With its colorful main window, Panda Internet Security 2013 definitely stands out....
Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro Edition 2.0 Review
Antivirus protection alone isn’t sufficient; you need a firewall too. Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro Edition 2.0 offers both, making it a mini-suite. Based on our testing, though, you’d be better off combining Panda’s free edition with a free firewall.
(2 out of 5)
- Very good at protecting a clean system against malware attack
- Small and lightweight due to cloud storage of malware signatures
- Firewall doesn’t bombard user with popups.
- Malware cleanup took days in some cases
- Phishing protection limited
- Firewall didn’t stealth all ports
- Targeted malware could disable protection
- No exploit protection
- Significantly slowed file move/copy operations.
Antivirus protection is an absolute necessity for the modern PC, but alone it’s not sufficient to guarantee security. At the very least you need a two-way firewall as well; adding phishing protection and other security features couldn’t hurt. Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro Edition 2.0 ($29.99 direct) combines antivirus, firewall, antiphishing, and a few other features, making it a small-scale security suite. Based on our testing, though, you might be better off just combining Panda’s free antivirus with a free firewall.
The same miniscule program that installs Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Edition 2.0 (free, 3.5 stars) will install the Pro edition too, if you have a registration key. You can also upgrade the Free edition to Pro at any time.
Same Protection Against Malware
The antivirus component is the same for both editions, so I’ll just summarize my results from testing the Free edition here. For full details, please read that review.
Panda Cloud Antivirus is best at keeping malware from gaining a foothold on a clean PC. It had trouble installing or running on many of my test systems. Fortunately, Panda offers a large number of tools to help out with the cleanup process. Unfortunately, they were all needed, and getting some of the test systems cleaned up took several days.
Thanks in no small part to Panda Cloud Cleaner, Panda SafeDisk, and remote-controlled use of the PSCAN tool, Panda detected 84 percent of the threats and scored 5.4 of 10 possible points for removal. With 6.4 points, Bitdefender Total Security 2013 ($79.95 direct for three licenses, 4 stars) has the best score among products tested with my current malware collection. For details on how I perform this analysis, see How We Test Malware Removal.
Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro Edition 2.0 malware removal chart
Panda was much more effective at blocking new malware attacks. It detected 92 percent of the threats and scored 9.2 of 10 possible points, and earned 10 of 10 points for blocking rootkits. The most effective malware blocker among products tested with the same sample set was SecureIT Plus ($5.95/month direct, 2 stars), with 9.7 points. The article How We Test Malware Blocking explains how I derive these scores.
Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro Edition 2.0 malware blocking chart
Most of the independent antivirus labs include Panda’s technology in their tests. It gets good marks overall, though it’s not at the level of top-scoring vendors like Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Symantec. The chart below summarizes recent results, and the article How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests introduces the various labs.
Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro Edition 2.0 lab tests chart
Limited Phishing Protection
Panda’s URL filter keeps users from accidentally visiting malicious or fraudulent (phishing) sites. Both editions get the benefit of this protection, but in testing it proved less than fully effective. It didn’t block any actual malicious sites, though the antivirus caught some threats during the download process. Its phishing detection rate lagged 68 percentage points behind Norton and one point behind Internet Explorer alone. The article How We Test Antiphishing explains how I obtain the freshest phishing URL samples and derive these scores.
Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro Edition 2.0 antiphishing chart
Panda doesn’t include a parental control component, but if you were desperate to know what websites have been visited from your family’s computer, you might conceivably use the URL monitor feature. Present in both Free and Pro editions, this feature lists recently executed programs and optionally tracks all URLs visited by each.
If the programs report reveals that a suspicious program has been connecting with shady websites, you can click a button to block the program. Doing so puts it in Panda’s Recycle Bin and prevents it being used.
The main feature that distinguishes this product from its Free sibling is what Panda calls a community firewall. Here “community” refers to the fact that telemetry from all installations feeds into a central decision-making process that automatically configures network and Internet permission for most programs. Apparently the firewall will occasionally pop up asking the user to confirm permission for a specific program, but I never saw that in testing.
Not surprisingly, the firewall didn’t react at all when I launched a collection of leak tests. These are programs that try to evade normal program control using techniques similar to what malware might use. I did have to disable the antivirus for this test. When re-enabled, it wiped out three quarters of the samples.
The other major task for a firewall involves protecting against outside attack and keeping the system’s ports stealthed, so attackers can’t even see it. Here Panda’s firewall didn’t do so well. Where most firewalls, including the one built into Windows, will stealth all ports, Panda left a number of significant ports merely closed, visible to an attacker.
Panda’s firewall includes 18 intrusion detection rules with names like “SYN Flood,” “Smart DHCP,” and “Smurf.” All but three of these are enabled by default. I thought they might help detect and resist Web-based attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in the operating system, browser, or supporting programs.
Alas, Panda’s firewall didn’t react to any of 30 exploits generated by the Core IMPACT penetration tool. The antivirus did recognize a file component of one exploit as a Trojan, but that was it. Because the test system is fully patched, its security wasn’t compromised. Still, I’d like to know if a website is attempting to attack my PC.
Of course, no amount of firewall protection is useful if the bad guys can just turn it off. I couldn’t find any Registry settings that would disable Panda. All of its processes resisted termination by Task Manager except for the URL filter (wonder why they don’t protect that one?). However, I had no trouble stopping its essential services, and by setting their startup type to “disabled” I ensured they wouldn’t start again. This firewall needs to toughen up.
Surprising Drag on Performance
Panda’s tiny installer downloads the latest security components, and after installation the product downloads additional updates. Although the installer itself is under a megabyte, the full installation with all updates occupies around 250MB on disk. That’s a bit over half the size of the average suite, and quite a bit smaller than Bitdefender, which takes nearly a gigabyte.
I timed the process of booting a test system 100 times with no suite and 100 times with Panda installed; it didn’t slow the boot process at all. A script that measures the time required to zip and unzip a large collection of files took 19 percent longer with Panda in place than with no suite, just a little above the average of recent products. Another test that times how long it takes to fully load 100 websites took seven percent longer, less than half the average drag.
The real shocker came when I timed a simple test that moves and copies files between drives. With Panda running this test took over twice as long as the baseline. Just to check, I disabled Panda’s protection and ran the test again. With protection disabled, the results were back to the baseline value.
My Panda contact suggested that running a full scan might help, so I did that and repeated the test. Even then, under Panda’s protection the file move and copy operations took more than twice as long as the baseline time. [Update: Panda has confirmed the problem; it will be fixed "very soon"] For details on how I measure security suite performance see How We Test Security Suites for Performance.
Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro Edition 2.0 performance chart
Stick with the Antivirus
Panda’s standalone cloud antivirus is free only for personal use, so if you want to use it in a commercial setting you need to pay for the Pro edition. If you do, stick with the antivirus component and find your firewall protection elsewhere, or consider the free dual protection offered by ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall (free, 3.5 stars).
Parental Control: n/a
By Neil J. Rubenking, PCMag