ByNeil J. Rubenking
Vipre has been a name to conjure with in the antivirus business for quite some time.
The product has changed over the years, bouncing from company to company and, at one point, incorporating spyware protection from the well-regarded CounterSpy. Perhaps all that moving around wasn't the best for its health.
The current incarnation, ThreatTrack Vipre Antivirus 2016, isn't your best choice for comprehensive protection.
It did improve its antiphishing and malicious URL blocking scores significantly over the tests we ran on last year's edition, but it fared poorly in tests by independent antivirus labs.
You have plenty of purchase options with Vipre. You can pick one, three, five, or 10 licenses and subscribe for one, two, three, or four years.
There's a discount for more licenses and longer subscriptions, of course. Protecting a single PC for one year costs $39.99, while a 10-license four-year subscription goes for $269.99, quite a bit less than what you'd pay for 40 single licenses (almost $1,600!).
Installation is simple, if not precisely quick. You fire up the installer, copy and paste your license key, and click a button labeled Agree & Continue.
The installer checks for program updates, performs the installation, downloads the latest virus definitions, and runs a scan for active malware. You don't have to do a thing, except perhaps get some coffee or a snack.
I found the full installation process took about 10 minutes.
Vipre's main window retains the look introduced with the previous edition.
Buttons let you launch or schedule a scan.
A status panel reports on the latest scans and updates.
A couple of links let you manage your account or the program's settings.
It's very slick and simple.
So-So Malware BlockingA full system scan with Vipre took 46 minutes, just a little longer than the current average.
Clearly the program performs some kind of optimization during that first scan, as a repeat scan completed in just five minutes.
AVG AntiVirus Free (2016) took 27 minutes for an initial scan on this system and two minutes for a repeat scan.
F-Secure Anti-Virus 2016 cut the time even more, with a 15-minute first scan and just over one minute to repeat the scan.
Of course, speed means little unless it's coupled with accuracy. My hands-on malware blocking test starts when I open a folder that contains a few dozen known malware samples.
Vipre immediately leapt into the fray, eliminating 79 percent of the samples on sight. When I launched the surviving samples, it detected a few, but didn't completely prevent installation of executable files.
It managed 86 percent detection and an overall score of 8.1 points in this test.
Two products share the top overall score.
Avast Pro Antivirus 2016 detected 100 percent of these same samples, and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2016 detected 93 percent.
Because Avast didn't completely prevent installation of malware traces, it earned 9.3 points, the same as Bitdefender.
Vipre's score puts it well below the median for this test.
Of necessity, my samples in that hands-on test get used for many months. However, in my malicious URL blocking test the samples (provided by MRG-Effitas) are as new as I can manage, typically no more than a day or two old.
The test is simple enough.
I take the sample URLs and launch each in a browser protected by the product under testing.
I note whether it steers the browser away from the dangerous URL, eliminates the executable payload during download, or sits idly, doing nothing to prevent the download.
I continue until I have data for 100 malware-hosting URLs.
When I tested Vipre's previous edition, it blocked just 38 percent, all of them during the download process.
This time around, Vipre's Search Guard and new Edge Protection components stepped up to raise the protection level impressively.
Between the two components, Vipre blocked access to 84 percent of the malware-hosting URLs.
Edge Protection did most of the work, though Search Guard (the one place you can still see Vipre's old snake icon) lent a hand.
Vipre's 84 percent protection rate is pretty darn good; only five products have done better.
At the top of the heap are McAfee AntiVirus Plus (2016) and Symantec Norton Security Premium, each of which managed 91 percent protection.
See How We Test Malware Blocking
Improved Phishing Detection Malware-hosting websites are definitely dangerous, but you can also get into serious trouble by voluntarily entering your login credentials on a fraudulent website.
Imagine if a phishing site snagged your Amazon password, or the credentials for your online banking! Last year Vipre tanked this test.
This year's results are much, much better.
To start my antiphishing test, I visit a number of sites that track these frauds.
Specifically, I scrape URLs that have been reported as fraudulent but not yet classified and blacklisted.
