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 Panda Internet Security 2008

 Author: Aaron Weiss
 Review Date: 12/11/2007

Panda Software's triple threat of security applications — Panda Antivirus 2008, Panda Antivirus+Firewall 2008, and Panda Internet Security 2008 — claim to tackle many modern ailments, building on the software maker's existing reputation for effectiveness while bringing a number of new features to the table.

New this year in Antivirus+Firewall is an in-depth online scanning feature. Should anything slip past the front line of defenses, a periodic deep scan should detect and delete the threat.

Also new is an automated backup system that aims to safeguard files against accidental loss or damage. As part of its Internet security package, Panda offers this remedy in case of loss due to accidental deletion, hard drive problems, or other causes. This feature will back up selected files on hard disk, CD, DVD or an external drive. Backup isn't really within Panda's realm of security expertise, and it isn't hard to find elsewhere, but the capability does make for a nice extra once you've paid for the security package.

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The same might be said for other new features, such as systems optimization. Panda Internet Security 2008 helps fix slow or erratic performance with ready access to cleanup tools (removing cookies, temporary files, items in the recycle bin, etc.) and defragmentation capabilities.

In other nice but nonessential enhancements, Panda is offering parental controls, as well as 12 months of free 1 GB storage space to back up important documents.

Frankly, we don't see the point of any of this. Free storage, parental controls, optimization, data backup: What does any of this have to do with viruses and firewalls? All of these tools are readily available elsewhere and many extremely potent versions can be had for free.

Seeing Panda tack on such extras makes us wonder whether the software maker is perhaps hitting the bottom of the barrel in terms of substantive enhancements. Likely we will have to wait for the next round of changes to see whether Panda still has more meat to put on the table.

For the time being, however, Panda has also beefed up some of the more relevant aspects of its spyware- and virus-stalking capabilities. In addition to a larger signature file and Wi-Fi security, the 2008 products also boast increased efficiency in behavioral detection, along with new rootkit location and disinfection technology.

The Antivirus+Firewall edition costs $50 a year, while Panda Internet Security sells for $70 per year.

Strengthening the Core
Panda's claim to fame has long been its behavior-based TruPrevent technology, which uses behavioral analysis to defend against threats too new to be identified by signature. This capability to stay one step ahead continues to single out Panda from competing protective tools. Over the years it has proven itself repeatedly as a formidable weapon in the malware wars and it remains the most lethal element in the Panda arsenal.

An online application, TotalScan detects all types of active and latent attackers on PCs, based on a new approach known as "collective intelligence." This approach makes possible the automated processing of large quantities of information about programs and files. Specifically, processing is done on Panda's own servers, rather than on your computer, with the servers and the PC maintaining real-time communication during the scan.

A new feature that Panda calls "MegaDetection" incorporates TotalScan technology into the company's Internet security product. It's designed to scan files received by e-mail, IM or download. You can be selective, choosing to scan the whole computer, mail files, or items on a disk.

MegaDetection takes a while, to the tune of half an hour on a PC, even with advanced heuristics switched off. Fortunately, timing is flexible: A wizard enables scheduling for a vast range of intervals, allowing different scan types to take place at intervals from hours to years.

As with a number of features, advanced heuristics is switched off by default. The same holds true for TruPrevent, which can be omitted by the installer without warning if insufficient memory is available. Panda probably would serve itself and its customers well by having these items up and running right from the start. Why leave key features to chance? We'd just as soon have the good stuff turned on by default.

Installation of Panda's 2008 products is easy, and the interfaces are acceptable. The Internet Security suite for instance delivers panes of major status areas; trouble points are highlighted with a warning and an offer to fix, and expanded panes offer additional details.

Meanwhile, Panda appears bent on maintaining its reputation for lukewarm customer service. The Web site is chock full of FAQs and documentation, but there's no phone number for tech support. On the Contact page the link back to the Support page didn't work when we tried it. Customers have long taken issue with Panda's support, and we see no sign that things are improving.

All that being said, Panda remains a big name on the anti-virus scene and its latest releases are likely to maintain that visibility — not because of parental controls and disc optimization, but because of the bread-and-butter basics that have always made Panda shine: Namely, TruPrevent.

Pros: Lifetime license (free Intelligent Updates service for automatic daily updates); great Internet protection from viruses; rich set of configuration options; attractive interface; basic and advanced modes of operation.

Cons: Detects and removes half as many viruses as VirusScan and Norton AntiVirus; boring interface.

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