capsule review

Webroot Internet Security Essentials Security Software

At a Glance
  • Webroot Internet Security Essentials

    PCWorld Rating

    Webroot's first foray into security suites needs some work--and better malware detection--before it becomes worthy of consideration.

Webroot's Internet Security Essentials ($60 for three users as of 12/23/08) marks the antispyware company's first foray into security suites. This patchwork suite brings together an antivirus scanner from Sophos, a firewall from Privacyware, and online backup using Webroot's own servers. But it lacks parental controls, antispam, and browser-based antiphishing capabilities, and it fared poorly at the core task of identifying malicious software.

In "Paying for Protection," our 2009 roundup of nine security suites, only one suite (the Trend Micro package) did worse in malware detection, and Webroot's offering came in second to last overall. We can't recommend trying this debut suite from Webroot just yet.

In AV-Test.org's malware detection tests, Webroot identified only 89.56 percent of the huge "zoo" of worms, bots, and other evil creations pitted against it. Top performers caught nearly 10 percent more. It likewise disappointed in heuristic tests meant to measure how well each suite might handle new malware for which it lacked any signature. In tests with two-week-old signature files, Webroot placed second to last once more, with a detection rate of just 39.8 percent (top performers, by comparison, averaged around 55 percent).

The suite did a good job identifying and removing dormant and active rootkits, a category of stealth malware, and it missed only one active rootkit. But it lagged at identifying adware, which surprised us coming from a company that cut its teeth with antispyware utilities. It tagged 90.4 percent of the annoying junk, which isn't horrible but was good enough for only seventh place in that category.

Other aspects of the new entrant also seem a little rough. Most suite firewalls today use a whitelist of known good software, and automatically allow software on that list to access the Internet. Webroot's licensed firewall uses an old-school method: It starts out in a training mode for seven days, after which it will prompt you for any new software it sees. That means you'll likely get bugged after the training mode ends more than you would with other suites.

A cleanup option clears out your browsing history, cookies, Windows file history, and other records by default, so be sure to check the cleanup feature's settings and deselect those items you might want to keep before running it. But if you're a Firefox 3 user, don't bother: The cleanup tool can't yet clear Firefox 3's browser history (though you can do so from within the browser itself). The Webroot Ask toolbar, which the suite prompts to install during initial setup, also won't work with Firefox 3 (but it doesn't afford any additional protection in any case).

Webroot's backup feature offers 2GB of online storage space for free, but we weren't able to create an account and test the feature because of Webroot server problems. We also discovered that the suite had difficulty keeping the Windows Security Center notified; twice we got false alerts about the absence of a firewall and Webroot's being out-of-date. One of the firewall false alarms persisted until we rebooted.

Though the user interface generally looks good and has a clear presentation, other aspects of it could use a little tweaking. For one thing, locating activity logs proved challenging. And you might find yourself searching for those logs to learn the actual file names and locations of quarantined items, since Webroot's pop-ups list neither.

Webroot's second try at a security suite might prove much better, but a poor malware-detection rate, a lack of certain useful features, and other issues mean you should pass up this first edition.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Webroot's first foray into security suites needs some work--and better malware detection--before it becomes worthy of consideration.

    Pros

    • Online backup
    • Many cleanup options

    Cons

    • Poor malware blocking
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