McAfee Internet Security Suite
McAfee Internet Security Suite combines solid performance--especially adware protection--with an easy-to-navigate interface. However, a cumbersome installation routine includes some questionable marketing, and phone support is not free.
The painful installation process required five restarts and the creation of a user name and password for registering the product. I was extremely displeased to see a subsequent dialog box that required me to opt out of receiving newsletters about virus threats, McAfee promotions, and McAfee partner promotions. (Why not at least make it have opt-in check boxes instead?) I was also initially unable to retrieve software updates through Firefox, my browser of choice; I had to use Internet Explorer and temporarily unblock pop-up windows to enable download of a plug-in that manages software updates.
Once installed, the suite is easy to use. It includes complete antivirus, antispyware, and firewall protection with comprehensive--though not completely advanced--configuration options. (Among the other nine suites we looked at, for example, Trend Micro's lets you choose how deeply to scan compressed files, and Panda's allows you to specify dangerous file extensions.) McAfee's suite also comes with the SpamKiller antispam tool, a decent set of parental controls called PrivacyService, and McAfee Shredder for deleting files.
The McAfee Security Center, which nicely integrates the suite's components, is loaded with educational but nonessential features such as a world virus map and "10 Tips for Online Chatting." Among the more useful features is instant messaging security, which has support for AOL Instant Messenger, Microsoft Windows Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger.
A couple of gripes: While McAfee Internet Security's malware alerts are easy to read and offer actionable advice, the software uses the vague cop-out term PUP (potentially unwanted program) to describe both adware and spyware. And phone support costs $3 per minute, a rate that could quickly add up to surpass the suite's $70 purchase price (as of 4/15/06).
In malware tests conducted by AV-Test.org, McAfee Internet Security was the best and most consistent performer among the ten products tested. It detected 98 percent of back doors, 99 percent of bots, and 96 percent of Trojan horses in AV-Test's collection of malware. It was able to disinfect most of the malware AV-Test threw at it, too, with the exception of a Mytob variant that specifically targeted the McAfee Internet Security Suite itself and disabled virus scanning even from the suite's emergency boot disc. McAfee's package also scored the highest in our adware and spyware tests. In our firewall tests, the suite's Personal Firewall Plus provided complete protection from both inside and outside attacks.
Despite its irksome installation routine, McAfee Internet Security Suite is a good choice for beginning users who want to learn more about security threats. Advanced users, however, may find this product a tad bloated.