ByNeil J. Rubenking
When a company comes out with a new version of an antivirus or security suite product, I always look to see what has improved since the previous edition.
Sometimes the changes are cosmetic—a brand new user interface, or simplified settings.
In other cases the differences are invisible enhancements to security components.
ThreatTrack Vipre Internet Security Pro 2016 looks the same as the previous edition, and while it nominally includes security enhancements, I didn’t observe much of a difference.
One of the more noticeable changes is the price.
The 2015 edition cost $49.99 per year for a single license, or $69.99 for three licenses.
Both those prices rise by $10 in the current edition.
That puts Vipre’s pricing on a par with Bitdefender Internet Security 2016 and Kaspersky Internet Security (2016), our Editors’ Choice security suites.
Shared FeaturesWith one small difference, the antivirus protection in this suite is the same as what you get with the standalone ThreatTrack Vipre Antivirus 2016.
I’ll summarize my findings here; for full details please read my review of the antivirus.
Vipre does get attention from many of the independent labs, meaning they consider it a product worth testing. However, its test results aren’t consistent.
ICSA Labs and West Coast Labs certify its malware detection ability, and it achieved VB100 certification in eight of the last 10 tests by Virus Bulletin.
Its scores in recent reports from AV-Test Institute and AV-Comparatives, however, range from decent to awful. Private test data and prerelease data from the labs suggest that we’ll see improvement going forward, but I have to score the software on its current results.
In my own hands-on malware-blocking test, the standalone antivirus earned a so-so 8.1 points.
The suite adds a feature called Advanced Active Protection, which brought that score up to 8.7 points, a definite improvement.
Among products tested with my current sample set, Bitdefender shares the top score in this test, 9.3 points, with Avast Internet Security 2016.
I didn’t see any specific benefit from Advanced Active Protection in my malicious URL blocking test.
Vipre’s 84 percent protection is quite good, in any case. McAfee Internet Security (2016) and Symantec Norton Security Premium share the current high score in this test, with 91 percent protection.
Vipre proved to be an effective shield against phishing sites, those fraudulent sites that try to steal your login credentials.
Its detection rate lagged just 6 percentage points behind Norton’s, and it handily beat the phishing protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. Note that fully two-thirds of recent products failed to do better than at least one of the three browsers.
The antivirus includes a few bonus features, and naturally the full suite shares these features.
They include a scanner that checks email (incoming and outgoing) for malware, a secure file eraser, and a history cleaner that wipes out traces of your computer and Internet use.
The Social Watch tool regularly scans your Facebook page for malicious links.
See How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests
See How We Test Malware Blocking
See How We Test Antiphishing
Unimproved Firewall Firewall protection in the 2016 edition is unchanged since last year.
That’s a shame, because the firewall and associated components just aren’t that great.
The firewall built into Windows successfully manages to put all of your system’s ports in stealth mode, rendering them invisible to simple attacks from outside.
Vipre’s is one of the few third-party firewalls that fails to duplicate this minor feat.
It also does very little in the program control realm. On the one hand, you won’t see confusing popup queries from the firewall. On the other hand, that’s because it doesn’t attempt any program control beyond blocking unsolicited inbound network traffic.
On the Firewall settings page you can see that the product includes an Intrusion Detection System (IDS) and Host Intrusion Protection System (HIPS).
Both are turned off by default, and even if you turn them on, they’re set to allow everything but high-priority intrusions.
For testing, I turned both systems on and set them to block all intrusions, with notification.
The result? Vipre blocked all kinds of ordinary activity.
It even completely blocked Internet Explorer from running, accusing it of performing code injection on itself! Most users risk chaos if they enable these features.
Even with all systems running in high gear, Vipre didn’t do well when I attacked the test system with exploits generated by the CORE Impact penetration tool. Out of about 30 exploits, it blocked exactly one at the network level.
Its antivirus component wiped out the malicious payload for a few others.
But overall Vipre did little to defend against exploits. Norton is the big winner in this test, blocking all of the exploits at the network level.
In my previous review, I mentioned that Vipre’s firewall is completely undefended against attacks on its processes and services.
I had no trouble killing all of its processes using Task Manager. Nor did it prevent me from stopping and disabling its essential services.
This firewall needs work.
Balky AntispamAs noted, the Vipre antivirus quarantines any malware found in incoming or outgoing email.
It also quarantines any phishing emails it detects.
Actual spam filtering, however, is reserved for the full suite. You’ll need to open the Email settings page and turn on spam filtering if you need it.
Be sure to click the Manage Email Apps button and choose which email clients you use. Your choices are Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express / Windows Mail, or other.
Even though I chose Microsoft Outlook, Vipre didn’t install any sort of toolbar, and it didn’t divert spam messages into their own folder.
I had no trouble creating a message rule to put the spam where it belonged; I’m not sure all users would find it as easy.
