Panda Internet Security 2016: Good protection, small performance impact [Review]
We already know the importance of defending endpoints to keep business systems secure. The latest release of Panda Internet Security offers protection for PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices, and aims to provide a wide spectrum of security in an easy-to-use package.
For businesses looking to help staff protect their BYOD devices or smaller organizations looking for desktop protection, what does it have to offer?
There are the main elements you’d expect to see in any internet security package, namely antivirus and firewall protection. With Panda you also get a Process Monitor which keeps an eye on other software for suspicious activity, and a Safe browsing feature to block suspicious URLs.
In addition there’s USB protection to scan flash drives when they’re attached, and Wi-Fi protection that can warn you if you’re about to access an insecure network. Data Shield can protect selected files and folders by granting programs permission to access them. When you install new software a wizard will prompt you to set what it’s allowed to access, this helps protect against ransomware type malware that seeks to deny access to data.
There’s also Application Control which allows you to control which programs are allowed to run, and parental control allows you to block specific websites or categories for certain users.
The program has a Rescue Kit feature that you can use to create a bootable flash drive to recover an infected system. It lets you run an advanced virus scan too and access Panda’s Cloud Cleaner. A virtual keyboard lets you enter sensitive information like banking passwords on the screen if you’re worried about keyloggers.
There are various licence options allowing you to protect one, three or five devices and there are versions for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS systems. What you don’t get in this version of the product is online backup, encryption, file shredding or system tune-up tools. If you want those you need to spend a bit more on Panda Global Protection.
So, lots of features on offer, but what’s it like to use?
Installation is fast on a Windows PC, taking just a few minutes, and it doesn’t require a reboot. If you have Windows Defender running it automatically gets deactivated as part of the process. Panda does run a scan of your system after installing but this happens in the background and has minimal impact on the system’s performance.
It installs a Panda toolbar to your browser to help protect your surfing. A minor irritant is that it wants to set Yahoo as your default search engine and MyStart as your home page. You can uncheck the boxes to opt out, but whilst this might be acceptable in shareware it doesn’t sit well in a commercial product that you’ve put down hard cash for.
You’re prompted to set up an online account as part of the installation. This lets you review your licence information, see which products you have active and download the software for other devices.
Once up and running, click the subtly panda-shaped taskbar icon and you’re presented with a smart, tiled interface that’s evidently Windows 10 inspired. This is friendly and simple to operate, if you need to dig deeper -- to set firewall rules for example -- there are Settings buttons on screens where more options are available.
In operation Panda is mostly unobtrusive, the firewall pops up asking for a decision occasionally -- such as when a new program tries to connect to the web -- which is not something you see so often with security packages theses days. Otherwise it will only bother you when installing new programs, plugging in flash drives, or if it detects a problem.
The antivirus module lets you perform a full scan of the system, this takes a while but is probably worth doing the first time you use the software. You can also choose to do a Critical Areas scan which looks at memory, Windows folders, etc, or a Custom scan which lets you select what to examine. You have the option to shut down the PC after a scan has finished so you can use it as part of your end of day routine. The Critical Areas scan took around 20 minutes on our Windows 10 test system.
The Android app includes a useful Privacy Auditor which tells you which of your apps are allowed to access media files, SMS messages, the device camera and so on, useful for spotting potentially unwanted behaviour. Mobile versions also have anti-theft protection that allows you to lock or wipe the device remotely via your online account.
Panda Internet Security 2016 costs £49.99 to protect three devices for a year, which is on a par with the BullGuard product we looked at a couple of weeks ago. It’s pretty comparable in terms of the features it offers too. It lacks BullGuard’s rating of online search results but that’s not a huge loss. It ranks slightly better in recent independent protection tests too.
As with most consumer-oriented security solutions the scary options are hidden away in the name of ease of use, but they’re available if you need them. Panda Internet Security 2016 delivers a straightforward endpoint solution and won’t significantly harm system performance.
- Fast installation
- Minimal system impact
- Clean interface
- Unwanted options on installation
- Slightly intrusive firewall
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