It used to be that every security suite had to include both antivirus and firewall components, but as the built-in Windows firewall got better and better, some vendors dropped the firewall. Trend Micro Internet Security (2017) packs a ton of features, including what it calls a Firewall Booster, but leaves the basic tasks to Windows Firewall. Its feature roster includes some unusual items, among them active protection against ransomware and a scanner that checks your browsers and social media for security errors. It's a worthy contender, though not an Editors' Choice.
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For $59.95 per year, you get licenses to install the suite on three PCs. That's a good deal, almost the same as Webroot's price. Three licenses for the entry-level suite from Bitdefender or Kaspersky would cost $79.95 per year. McAfee Internet Security costs about the same as those two, but lets you install on unlimited devices.
Except for the name displayed, this product's main window looks exactly the same as that of Trend Micro's standalone antivirus. A big Scan button surrounded by a circular progress bar dominates the center of the screen. Four icons float above it: Device, Privacy, Data, and Family. As your mouse cursor passes over these icons, they bounce just a bit.
The differences in the full suite become evident when you click each of the four icons. The Device page adds a new item called PC Health Checkup. Privacy Scanner and Data Theft Protection now appear on the Privacy page. Clicking Data reveals a Secure Erase feature and a free trial of Trend Micro Password Manager 3.7. Clicking Family in the antivirus just brings up an invitation to upgrade to the suite; in the suite, it's your access to the parental control system.
Shared Antivirus Features
With this suite, you get all the same antivirus protection found in Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security, along with that product's many bonus features. Please read my review of the standalone antivirus for full details, if the summary here leaves you wanting more.
The independent testing labs give Trend Micro a range of scores. From AV-Test Institute, Trend Micro got a perfect 18 points, as did Kaspersky and Bitdefender.
I follow five of the many tests conducted by researchers at AV-Comparatives; Trend Micro participates in three of these. It got the minimum passing grade in one, and the step-up Advanced certification in the other two. Simon Edwards Labs likewise gave it the next-to-top certification level.
Trend Micro failed both of the MRG-Effitas tests that I follow, but many, many products fail these, and there's no gradation between a big fail and an almost-made-it fail. That being the case, I've reduced the weight I give to this test. My updated lab aggregate score for Trend Micro is 8.5 of 10 possible points.
This antivirus did better in my own hands-on tests than in the independent lab tests. It earned 9.7 points for malware blocking and detected 97 percent of my samples, the same as Norton. Webroot did even better with a perfect 10 points. As for malicious URL blocking, Trend Micro blocked a very good 89 percent of the fresh malware-hosting URLs, most of them by blocking all access to the page. Avira Antivirus Pro 2016 holds the record for this test, with 99 percent protection.
In my antiphishing test, Trend Micro scored not far from the top, with a detection rate just two percentage points behind Norton's. It also easily beat the phishing protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. Topping the scores for this test, Bitdefender and Kaspersky beat Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic by five and four percentage points respectively.
Other Shared Features
That plus sign in the standalone antivirus's name is a clue to the wealth of bonus features it packs. The Folder Shield component protects one folder (and its subfolders) from ransomware by preventing any changes to that folder's contents by unauthorized programs. It defaults to protecting your Documents folder. A similar feature in Bitdefender lets you define multiple folders for protection, and the Data Shield feature in Panda Internet Security 2016 can even prevent unauthorized reading of your protected files.
Trend Micro's browser extensions do a good job of keeping you away from malicious and fraudulent sites. The search and social media markup component helps ensure you never even try to visit such sites. In search results and on social media pages, it highlights links in green, yellow, and red to indicate that they're safe, iffy, or dangerous.
The antivirus doesn't include a firewall, nor does the security suite reviewed here. However, both have a Firewall Booster aimed at keeping your computer safe from specific Internet-based attacks. A full-fledged spam filter and the ability to skin the main window with a predefined or user-created image round out the collection of bonus features.
See How We Test Security Software
Uneven Parental Control
The parental control system in this suite handles all the basics, but has some weaknesses. It's disabled by default, since not all users need it. When you enable it, you'll have to define a password to keep the kids from changing the settings. You can choose to apply parental control globally, or define per-user settings for each Windows user account.
Content filtering is the central feature for most parental control products. Trend Micro offers to block 32 distinct categories, organized into four groups. Selecting the child's age-range preconfigures these, but of course you can make your own choices. Be sure the Hacking / Proxy Avoidance category is blocked, as a clever child could evade parental control and monitoring by using a secure anonymizing proxy.
