if you’re at all tempted to spend money on Malware Fighter, save your cash! Avast Free Antivirus, AVG AntiVirus Free, and Panda Free Antivirus, our Editors’ Choice free antivirus products, will do a much better job.