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Review: Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011

27 July 2010, Mike Williams

Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011 is an interesting security suite that delivers all the online protection tools you’d expect, and some that you really wouldn’t.

So of course there’s strong antivirus protection, a firewall, spam filter and antiphishing protection. But you also get a host of features to manage your online passwords and login data, privacy tools to remove your history in Windows and many third-party applications, a generous 10GB of free online storage space for file synchronisation and sharing, and a whole lot more.

There’s plenty on offer here, then, but the program’s new Norton-style interface does a good job of keeping complexity at bay. Its functions are divided into four sections: PC Security, Sync and Sharing, System Cleaner and Identity and Privacy. When you first launch the program, each will display a warning icon indicating there’s some task that you must perform. Clicking a button explains the problem and provides more detail on what’s required.

Our initial PC Security alert, for example turned out to be a recommendation that we scan our PC for threats. That sounded like a reasonable idea, so we set the program to work – and the results were quite revealing.

Antivirus engine

Scan speeds at first appear only average, with Webroot Internet Security Complete taking around 22 minutes to examine 62MB of files on our Windows 7-based test PC.

The program did detect all our malware samples, though. And in subsequent scans it will by default check only new or changed files (plus core Windows system files, it seems), and that improves performance considerably: rescanning our test system took only a very minimal two minutes.

In other packages you might be able to cut this still further by running or creating a Quick Scan profile, something that tells the program to examine only a narrowly defined set of files or processes. But that’s more difficult here. Webroot has no built-in Quick Scan, and no ability to create multiple scan profiles: you can run a full scan, or a single custom scan, and that’s it.

And there are relatively few configuration options available within a custom scan, too. You can specify whether you want to check the Registry, memory, cookies or particular folders. But the fine tuning available in other apps – enable or disable heuristics, for instance, or set some threshold level for detection – is entirely absent here.

There are plus points to this approach, of course. These low-level tweaks to the scan process will almost always cause problems, reducing security or increasing the chance of false alarms, so getting of them will avoid a lot of hassle. And it simplifies the program, too – no need to browse the Help file for ages, trying to figure out what setting “Heuristics” from “Medium” to “Low” actually means.

Still, if you’re the type of user who likes to set up multiple scan profiles for different purposes then Webroot’s more restrictive approach may feel a little limiting, even if it makes little practical difference to how you work.

Real-time protection

Although you must initiate the first Webroot Internet Security Complete scan yourself, after that the program applies a range of technologies to keep you safe online.

A series of real-time Shields prevents infected files from launching, and keeps an eye on core settings and system areas: ActiveX controls, browser helper objects, incoming email attachments, your HOSTS file, Windows startup programs, browser settings and more. They’re well designed and shouldn’t conflict with anything else, but if you do have a problem then individual shields can be turned off in a couple of clicks.

A basic spam filter integrates with Outlook or Outlook Express (and nothing else, unfortunately) to look for phishing scams and other unwanted messages. This works more or less automatically, and, out of the box, trapped around 75% of the junk mails in our tests: not too bad. It also flagged some legitimate messages as spam, but over time you can improve the filter’s performance by training it, manually flagging misidentified emails as junk (or not). Webroot claim a 98% accuracy is achievable, and while this may take some effort, we’ve no reason to doubt them.

And browsing protection rates the links in your search results at Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Ask and Lycos, highlighting dangerous sites before you click on them. As well as intercepting attempts to access these sites from other sources, perhaps clicking a link in an email that made it through the spam filter.

If you try to follow a link to a web page that Webroot doesn’t like then it’ll display a message in your browser, with some kind of explanatory message, like “This Web site is a known source of malware, viruses or spam”. If the site is unfamiliar than it’s probably wise to stop there. But if you know and trust the site then you can proceed to the URL with a click, even turn off the warning in future so you won’t be interrupted again.

Firewall matters

Webroot Internet Security Complete includes a firewall, which automatically detects your networks and then filters traffic according to the profile you select (Home, Work or Remote Location).

We found this raised more alerts than many competing firewalls, at least initially, popping up messages to complain that even well-known apps wanted to go online. And these messages weren’t always easy to follow.

On launching Orbit Downloader, for instance, an alert warned us that “process monitor has intercepted application communication”, for instance. Another message reported that “an attempt to adjust process privilege level has been detected”, and we were often asked whether a process could be a parent. None of this will be a problem for experts, but the typical PC user may have to spend a while browsing the documentation before they figure out exactly what Webroot are talking about.