In testing, I found that Trend Micro filters out objectionable content at a level below the browser. However, if your child uses a browser other than Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer, the page that explains why a site was blocked may not display properly. In the hand-coded browser I use for testing, blocked pages just appeared as a mostly blank jumble.
Kaspersky Internet Security and Bitdefender go beyond keeping a simple database of website categories for content filtering. They actually check page content, so they can do things like allow access to a short-story website but block the erotica. Trend Micro's filtering isn't as elaborate as that.
Trend Micro's parental control system can't be disabled with the simple three-word network command that disabled protection in Total Defense Unlimited Internet Security. However, I did find a couple of secure anonymizing proxies, well-known ones, that slipped past the filter. By surfing through such a site, your child could access the Internet unhindered by parental control.
The parental control system no longer attempts to force Safe Search in popular search portals, because most of them now use HTTPS, which makes forcing Safe Search impossible. That means your kids can do a Google image search or equivalent and come up with plenty of prurient images. Trend Micro has the unusual ability to detect naughty pictures and cover them up, but it has its limitations. Resizing the browser window uncovers all the images. They get covered again when you stop resizing. Some explicit images get through regardless. And I found that I could access the blocked images within Google image search by opening the previous image and using the next button.
You can set limits on Internet use for each child, in several different ways. A full-week grid lets you block Internet usage on specific hours during specific days. You can also just configure it one way for weekdays, another for weekends. Along with (or instead of) scheduling, you can set a cap on the number of hours online per day, separately for weekdays and weekends. And your kids can't fool it by tweaking the PC's system time.
You can also schedule when any particular program is allowed, or block all access. No games during the homework hour! A smart kid will probably try to run a renamed copy of the desired file, but Trend Micro doesn't fall for that trick.
At the bottom of the content block warning page there are links to unblock the page temporarily or permanently by entering a password. A similar link offers to override time limits using a password. However, the password in question is the one that unlocks all settings, so if you give it to a child you've thrown parental control to the four winds.
A simple report lists the most-blocked categories and websites. Clicking for more detail gets a list of every blocked site, with a date-time stamp and the name of the account involved.
Bitdefender and Kaspersky both include instant messaging controls. Kaspersky can block games based on their ratings. With Bitdefender and Norton you can manage parental control remotely. Trend Micro lacks these and other advanced features and, as noted, I experienced some minor failures while testing it. If parental control is important to you as a suite element, Trend Micro may not be the best choice. Note that you can purchase Symantec Norton Family Premier or Kaspersky Safe Kids separately from each vendor's suite.
Trend Micro's unusual privacy scanner checks your social media accounts for unsafe settings and also checks to make sure your browsers are configured properly for security. Specifically, it checks Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter for social media privacy settings, and checks the security configuration of Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.
The scanner found no problems with my Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn accounts. It recommended that I make my tweets private and cut off the ability for others to find my Twitter account from my email address or phone number. Those settings would pretty much invalidate the way I use Twitter, so I didn't do it. I did turn off geotagging of my tweets; I didn't realize it was on. And I turned off Twitter's ability to tailor its appearance based on my website visits.
As for the browsers, it griped about password capture being turned on in all three. It also wanted me to turn on SmartScreen Filter in Internet Explorer, and set both Firefox and Chrome to send the Do Not Track request to websites. These would be good changes for most users. My configuration has to be different because I use this system for testing.
Data Theft Protection
Like parental control, the Data Theft Prevention feature requires password protection. If you don't already have that enabled, you'll be prompted to set it up. Now you enter any private data items that you don't want transmitted out of your computer. For each, you specify a category and the protected data. With the similar Identity Lock feature in Check Point ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2017, choosing a category fine-tunes the data-entry fields. Trend Micro doesn't do that, but it does protect the data using one-way encryption.
Now if anyone tries to send the data you've chosen to protect via website, email, or IM, Trend Micro prevents transmission. If you meant to send the data, you can turn off this feature for a half-hour by entering the password. But your kids won't be able to share, for example, your home address or telephone number.
There is one catch. This feature doesn't work on secure (HTTPS) websites. That means it won't stop any user (or data-stealing Trojan) from sending secrets via always-encrypted Gmail or any other secure connection. This feature was more useful back when fewer sites used HTTPS.
