SecureIT Plus (2013) Review
SecureIT Plus (2013) turned in excellent scores in our malware blocking and phishing prevention tests, and its parental control system sidesteps some pitfalls that snag the competition. Its malware cleanup skills have improved, but they’re still not good. You’ll get better protection from one of our Editors’ Choice suites.
- Excellent score in malware blocking and antiphishing tests
- Parental control system is browser independent, handles HTTPS sites, allows weekly scheduling for Internet access
- Mediocre score in malware removal test
- Firewall could be disabled by malware
- Firewall didn’t stealth all ports
- Minimal firewall program control
- PC Tuneup is nothing more than disk defragmentation
- Surprisingly expensive
The phrase “security suite” refers to an integrated collection of security features, but just what features are included varies widely from product to product. Antivirus and firewall protection are both required, for sure. Spam filtering, parental control, and phishing protection are common additions. Some suites add backup and PC performance tuneup. SecureIT Plus (2013) ($5.95/month) includes quite a few of these features, but they’re not all top quality.
You pay for most security suites on a yearly subscription basis, typically from $60 to $80 for a three-PC license. SecureIT Plus’s $5.95/month cost looks cheap, at first glance, but over the course of a year you’ll spend $71.40 for a one-PC license. So actually it’s quite a bit more expensive than most suites.
This product’s antivirus protection is exactly the same as that of the company’s standalone antivirus product. For full details please read my review of SecureIT (2013). I’ll summarize here.
Getting SecureIT installed on my malware-infested test systems was relatively uneventful. The product resolved a few glitches on its own. Efficient intervention by tech support solved a couple of problems with collateral damage caused by SecureIT’s scan.
However, the product totally failed to install on one test system, the one that only boots in Safe Mode. SecureIT can’t install in Safe Mode, and the company doesn’t offer any kind of emergency tools for such an occasion. Your only recourse is to pay $89.95 for their malware removal service, which seems a bit over the top.
On the systems where it did manage to install, SecureIT did a so-so cleanup job. It detected just 66 percent of the malware samples. In a number of cases it detected and removed the malware installer while totally missing the active, installed malware. Its overall score of 4.9 points for malware removal is well below the average. Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2013 and Norton Internet Security (2013) both scored 6.6 points in this test.
On the plus side, the 2013 edition scored quite a bit better than its predecessor managed in this same test. For details on how I measure success at malware removal, see How We Test Malware Removal.
SecureIT Plus (2013) malware removal chart
By contrast, in my malware blocking test SecureIT performed phenomenally. Its overall score of 9.7 points is beaten only by Webroot, which managed a near-perfect 9.9 of 10 points. For a full explanation of my malware blocking test, see How We Test Malware Blocking.
SecureIT Plus (2013) malware blocking chart
Normally I’d check my results against results from the independent testing labs, but none of the labs I follow tests SecureIT. I’m told that SecureIT uses the antivirus engine from Bitdefender Internet Security 2013, but its results don’t remotely match Bitdefender’s in my own tests. The chart below shows how various products have done in recent tests. For more detail about the labs, see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.
SecureIT Plus (2013) lab tests chart
Powerful Phishing Protection
The antiphishing component, which SecureIT Plus shared with the standalone SecureIT, turned in an abysmal performance in last year’s test, but the 2013 edition came out near the top. Nearly two-thirds of current products can’t even detect fraudulent sites as well as Internet Explorer 8 alone. SecureIT’s detection rate was 19 percentage points higher than IE’s, which is quite good. It lagged 12 percentage points behind Norton, the consistent antiphishing champ, but that’s quite a bit better than most. The article How We Test Antiphishing explains exactly how I derive these scores.
SecureIT Plus (2013) antiphishing chart
I expect every firewall to put every port in stealth mode, so the computer isn’t visible to outside attack. The built-in Windows Firewall can manage that, after all. Some, like Outpost Security Suite Pro 8, actively identify and block the Web-based attacks I use to test this feature. SecureIT’s firewall stealthed many ports, but left quite a few others merely closed.
A firewall should also take charge of controlling which programs can connect with the Internet. Norton and Kaspersky Internet Security (2013) automatically configure permissions for known programs and put unknowns under extra scrutiny. Less-enlightened firewalls ask the user what do to every time a new program attempts Internet access.
It’s hard to tell where SecureIT lies on this spectrum. In all of my testing, I only saw the firewall’s program control popup twice. Once it blocked a malicious program; the other time it blocked an essential Windows service. My SecurityCoverage contact explained that users who want a higher level of program control can manually define firewall rules. However, very few users would have the expertise required for that task.