And there’s a further complication if you’re expecting to carry out any low-level tweaks to your firewall settings, because as is the case with many Webroot Internet Security Complete modules, you get very few. There’s no rules engine here, you can’t choose to, say, define particular traffic types that are allowed (or blocked) for a given PC – it’s just not that flexible.

Of course if you generally leave your firewall at its original settings then most of this won’t matter. The alerts may annoy initially, for example but if you recognise the application name as one you’ve just launched then you’ll know to click Allow. And by default the program will remember your decision, so after a day or two and a few clicks most of the pop-ups will have disappeared, never to hassle you again.

Identity Tools

Webroot Internet Security Complete performs particularly strongly on logon management and identity protection measures, most of which are now accessible from a “My Identity Tools” button in your browser toolbar.

At the heart of this is the program’s ability to store all your personal data in an encrypted database: name, birth date, user name, address, email address, phone number, credit card details, bank account information and more.

Webroot Internet Security Complete can also help you generate secure site passwords, like “ZXzU2eaxuiHE” – something that hackers are never going to guess. They’re also entirely impossible for you to remember, of course, but that doesn’t matter because the program will store these, too. When you visit a page with a login or fillable form Webroot Internet Security Complete detects this, alerts you, and with one click will fill in the boxes for you. Which not only saves time, but will bypass any keylogger on your system that might otherwise have evaded detection.

If you’re already using some kind of password manager, then there’s no need to start again, because Webroot Internet Security Complete can import the password database from many different security tools: Clipperz, eWallet, HP Password Safe, KeePass, Password Keeper, RoboForm and others, 22 in total. And the ability to import CSV files means it could work with more.

What the program can’t do, unfortunately, is import your existing browser logons. And the program only works fully with IE and Firefox, although it can create bookmarklets that provide some support for Chrome, Safari, Opera, Konqueror and other browser. Still, this remains an easy-to-use system that simplifies logon and form filling while also making you a little more secure.

File sync and sharing

While many internet security suites offer online backup, Webroot goes a little further, actually letting you synchronise and share the files and folders you specify across all your computers and mobile devices.

The system is easy to set up. Simply launch Webroot’s File Manager, drag and drop the files and folders you need onto the Magic Briefcase, and it’ll automatically upload them. The files will then be synchronised with any other computers you have running Internet Security Complete.

That’s just the start, though. The files will also be available on the web, at (but only to someone who knows your login password, of course). Visit the site on another PC, and you’ll be able to view the files, even edit and save documents in a few clicks.

You can also “send” files to someone else, perfect if they’re too large to email. Webroot Internet Security Complete comes with 10GB of free online storage space, more than enough for some serious file sharing. Just choose the Send option, enter an email address and message, and your recipient will receive a link to the file that will let them download it.

And the file sharing gets even better with digital photos, where Webroot Internet Security Complete automatically creates a thumbnail gallery for each folder. You can then send friends or family a link, so they can view your latest shots with ease. Or you can post your choice of images directly to Facebook.

We did notice one issue here, in that the background sync process appears to keep everything it’s transferring in RAM, and that meant it used anything up to 1.8GB – yes, gigabytes – on our test PC. This could obviously reduce system performance on the initial sync, and so it may be wise to leave this running overnight.  After that we were only transferring small amounts of data, though, RAM consumption was no longer a problem, and we could simply enjoy easier access to our files. It’s all very convenient, and once you’ve set up your synchronised files and folders then there’s not much to do: it just works.

System cleaner

The remaining program section, System Cleaner, frees up hard drive space by removing temporary and history files. And so it’ll wipe your temporary folders, crash dump files, the contents of the Recycle Bin, your Firefox and IE history, and so on.

You get plenty of options to configure exactly how this works, too. When cleaning up IE, for instance, you’re able to define what to erase from a selection of browser areas: the address bar history, your cookies, temporary internet files, browser history, setup log, download folder, MediaPlayer bar and autocomplete form data, as well as having the browser’s index.dat databases cleaned every time Windows starts.

There’s also support for deleting history data (typically “Recent Files” lists) in many common applications: Adobe Reader, iTunes, Google Earth, Skype and more.

You’re able to configure all of these cleanups to happen automatically, and there’s an option to securely overwrite the files that will be deleted so they can’t be recovered later.

The System Cleaner isn’t going to replace CCleaner any time soon. In particular, it really needs to support more browsers: listing just IE and Firefox is no longer sufficient. Still, third-party application support is good, and having the ability to securely delete files is welcome. On balance it’s a useful addition to Webroot Internet Security Complete, which preserves your privacy by quickly wiping many Windows and application histories.

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