When you delete a file, it isn't gone; it just goes to the Recycle Bin. That behavior can be a godsend when you've deleted a file accidentally. However, if your aim is to eliminate a file containing sensitive data, the Recycle Bin can be a traitor. Even if you bypass the Recycle Bin, the deleted file's data is still present on disk until the space it occupied gets overwritten, and that data can be recovered.
That's where Secure Erase comes in. You have to turn it on, as it's not enabled by default. After you do so, the right-click menu for every file and folder gets a new item, Delete with Secure Erase. Once you select that menu item and confirm your choice, Trend Micro first overwrites the file's data and then deletes it. That's enough to prevent software-based recovery. If your data is so sensitive that the feds might employ hardware-based recovery to get it back, just configure this component to overwrite the file seven times before deletion. It takes longer, but it makes the data truly unrecoverable. Bitdefender Internet Security 2016 splits the difference, always performing three overwrites.
PC Health Checkup
As you add and remove programs, create files, install new programs, and generally user your computer, it can start to bog down due to useless files, erroneous Registry entries, and other accumulations. The PC Health Checkup scan looks for problems and offers to fix them. It runs quickly and gives you an overview of your PC's optimization level, with a link to dig in for more details.
My test systems don't get the kind of use that causes accumulation of junk, so I wasn't surprised that the inintial scan a very good optimization level. The detailed list revealed no startup problems, no junk files, and no privacy concerns. It did recommend turning on the Windows Firewall, but of course I leave that turned off for testing purposes.
You don't have to review the details if you don't want to. Just click the big Make Improvements button and Trend Micro goes to work, fixing all the problems it found. Once you reach the top optimization level, it offers to let you continue with optional improvements. You can delay launch of startup programs to make the system get to ready faster at boot. You can scan for private data to be cleaned from your browsers, instant messengers, and media players, as well as Microsoft Office and Windows.
There's also an optional scan for duplicate files wasting space on your system. By default, it doesn't bother with files smaller than 1MB. You can set that cutoff higher, but not lower. And it quite reasonably doesn't attempt to find duplicate EXE files or other executable filetypes such as CMD and DLL. When the search does find duplicates, you can delete the unwanted ones.
Tiny Performance Impact
These days minimizing performance impact isn't optional for security vendors. They have to pass Microsoft's performance standards or risk the software giant's wrath. You're not likely to notice a performance drag from your security suite. Even so, there are degrees of impact on performance.
Trend Micro earned top marks for performance from AV-Test, but only got a passing grade in the latest test by AV-Comparatives. That was the previous edition. My company contact reported that the current release has a much lighter touch, and my hands-on tests concur. In fact, the results were so much better than last year's that I started fresh and ran the tests again, with the same result.
My boot-time test reboots the computer and launches a script at startup, watching for 10 seconds in a row with 5 percent CPU usage or lower. At the time that occurs, it subtracts the start of the boot process, as reported by Windows, to get a measure of how long it takes for the system to be ready. I average many runs with no suite, then install the suite and average many more. With Trend Micro, the average was actually slightly lower than with no suite. Certainly there was no drag on boot time.
To test whether a suite's real-time protection slows file activities, I run a script that moves and copies a huge collection of files between drives. Averaging many runs before and after installing Trend Micro, I found that the script took 9 percent longer with the suite installed. That's low—the average for current products is a 22 percent slowdown. Another script that zips and unzips the same collection of files didn't take any longer under Trend Micro. Among current products, only Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus exhibited a lower average impact in these tests.
Trend Micro Internet Security's antivirus earned great scores in my hands-on tests, though its lab test results were uneven. For those who need them, spam filtering and parental control are available. There's no firewall as such, but the Firewall Booster aims to give the built-in Windows Firewall a hand. And despite the software's wealth of useful bonus features, my tests showed it has a very small impact on performance.
If you're looking for a basic security suite, Trend Micro Internet Security is worth considering, especially if its bonus features align with your needs. But you should also consider our Editors' Choice products, Bitdefender Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security. At the mega-suite level, Bitdefender Total Security and Kaspersky Total Security are our Editors' Choice picks. And if what you want is Editors' Choice protection for multiple devices across multiple platforms, we've named McAfee LiveSafe and Symantec Norton Security Premium.
Note: These sub-ratings contribute to a product's overall star rating, as do other factors, including ease of use in real-world testing, bonus features, and overall integration of features.