When I tried to kill SecureIT using Task Manager, its Self Protect feature kicked in and saved it. However, I had no trouble changing Registry settings to turn off its notifications. I also disabled its essential services—Self Protect should have prevented that.
The best firewalls block attempts to exploit system vulnerabilities at the network level. Norton is particularly effective in my exploit blocking test. SecureIT doesn’t block any exploits at the network level, but the firewall did get a bit of help from the antivirus component, which caught about two-thirds of the exploits when they attempted to drop a malicious file on the test system.
SecureIT’s firewall doesn’t work quite right, in a number of ways. The standalone SecureIT includes firewall protection as a bonus, not as its central feature, so I didn’t downgrade it based on the firewall. In a suite the firewall is an essential component, so SecureIT Plus will take a hit.
SecureIT’s main window displays big status icons for PC Security and Windows Updates. SecureIT Plus adds a third status icon for PC Tuneup. To me, that suggests a significant addition. In harsh reality, PC Tuneup is a disk defragmenter, nothing more. The icon will change from happy green to yellow or red if too long has elapsed since the last defrag.
You reach the tool itself by opening the PC Maintenance tab in the Preferences page. Go ahead and defrag, if you like, but bear in mind that modern Windows versions handle defragging in the background. If you’d rather not see a PC Tuneup status warning, you can check a box to suppress it.
Parental Plusses and Minuses
Not everyone requires parental control in a security suite, but for those that do it needs to be effective. SecureIT offers basic parental control with a few standout features.
To get started with parental control, you create an administrator password and define as many child accounts as needed. Where many parental control systems associate configuration settings with Windows accounts, SecureIT uses program-specific accounts.
Internet access is totally blocked until a user signs in, so each time you start up the computer you’ll need to sign in as Administrator. You can configure SecureIT to automatically log out of the current account after a specified idle time (one minute by default). That helps prevent the kids from using the no-limits Administrator account, but it means you’ll have to log in again after any idle time.
By default, SecureIT blocks websites matching five categories: Hate, Drugs, Illegal, Pornography, and Mature Content. You’ll definitely want to block the Web Proxy category as well. Otherwise, any kid who connects with a secure anonymizing proxy can totally evade Web content filtering.
Many parental control systems attempt to block the use of Web proxies but fail because they can’t filter secure connections. Impressively, SecureIT includes category-based blocking even for HTTPS sites. Its protection is browser-independent, and it includes the ability to block specific pages based on content, rather than relying solely on a database. So, for example, on a website devoted to short stories it can block only the erotic ones.
SecureIT now includes a weekly grid that parents can use to define when each child is allowed on the Internet. This replaces an unwieldy time control system from the previous edition that I characterized as “wacky.” It can be a bit confusing, because your child gets the exact same message when access is blocked based on time control as when it’s blocked due to inappropriate content. On the plus side, you can’t fool it by changing the system time.
The parental control system can also block instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing, FTP downloading, and file downloading in general. Attempts to use banned protocols are logged, as are attempts to visit websites that match blocked categories. In theory, parents can view these logs remotely, but I never got that feature to work. SecurityCoverage confirmed that the local client uploads log data once per hour, and the server makes new data available every four hours.
While its features are fairly basic, this parental control system avoids problems that beset some other suites. Parental control in BullGuard Internet Security 2013 can be disabled by a simple network command, for example. F-Secure Internet Security 2013′s content filtering isn’t browser-independent. And tweaking the system time can fool McAfee’s Internet time scheduler.
Small Performance Impact
My automated script timed 100 reboots with no suite and 100 more with SecureIT Plus. Like Webroot, McAfee, and a few others, SecureIT plus didn’t have any measurable effect on system boot time.
My browsing test, which measures the time required to fully load a collection of 100 websites, took 17 percent longer under SecureIT’s protection. A script that moves and copies a huge collection of monster files took 18 percent longer, while another that zips and unzips those same files took 15 percent longer. In all three of these tests, SecureIT’s impact was at or below the average of current suites.
For details on how I measure security suite performance see How We Test Security Suites for Performance.
SecureIT Plus (2013) performance chart
Still Needs Work
I’m impressed with the improvements since the last time I reviewed SecureIT Plus, especially the vastly improved phishing protection. However, SecureIT Plus (2013) still needs some work. Its malware cleanup is improved, but still not great. The firewall needs a tuneup in several areas.
Also, this program is darn expensive at $5.95/month for one license. Pro-rating their full-year prices to a one-license monthly basis, Norton Internet Security (2013) would cost $1.95/month and Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2013 would cost $2.22. You’ll get better security and better value by choosing one of these two Editors’ Choice security suites.
By Neil J. Rubenking, PCMag
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- OS Compatibility: Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7
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