Vipre Advanced Security

What components combine to make a security suite? Antivirus and firewall are almost always included, but beyond that, it varies. Spam filtering, once a mainstay, is less and less necessary. And parental control is only a benefit if you have kids and need to monitor their online activity. Of these four building blocks, Vipre Advanced Security includes all but parental control, along with a few bonus features. It beats many competitors on price, but it gets uneven results in our testing.

(Editors’ Note: VipreVipre is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)

A Little Vipre History, Pricing, and Set Up

You may be surprised to learn that Vipre has been around for more than 25 years. Originally published by Sunbelt Software, its name stood for “Virus Intrusion Protection Remediation Engine.” Over the years, the product was bought by GFI and then spun off as a separate company called ThreatTrack. You can still see this history in some of the product’s web pages. For example, if you click a malware notification popup for more information, you come to a page with sunbeltsecurity in the URL and several references to ThreatTrack on the page. More recently, J2 Global, owner of PCMag’s publisher Ziff Davis, acquired Vipre.

The standard price for standalone antivirus protection is about $40 per year. Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security all fit this model. The full-scale security suites from those vendors cost twice as much and give you three licenses. McAfee is a bit trickier, at $59.99 per year for the antivirus or $159.99 per year for the top-tier suite. Both prices sound high, but, in both cases, you get protection for every Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS device in your household.

Vipre offers a single security suite license for $54.99 per year, or $64.99 for three licenses. That’s a good price for a suite that has all the expected components except for parental control, and it’s frequently discounted. Want more? You can get five licenses for $74.99 or 10 for $99.99. Note, too, that you can use your Vipre licenses on both Windows and macOS devices.

Vipre Advanced Security Theme Choices

Like Vipre’s standalone antivirus, the product’s main window has three tabs: MyVipre, Account, and Manage. On the main MyVipre page, you get a simple report on antivirus and firewall status and buttons to launch or schedule scans. The Manage tab has the settings for the various security components. If you don’t like the color scheme, which defaults to green and white on dark grays, you can change it on the Account tab. There are six more color themes to choose from—three with a light background, and three with a dark one.

When you launch Vipre’s installer, it starts by asking for the product key. Once you click the button to agree with the license agreement, Vipre handles the rest of the installation. It checks for the latest program version and antivirus definitions automatically, then it runs a quick scan for active malware.

Testing Vipre Advanced Security

Vipre Advanced Security Main Window

This suite contains all the same malware-fighting tools as the standalone Vipre Antivirus Plus, which we’ve already reviewed, but I’ll summarize those findings here.

Vipre Advanced Security Lab Results Chart

Vipre participates in testing with two of the four independent labs we follow and gets good scores from both. In the latest report from AV-Test Institute, Vipre scored 18 points, the highest possible score. So did nine other products, among them F-Secure, Norton, and Trend Micro Internet Security.

AV-Comparatives certifies products at the Standard level if they pass, and at the Advanced or Advanced+ levels if they go beyond merely passing. In the three tests we follow, Vipre received Advanced+ certification in two. The third would have been an Advanced certification, but false positives dragged it down to Standard. Bitdefender, G Data, Kaspersky, and three others managed a trifecta in the latest tests from this lab, earning Advanced+ in all three.

Vipre’s aggregate lab score of 9.5 is quite good, though others have done even better. Kaspersky Internet Security reigns supreme, with an aggregate score of 10 points, the maximum possible.

Vipre Advanced Security Malware Protection Chart

On a standard clean test system, Vipre completed a full scan in 100 minutes, quite a bit slower than the current average. Its RapidScan technology, enabled for on-demand scans, helped it finish a subsequent scan in 16 minutes. We advise also turning on RapidScan for the scheduled weekly full scan and daily quick scan.

In our hands-on malware protection testing, Vipre scored 8.0 of 10 possible points, which is a poor score. Note, though, that Bitdefender Internet Security didn’t do a lot better against this sample collection, scoring 8.6 points. When our results don’t line up with lab results, we defer to the labs. Webroot earned a perfect 10 against these samples, and G Data managed 9.8.

Challenged to defend against a collection of very recent malware-hosting URLs, Vipre scored 97%, which is good, though not quite up to its previous 100% score. McAfee Total Protection now holds the top spot with 100% protection.

Vipre Advanced Security Performance Chart

That excellent browser protection against malicious downloads didn’t carry over to our phishing protection test. Vipre missed nearly two-thirds of the verified frauds, one of the lowest scores we’ve seen. In a rare alignment, Chrome, Edge, and Firefox all beat its detection rate by 65 percentage points. F-Secure Safe and McAfee, by contrast, detected 100% of phishing frauds in their own most recent tests.

The antivirus includes a handy secure deletion tool. If you use it to erase sensitive files, nobody but a forensic expert can recover them. Previous editions also came with a somewhat dated History Cleaner tool, but that feature vanished with the emergence of the standalone Vipre Privacy Shield utility.

Basic Antivirus for macOS

You can use your Advanced Security licenses to install protection either on Windows or macOS. However, what you get on the Mac isn’t a suite, but a simple antivirus. In fact, Vipre Advanced Security (for Mac) lacks significant features found in Vipre’s standalone Windows antivirus.

