Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium 2 [Review]

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Install a good antivirus tool and it’ll keep you safe from most online threats. But there are no 100 percent guarantees, of course, and it’s possible that some malware will avoid detection and sneak through the cracks.

One way to reduce the risk of infection is to install a "second opinion" scanner, which runs alongside your main antivirus engine and -- hopefully -- detects any threats it might miss.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware has been a popular "second opinion" scanner since 2008. Its free version is good, but the commercial Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium goes further, offering real-time protection, scheduled scanning, and the ability to block malicious websites.

It’s an appealing feature list, especially as the program gives you all this without conflicting with existing security tools. But how does it work in real life? We downloaded Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium 2 to take a look.

Interface

Anti-Malware installed without incident on our test Windows 8.1 system, creating a "C:\Program Files (x86)\Malwarebytes Anti-Malware" with 46MB of its core code, and adding three background processes to our PC: the core MBAM.EXE, a scheduler and a Windows service, typically consuming around 112MB RAM in total.

The program is launched from a system tray icon, and initially displays its Dashboard. This summarizes all the key system details, including your real-time protection level, database version and last scan time.

You can launch scans directly from the Dashboard with a single click, but if you need more control then clicking the Scan button displays three options: "Hyper Scan" runs a quick check of running processes, "Threat Scan" (the new name for Quick Scan) also examines your Registry and the most vulnerable areas of the file system, while "Custom Scan" allows you to precisely define exactly what the program should check (which can be everything, if you want to recreate the old Full Scan).Malwarebytes5

Elsewhere, a Settings icon gives access to the program’s configuration options, "History" leads you to Anti-Malware’s logs and any quarantined files, and "My Account" displays your license details.

None of this is particularly stylish or attractive. There are no Windows 8-like tiles, no eye-catching animations, none of the visual frills you’ll get with some of the competition.

We’re not sure why the main dashboard had an advert or "Malwarebytes Secure Backup", either. That’s fine in the free version, but pay for the Premium build and we’d expect the ads to disappear.

Overall, however, the interface works well. It’s clean, simple, easy to use and find what you need. And, conveniently, it remembers and restores its state. So if you last closed the program while viewing the Scan pane, for example, it’ll reopen in the same place, perhaps saving you a click or two.

Scanning

Click "Scan" on the Dashboard and Anti-Malware launches its Threat Scan, a reasonably thorough check which took an average 12 minutes to run on our test PC (that’s 320GB used hard drive space and 335,000 objects to examine).

It’s worth noting that, while Anti-Malware can detect rootkits, this isn’t enabled by default. If you want to look for rootkits within a normal scan then you’ll have to turn it on manually (Settings > Detection and Protection, check "Scan for rootkits"), and we found this increased scan times to around 20 minutes.

Alternatively, if performance matters most, telling the program not to check the contents of archives cut its scan times to around 5 minutes for us. And the Hyper Scan was fastest of all, checking everything running on our PC in around 2 minutes.

Another option is to schedule scans. If you feel you don’t want to check archives and look for rootkits every time, then you can turn these off for on-demand scans, improving their speeds. Schedule a more thorough daily/ weekly (or whatever) scan to search for everything and you’ll still be covered.Malwarebytes2

However you’re running a scan, we found Anti-Malware to be reasonably light on resources: we knew it was working, but could continue to use most applications without problems, although there was some small effect on games and HD video playback.

Detection

Anti-Malware’s core on-demand scanning proved around average, with the program finding and fully removing 85 percent of our malware samples.

One exception came with our test droppers, malware which didn’t do much itself, but would try to download and install the real payload. Anti-Malware missed two examples, in common with many other antivirus engines (they scored 13/52 and 18/52 at VirusTotal).

Just to make the situation worse, the real-time protection missed one of the downloaded executables, too, which could have resulted in compromising our system. Nothing’s infallible, of course -- that’s why you might want to run Anti-Malware in the first place -- but it was a useful reminder that the program should be run alongside a full antivirus tool, not as its replacement.

Anti-Malware also offers malicious website detection. This is implemented at the network level, so there are no browser add-ons required, and no extras like warning icons in your search engine results. Instead your online activities are monitored, and any attempts to access dangerous IP addresses on the list are just blocked immediately.

At least, that’s the idea, but it all seemed something of a mess to us. Around 25 percent of our malicious sites were blocked, but there were also quite a few apparently false positives. Unless they were sites which had been infected by something, but were now safe? We’re not sure, but whatever the reason, the system didn’t seem too reliable.

Fortunately, if you’re sure Anti-Malware has blocked a site incorrectly, you can add it to an "Exclusions" list with a click, and there’s an option to exclude particular processes from any blocking checks at all.

Options and Settings

While the core Anti-Malware functions begin working immediately on installation, it’s important to browse the Settings dialog to get a full picture of what the program can do.

Explorer integration is turned off by default, for instance, but enable it and you can right-click any file or folder to access a "Scan with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware" option.

Anti-Malware now detects and warns you about "potentially unwanted programs" (PUPs), hacker-like tools to, say, list all your Outlook accounts and their passwords. This is reasonably effective, and may be useful if you need to monitor what others are doing on your system. It’s much more annoying if you like to collect this kind of low-level tool -- yes, most of your favorite NirSoft utilities will appear on the list -- but fortunately you can tell the program to ignore PUPs in a couple of clicks.Malwarebytes3

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium now comes bundled with Malwarebytes Chameleon, a technology which tries to prevent malware detecting the program and closing it down. It’s not enabled by default, bizarrely, but this is easy enough to fix (Settings > Advanced Settings, check "Enable self-protection module").

Perhaps most importantly in the Premium edition, a Scheduler allows you to run automated scans and updates. It’s not quite as flexible as we’d like -- you can’t schedule scans for arbitrary days within a week, for example -- but should be sufficient for most people. It can also work very well unattended, optionally quarantining any threats itself, or closing the program if nothing is found.

Verdict

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium is great at removing malware, but let down a little by unreliable real-time protection. Is Premium really worth the price? We would say yes, but it's a close call. If you're interested, be sure to try before you buy.

We Like

Easy to use, no conflicts with other security software, speedy "Hyper Scan", cleanly removes malware, very configurable, detects "potentially unwanted programs", integrated scheduler.

We Don't Like

Some detection issues, unreliable website blocking. Free edition delivers core features for no charge.

Details

Manufacturer:
 Malwarebytes
Price (RRP): $24.95
Best Price: $18.95 (save 24 percent)
Platforms: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 (all 32 and 64-bit editions)
Requirements: 20MB free hard drive space

 

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