Worse, Outlook crashed repeatedly, identifying the Vipre add-in as the source of the problem. My ThreatTrack contacts confirmed that the spam filter can be overloaded if it has to process too many messages at once, and reminded me that we dealt with the problem last year by downloading my test email in small batches.
I would have been pleased to see the problem solved in the new edition.
Admittedly, most users don’t try to download thousands of backed-up email messages at once.
But if you do let things go long enough to encounter this bug, you’ll be unhappy.
It took me several days to manage downloading the 8,000-odd messages from my test account in small batches. Worse, quite a few of them were apparently damaged in the process.
I found messages with no subject, messages with header data in the body, and worse. Yes, there are always a few screwed-up messages, but I’m talking about more than a thousand.
Once I discarded the damaged messages and the messages more than 30 days old, I still had almost 2,000 to work with.
I put the Inbox through my usual triage, separating valid personal messages, valid bulk messages (newsletters and such), and undeniable spam.
I did the same for the spam folder and then ran the numbers.
I consider misfiling valid mail to be a more egregious error than letting some spam messages into the Inbox.
Vipre threw away 0.6 percent of valid personal mail, which is not so large.
But it also discarded more than 10 percent of valid bulk mail, including some simple weekly notifications that, to my eye, looked identical to others that weren’t marked as spam.
Vipre also let 11 percent of undeniable spam into the Inbox.
So, here’s a spam filter that doesn’t do a great job accuracy-wise, and that crashes when it has to process too many messages at once.
That’s just not a good combination.
At the other end of the spectrum, Bitdefender and Trend Micro Internet Security 2016 didn’t slow email download, didn’t discard any valid bulk mail, and only misfiled 0.1 percent of valid personal mail.
Bitdefender missed 1.8 percent of the spam while Trend Micro missed 3.9 percent.
If you actually need spam filtering in your security suite, one of these will be a much better choice.
See How We Test Antispam
Patch Management You might not think there’s any reason to look at the Updates page of settings.
The product visibly keeps itself updated, after all.
But if you dig a little you’ll see that it does more than that.
By default, Vipre checks every other day to make sure you have all important security updates installed. You can also launch a scan for updates manually, or set it to check with you before installing found updates.
Vipre can update almost five dozen applications from over 30 vendors, among them Adobe, Apple, Mozilla, and VMware, and the list is growing.
Vipre doesn’t attempt to handle Windows Updates for you, but it does report your current Windows Update status.
The status report line is a link that opens the settings dialog for Windows Update, so you can easily make any needed changes.
Some Performance ImpactThere’s no point in creating a super-powerful security application that sucks up system resources to the point where it noticeably slows down the PC. Users will just turn it off—then where’s your security? The industry recognizes this fact; few modern security suites put a noticeable drag on performance.
Even so, there’s a range.
In my simple hands-on tests, Vipre displayed more of a performance impact than many competitors.
Scanning files on access can potentially have a slowing effect on everyday file operations.
To check for this, I average the time required for multiple iterations of a script that moves and copies a large collection of diverse files before installing the suite.
After installation, I average another series of runs. With Vipre installed, that script took 43 percent longer.
A similar test that zips and unzips the same file collection took 7 percent longer with the software installed.
Getting various security processes up and running can affect how long it takes to boot your computer.
For testing purposes, I measure the time between the start of the boot process (as reported by Windows) and the time when 10 seconds have elapsed with no more than 5 percent CPU usage.
Averaging many runs of this test with Vipre installed and with no suite, I found that booting up took 25 percent longer.
Do note that the base boot time is about a minute, so 25 percent longer isn’t a huge long time.
Chances are good you won’t notice Vipre’s effect on system performance. On the other hand, you almost certainly won’t notice a drag after installing a product like Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2015), which hardly affected performance at all in my tests.
See How We Test Security Suites for Performance
Make a Different Choice A subscription to ThreatTrack Vipre Internet Security Pro 2016 gets you very good phishing protection, a substandard firewall, and antivirus protection that hasn’t gotten the best marks from the independent labs lately.
Its spam filter glitched in testing, and parental control is absent.
For the same price, you can get Bitdefender Internet Security or Kaspersky Internet Security.
These two are full-featured, and all their components shine.
They’re our Editors’ Choice products for security suite.
For another ten bucks, you can get the feature-packed Bitdefender Total Security, our Editors’ Choice for security mega-suite.
That price also gets lets you protect 10 devices with Symantec Norton Security Premium or all your devices with McAfee LiveSafe (2016), both of them Editors’ Choice for cross-platform multi-device security. You’ve got a ton of better choices.
Sub-Ratings:Note: These sub-ratings contribute to a product’s overall star rating, as do other factors, including ease of use in real-world testing, bonus features, and overall integration of features.Firewall: Antivirus: Performance: Antispam: Privacy: Parental Control: n/a