Briefly, the Mac edition has an attractive user interface, with very few controls. You can run a quick, full, or custom scan, or just rely on its real-time protection. It doesn’t attempt to keep the browser safe from malicious or fraudulent websites and doesn’t include any features beyond basic antivirus protection. Please read my review for the full story.

Vipre Advanced Security macOS Protection

Firewall: Good News, Bad News

Vipre offers a full set of firewall-related features, but many of them are turned off by default. If you want full firewall protection, click Manage, click Firewall, and turn on Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Process Protection. As I learned when I last reviewed this product, just turning on the IDS only protects against High Priority intrusions. For testing, I enabled blocking for Medium and Low Priority intrusions as well, and set all three to Block with Notify, to make any IDS activity visible. I also set Process Protection to Block with Notify.

When I first ran port scans and other web-based attack tests, Vipre failed badly. Over 1,000 tested ports showed up as merely closed, not stealthed. I had to go back into settings and check the box for Stealth Mode. With Stealth Mode turned on, it passed. The built in Windows Firewall totally handles defense against this sort of attack. If you install Vipre’s firewall in its place without enabling Stealth Mode, the result is much-reduced protection. Considering how many consumers never even look at scary stuff like firewall settings, that’s a black mark against the firewall.

The other main task of a personal firewall is managing how programs access the network and internet, to prevent misuse. Vipre defines permissions for its own processes and a few essential Windows processes. For others, it allows all outbound traffic and blocks all unsolicited inbound traffic. This arrangement avoids the annoying firewall pop-up queries that plague users of some firewall products, but it also means that the firewall’s application control does no access control on a per-application basis.

Vipre Advanced Security Firewall App Rules

Many firewalls include a simple switch that turns on prompting, so that when a program attempts internet access for the first time, the firewall reports it and asks what to do. You can enable prompting in Vipre, but doing so is complicated. The Apps tab of the Firewall Rules dialog lists all programs that have rules defined, along with an entry that applies to all other applications. Four columns define the behavior for trusted and public traffic, inbound and outbound. Both types of inbound traffic are blocked. To enable prompting, you click each entry in the row marked Any Other Application and change the action to Prompt.

Firewall pop-ups typically occur only for unknown programs. To ensure I have an unknown program in hand, I test with a tiny browser I wrote myself. Vipre’s popup gave me buttons to Block or Allow the connection, with a checkbox to make my decision into a rule. Clicking for more info got a ton more information, more than the average user could digest. That’s typical of old-school firewalls. What’s not typical is that the firewall also popped up a warning for every other program and browser trying to get online, including Vipre’s own Advanced Active Protection Service! Changing settings as I’ve described here does get you full-scale program control, but you’ll go through a pop-up storm until you get rules defined for all your usual programs.

Vipre Advanced Security Firewall Blocked Vipre

Check Point ZoneAlarm Extreme Security uses pop-up queries for unknown programs, but as its database of known programs is immense, it rarely needs to. Norton handles all such decisions internally, putting unknowns under heightened monitoring and taking action if it detects they are misusing the network. Either solution offers better protection than Vipre’s.

Having enabled Intrusion Detection and the Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS), I anticipated that Vipre might exhibit protection against exploit attacks. However, when I hit the test system with 30 exploits generated by the CORE Impact penetration testing tool, I got no reaction from the HIPS or IDS components. The antivirus did flag the malware payload of 31% as a generic virus.

Norton 360 Deluxe routinely scores 90% or better, and it heads off the exploits at the network level. Kaspersky and Bitdefender caught 84% and 74% respectively, identifying many of the exploit attacks by their official CVE numbers.

See How We Test Security SoftwareSee How We Test Security Software

I tried attacking Vipre directly using techniques a malicious program could manage. I found no way to flip a Firewall Off switch in the Registry, so I tried killing its six visible processes using Task Manager. For half of them, I got Access Denied, meaning they were properly protected. But the rest, including the user interface, succumbed. I’d like to see Vipre protect all its processes, the way Norton, McAfee, BullGuard Premium Protection, and quite a few others do.

I did manage to completely disable Vipre in a way that a malicious program might (assuming none of Vipre’s protective layers quarantined it). I managed to set three of its four Windows services to start up disabled. When I rebooted the test system, Vipre didn’t launch.

My Vipre contact points out that they don’t agree with the initial assumption behind this test, the idea that such a program would get past the antivirus. It’s not a completely unreasonable objection, and yet Kaspersky, Norton, ESET Internet Security, and many other security suites manage full protection of their processes and services.

This firewall protects some, but not all, of its processes and services from termination. It does put all your ports in stealth mode, but only if you remember to change its default settings. Full application control is also available for those who want to dig in and change defaults. Turning on its HIPS and IDS components at full power didn’t unleash chaos on the system. It offers a degree of firewall protection, but it doesn’t compete with the top firewalls.

Simple Antispam

When was the last time you got an ad for male enhancement or Russian brides in your Inbox? A while ago? Chances are good that your email provider filtered out those and other unwanted spam messages. If you’re one of those rare individuals who needs a local spam filter, Vipre does the job with no fuss.