I open each URL simultaneously in a browser protected by the product under test and by antiphishing veteran Norton.
I also try each URL against the native protection of Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.
There's a lot of variation in the types of phishing URLs, and in their cleverness, so I report the difference between the detection rate of the various products, rather than hard numbers.
Vipre's detection rate was just 6 percentage points behind Norton's, the same score managed by BullGuard Antivirus (2016).
Vipre also handily beat all three browsers. Roughly two-thirds of current products failed to beat at least one of the browsers, and half of those performed worse than all three browsers.
See How We Test Antiphishing
Sad Lab Results Vipre's scores in my own tests ranged from so-so malware blocking to excellent phishing protection.
It didn't fare as well with the independent testing labs.
ICSA Labs does certify Vipre for malware detection and cleaning, and West Coast Labs certifies it for detection.
It managed VB100 certification in eight of the last 10 tests by Virus Bulletin.
But the scores go downhill from there.
In the latest three-part test by AV-Test Institute, Vipre earned 3 points for protection, 3 for performance, and 6 points for usability.
This last figure means that Vipre avoided screwing up by identifying valid apps and URLs as malicious.
But with 6 points possible in the important protection category, a score of 3 points is pretty bad.
Avira Antivirus 2015, Bitdefender, and Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2016) all managed a perfect 18 points in this same test.
Vipre's one success with AV-Test involved avoiding false positives, but in tests by AV-Comparatives false positives proved problematic.
This lab tags products with Standard certification as long as they meet all essential capabilities.
Better products can earn Advanced or Advanced+ certification, while those that don't make the grade just rank as Tested.
And whatever the basic rating, enough false positives can drag it down.
I follow five tests out of the many performed by this lab.
In latest instances of those tests, Vipre earned Advanced once and Standard twice, but failed the other two tests, both times due to false positives.
That looks especially bad compared with Bitdefender and Kaspersky, which took Advanced+ ratings in all five.
See How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests
Bonus FeaturesThe Email and Privacy settings pages demonstrate that Vipre offers a number of features above and beyond the basics of antivirus.
It checks your incoming and outgoing email for malware, quarantining any problems it finds.
And it quarantines phishing messages—but not spam; antispam is reserved for the Vipre suite.
The email protection works with desktop clients only, not Web-based email, and if your email client uses non-default ports you'll need some technical skills to make it work.
Vipre's Social Watch component scans your Facebook page for malicious links. Naturally you have to log in to Facebook in order for it to work. You can stay logged in and set it to scan every so often, or log out for privacy.
When you enable the secure file eraser feature, it adds an item to the right-click menu for files and folders.
After you confirm that you want a particular file or folder gone forever, it overwrites the file's data before deletion, to prevent forensic recovery of sensitive data.
I'm just as happy that it doesn't let you configure this feature, since most users aren't remotely qualified to select between the available algorithms.
As you browse the Web and use your computer, you leave behind a trail of clues that a nosy person could use to reconstruct your activities.
If that bothers you, the history cleaner component can help.
It will wipe out browsing traces for many popular browsers, recent file lists for popular applications, and a number of Windows-based traces.
There's a checkbox to show only programs that you actually have installed, but in my testing it did not seem to work.
I definitely don't have Safari, Opera, or ICQ in the test system, yet they remained visible even when I checked the box.
Some Ups, Some Downs ThreatTrack Vipre Antivirus 2016 performed significantly better than the 2015 edition in some areas.
It scored quite a bit better in my antiphishing and malicious URL blocking tests, probably thanks to the new Edge Protection.
Its score in my hands-on malware-blocking test was so-so, much the same as last year, but if I see top scores from the labs, I give them more weight than my own test. Unfortunately, Vipre's labs scores aren't good at all.
Antivirus is a big field, and I've identified a number of Editors' Choice products.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Kaspersky Anti-Virus routinely take top honors from all of the independent labs. McAfee AntiVirus Plus does well in lab tests and my own tests, and one subscription protects all of your Windows, Mac OS, and mobile devices.
And Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus remains the tiniest antivirus around, with an especial focus on ransomware.
Any one of these will be a better choice for your system's antivirus protection.