We hope you weren't a fan of last year's Webroot offerings. Or, if you were, that you love to embrace change, because this year's Webroot home security suites don't even share the same name as the ones that came before. There's nothing to be scared of, since the results are nothing less than impressive.
Webroot has killed off its popular programs Spy Sweeper and Window Washer, and replaced Webroot AntiVirus with Spy Sweeper, Webroot Internet Security Essentials and Webroot Internet Security Complete with Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials and Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete, respectively.
These new programs are built on technology initially developed by other companies. A company called Usable Security, which specialised in identity management and passwords, contributed features now in SecureAnywhere Complete. San Diego-based BrightCloud brought domain and IP address classification, reputation and scoring into the mix. The core of SecureAnywhere, however, comes from the UK-based Prevx.
While it may seem as if it would be extremely difficult to get such disparate tech to work smoothly together, Webroot has pulled off an impressive feat here, not only merging technologies, but also getting them into a tiny installer, supported by a clean interface, and accessed through smart features, all of which makes this a must-see paid security suite.
It's hard to understate how impressive the new Webroot installer is. It's so minuscule that you measure its size in kilobytes, not megabytes. You can email it as an attachment; when was the last time you read that about a security suite installer? Weighing in at a feather-light 560KB, this stub installer winds up downloading and installing the full suite in under a minute.
Or, to put it another way, a high-resolution screenshot of the main interface is likely to be about 30 to 50 per cent larger than the program itself.
The program's useful security features begin with the installer. If you click on "Change installation options" from the bottom of the installer window, for example, you can randomise the installation file names to circumvent certain types of infections that would look for names that are more obvious. Also, when you install, the suite instantly begins a scan. This first scan doesn't hang around long, completing for us in two minutes, 14 seconds in SecureAnywhere Complete, and in less than a minute in SecureAnywhere AntiVirus.
The key struggle for any security suite is that it must cram a vast range of features, options and menus into a single window. SecureAnywhere does an admirable job of this arduous task, presenting the result in a colour scheme of brushed metal with green highlights. This makes it easy to differentiate all of the choices you have. Meanwhile, large buttons and sliders make changing settings simple.
The interface contains a left nav divided into five button-size tabs: Overview, PC Security, Identity and Privacy, Backup and Sync and System Tools. At the bottom are simple text links to My Account, Settings and Help and Support. The Overview window presents your security status as a large icon, green when you're safe and red when you're not. If you're in the red zone, a button appears that will attempt to fix what ails you with one click. You can also start a scan from the Overview tab.
The PC Security tab contains four horizontal tabs for Scans, Shields, Firewall and Quarantine, while the Identity and Privacy tab contains two tabs: one for the Identity Shield that looks for websites with phishing threats, blocks sites from creating high-risk tracking information and looks at DNS/IP information to protect you against man-in-the-middle attacks; the other focuses on Password Management, powered by LastPass but baked into Webroot.
Backup and Sync requires you to download an additional module. System Tools looks like the PC Security window, with a four-tab spread. The System Cleaner includes a secure file shredder, while the System Control tab includes a sandbox for running suspicious programs safely. The Reports tab lets you dive into your security history, and the "Submit a file" tab is for sending questionable files to Webroot for security verification.
The uniformity of design and judicious use of white space render simple the otherwise challenging task of navigating through the dozens of options. Of course, figuring out those features can be another story.
Features and support
SecureAnywhere Complete offers a competitive range of features, although nothing stands out as remarkable. The important thing is that it's not underpowered when judged against the high-end, premium-level competition.
Threat detection comes courtesy of a cloud-based system. Again, this is not news in and of itself, as most security suites have already been moving to at least a partially cloud-based model. Thanks to its Prevx core, though, Webroot has been able to make some interesting innovations. Webroot claims it has the world's largest database of malware. SecureAnywhere takes a file, creates a unique identifying number for it called a hash and sends that to the cloud. If the file is recognised as being safe, the cloud tells SecureAnywhere to allow it to proceed.
If the file is suspicious, the sample gets sandboxed and tested behaviourally, and a description of the behaviour is sent to the cloud. The cloud then determines if it's safe or not. Webroot's goal is to automate the entire process, and keep its researchers from having to analyse samples. You won't ever see any of this exposed in the program, but it's important to note this, since it's an unusual model that's different from the researcher-reliant models of Webroot competitors.
Trojans, keyloggers and other similar threats get blocked generically, also a unique approach, according to Webroot. So, ideally, what you wind up seeing when a threat is encountered is nothing. In practice, no protection net is foolproof, but as you'll see in the Performance section of this review, SecureAnywhere has scored well in early tests.
You can run on-demand scans that can be configured to focus on specific drives, folders or file types, and change heuristics settings based on how a file is introduced, as well as to be more aggressive or more passive; and the program has its real-time protection shield running by default.
There's also a silent gaming mode, although we found, during our tests of the program, that it was remarkably silent, even without activating the gaming mode. There's a smart sandbox for running any file you want in a safe, walled-off garden. Likewise, there's a System Process control panel, so that you can monitor or block any active system process. Of course, this is really a power-user tool. The last thing you want to do is go in and block your svchost.exe or something else equally important.
Other ancillary local security features include attachment scanning for instant messages and emails; a submission window for sending suspicious files to Webroot; and decent, although not robust, system logs. One clever feature was an option, enabled by default, to type in a Captcha code before disabling any security feature. This ensures that the suite can't be crippled without human interaction.
SecureAnywhere Complete also comes with web-link scanning, rating and blocking, but only in Firefox or Internet Explorer, and only via Webroot's add-on. As Google Chrome usage continues to skyrocket, this kind of browser-specific approach, as opposed to browser-agnostic, will not do any security company any favours.
There are other features that make this suite attractive. The Identity Shield keeps an electronic eye out for online phishing threats and man-in-the-middle attacks, and it performs site verification when resolving URLs. It also prevents programs from accessing protected credentials. One thing that's interesting about how the new suite works is that although it's all cloud-based, it has an aggressive offline mode to protect you from threats, like contaminated USB sticks, when not connected to the internet.
There's a password manager, 10GB of storage for back-up and synchronisation and free included Mobile Security for Android and iOS devices. The mobile apps include options like secure browsing, call and SMS blocking, SIM card locking, file and password sync and options to remote locate, remote lock and remotely data wipe.
In the pile of ancillary tools, one is glaringly missing for a premium product: parental controls. The firewall bolsters an acknowledged weakness in the default Windows 7 firewall: that it doesn't offer much in the way of outbound protection.
On top of all of the above, Webroot now offers cloud management for remotely viewing and configuring the security statuses of multiple PCs. As we said, it's a massive list of features. All of them worked decently, and were solid tools to have for the premium price.
systems (to date)
Note: all tests are measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, higher numbers are better.
Except for the impact on boot time by the two premium suites, Webroot has some of the best system impact benchmarks that we've seen so far. The threat-prevention benchmarks look good so far, but we must caution that what we've seen is merely a preliminary glance at one lab's results. Because there are so many variables that can go into determining whether or not a suite is effective at stopping threats — its core feature — we are extremely hesitant to rely on results from fewer than two labs, and we prefer three.
Nevertheless, things do look good for Webroot's SecureAnywhere revamp on the benchmark front.
Webroot has gone from being a mid-level competitor to possibly one of the best suites out there. The impact on your computer memory is remarkably low, you could easily beat the installation process in a staring contest, it's so fast, and the features are solid and work well even for a high-end premium security suite. The integrated mobile support bodes well for the future, too. The lack of parental controls is annoying at this price point, and we'd like to see less of an impact on boot time but overall Webroot now bears careful watching.