The spam filter supports POP3 and IMAP email accounts. It integrates invisibly with Outlook, diverting spam into the correct folder. There’s no toolbar, nor are there any buttons to mark misfiled valid mail or missed spam. If you’re not using Outlook, you simply define a message rule in your email client to divert marked spam messages into their own folder.

I’m a fan of simplicity. I don’t, for example, admire the fact that ZoneAlarm’s spam filter comes burdened with seven pages of configuration settings. Vipre’s spam filter takes the cake as far as simplicity goes. You can turn it on or off. You can whitelist or blacklist email addresses. And that’s it. The program takes care of the rest.

Vipre Advanced Security Email Protection

Vipre also can scan incoming and outgoing mail for malware and phishing frauds. It’s on by default if you use Outlook, but you can enable it for any local email client by checking a box and entering the ports your email program uses for POP3 and SMTP traffic.

Auto-Patch for Vulnerabilities

Have you noticed how often many software publishers release security updates? There is a good reason for that. When evildoers discover a security hole in an app, all users are vulnerable until that security patch comes out. Vipre’s Auto-Patch feature aims to keep your essential apps up to date, and you don’t have to do a thing. By default, it runs a scan every other day and applies any patches it finds.

This feature involves updating programs, so it makes sense that you find it on the Updates section of the Manage page. Here you can change the frequency that it checks for patches or tell it to get your permission before installing updates. You can also launch an on-demand scan for apps that need patches.

Vipre Advanced Security Auto-Patch

Unlike many vulnerability scans, this one doesn’t boast of its accomplishments. Clicking Manage Patches does nothing unless you checked the box that requires Vipre to get your approval before installation. To see what it did, you must open Update History and click the Patches page. On my test system, it found and installed updates for Firefox and VMWare Tools, plus two updates for Chrome.

Digging into the not-for-the-user files associated with patch management, I found that Vipre handles over 100 programs—or nearly 280 if you count variations on the same program. The programs it checks include popular browsers, browser extensions, and utilities, as well as Zoom and some other full-scale applications.

Privacy Protection

When I last reviewed Vipre, it included a secure deletion tool plus two other privacy components. Social Watch would track your Facebook feed, warning of dangerous links. History Cleaner served to erase things like most recently used file lists, covering your tracks so a snoop couldn’t reconstruct your computer and browsing activity. In testing, I found that Social Watch didn’t actively provide warnings; rather, it simply dropped notes in an activity list. And the collection of apps covered by History Cleaner proved seriously dated. Now that Vipre has released the separate Privacy Shield, the suite no longer needs these less-than-stellar components.

Vipre Advanced Security Privacy Features

The Secure File Eraser feature, disabled by default, also comes with the standalone antivirus. Once you’ve turned it on, you can right-click files or folders to securely erase their data so that even forensic software can’t recover it. Many products pair secure deletion with encryption—after encrypting files, you securely delete the unsecured originals. Kaspersky Total Security and Bitdefender Total Security are among the products that offer this pairing.

Vipre doesn’t offer encryption software, but thankfully it also doesn’t confuse the user with a yard-long list of different secure delete algorithms. Unless you’re hiding files from government entities, Vipre’s single-overwrite algorithm is just fine.

Just a Tiny Performance Hit

These days, we rarely encounter a security suite that has a severe impact on system performance. Security companies know that users will just turn off a suite that seems to be draining system resources. We still perform a few hands-on tests, however, to identify the rare suite that does have a noticeable impact. Thankfully, Vipre isn’t one of those.

Getting security components loaded when Window starts can affect boot time, so we run a script that measures the time from the start of the boot process until the system is ready for use. Averaging many runs before and after installing the security suite, we measure the suite’s impact. Booting my test system took 7% longer with Vipre loading its protective layers at startup. Even with this increase, boot time is still less than 10 seconds.

Vipre Advanced Security Performance Chart

Real-time antivirus scanning has the potential to slow down ordinary file operations. To check on this I run a script that moves and copies an eclectic collection of files between drives. Averaging many runs before and after installing Vipre, I found the script took 2% longer, hardly any impact. Another script repeatedly zips and unzips the same file collection; Vipre had no measurable effect on the timing for this script.

Vipre’s three performance scores average out to a 3% slowdown. You’re not likely to notice this. Others have technically done even better. ESET, K7, and Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus had no measurable impact on any of the three tests.

Reasonably Priced, But With Room for Improvement

Vipre Advanced Security’s core antivirus protection is decent, with good lab test scores but uneven scores in our hands-on tests. The suite offers firewall, spam filtering, and some handy bonus features. However, many of the firewall’s features are disabled out of the box, and some of the other features just don’t measure up. In addition, the slick-looking macOS edition is far from a suite; it doesn’t even include some expected antivirus features. Yes, this suite costs less than most competitors, but paying a little more will get you a lot more security. Bitdefender Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security are our Editors’ Choice winners for entry-level security suites. Both get excellent scores from all the independent labs, and both offer features above and beyond Vipre’s. You won’t go wrong choosing one of these to protect your data and devices.

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