Saturday, October 16, 2010

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011 (3.0)

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011 (3.0)

The bottom line: A new name heralds some big changes for Trend Micro's Titanium suites. The overhaul to Maximum Security 2011 brings users a faster suite with a smaller system impact. There's a lot of extras to like here, too, but that's not enough to sell security on.

Trend Micro's updates for 2011 bring a substantially overhauled suite, from the name down to its detection engine. Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011 is the new name for Trend Micro Internet Security Pro, and along with the new nom de guerre comes a new interface, new cloud-based detection engine, and new features that, on whole, are changes as impressive as those that Norton has gone through the past few years.

The new Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011 sports a rapid-fire installation. Once you've completed downloading the installer, the entire process is over in less than a minute. There's one screen where you're asked to fill in an e-mail address before you can run Titanium Maximum Security, but that's the extent of the registration hoops that are required.

Notably, Trend Micro doesn't call any attention to its behavioral detection network, which the company has named Aegis. Although Trend Micro introduced Aegis in 2007, making it one of the first available, most companies still give users the option during installation to opt-out of contributing data to the anonymous networks while allowing you the networks' benefits. Unless it was a glitch, that's not offered here in the installation. (You can later disable the anonymous contribution of your data in the Settings menu, under Other Settings and Smart Protection Network.)

A different, minimalistic interface is what you'll find as the outward face of Trend Micro's Titanium security suites in 2011. Frankly, it's the easiest-to-use security suite interface we've encountered so far this year. The top quarter is taken up by a large icon and bar declaring your security status, and below it are three major security fields and a registration status indicator.

Along with a new interface, the detection engine in Trend Micro Maximum Security 2011 relies heavily on the cloud. This makes the suite light and fast, but the jury's not back yet on how effective it is.

Click the boldface name of one to open a drop-down revealing more information, such as number and type of threats stopped under Security Summary. This perhaps could be phrased better, since if no threats have been detected on your computer, then you will see that, "0 threats have been stopped." Accurate, yes, but slightly misleading, too.

Besides Security Summary, there's also System Tuner and Parental Controls in the quick-access slots.

The Support link lives in the upper right corner of the interface, marked by a text link and a boat's lifesaver ring. At the bottom of the interface live a one-click scan-on-demand button to initiate a Quick Scan, a drop-down arrow to change scans, a Settings icon, and a Security Report button for jumping to a screen that collects into charts and graphs recent threat detection, system performance, and parental control notifications.

For advanced security features, you must click on the blue Tools button in the bottom left corner. It's the only blue button link in the interface, so it stands out well. Clicking on it reveals six smartphone app-style buttons for Parental Control, Data Theft Prevention, System Tuner, the Trend Micro Vault for online backup, Secure Erase, and the Tool Center. Each one has a status indicator letting you know if it's been activated, when applicable.

Oddly, the Tool Center didn't do anything when we clicked on it. It is supposed to open the Web site for Trend Micro HouseCall, which is a free, online-only tool for removing malware.

Clicking through the others takes you to a landing page for each, which comes with an option to hide the landing page in the future. Since the landing pages only contain brief descriptions of the features within, it'd make more sense to spare you the bottleneck and put the descriptions somewhere else.

Within each tool is a sharp layout of features and instructions on how to use them. The interface was that rare combination of uncluttered and helpful, bringing the featured tools to the fore without feeling overwhelmed. And although each tool opened in a new window, it opened smoothly and replaced the window below it so that the main Trend Micro pane was always easily accessible. If only other complicated programs were this well designed.

Titanium Maximum Security 2011 comes with parental controls, identity guards for protecting credit card numbers and passwords, the aforementioned Department of Defense-standard file shredding, and the Trend Micro Vault, which is a remote file lock that will seal off files when you tell it to. This is in case your laptop has been stolen.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Features and support
The big new feature this year is that Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011 has removed the necessity to update your virus definition files because, like Google Chrome, it automatically updates. Unlike Chrome, you don't have to shut it down first. This is generally a good idea, in the sense that users won't have to remember to schedule scans and updates. This can become problematic, to put it diplomatically, when the wrong files get identified as threats. This happened to McAfee earlier in 2010, and that one bad virus definition left havoc in its wake. Granted, those mistakes are rare, and the scope of McAfee's mistake was even more unusual, but they do happen.

The auto-updates in Titanium theoretically lead to a higher level of security that's more responsive, too. The behavioral detection approach has worked well for Norton, Panda, and Microsoft. There's no doubt that moving detection to the cloud makes the program run with less interference in your system. However, Trend Micro's Aegis system is largely untested in this category.

All that's not to say that you can't schedule scans in Titanium, which you can do from the Virus and Spyware Controls panel under Settings. Under that same tab, you can configure how Titanium handles various other security protocol.

Titanium Maximum Security does offer the kind of robust, full-featured protection that's expected from a top-shelf security suite. Along with antivirus, anti-malware, and malicious link protection, Titanium Maximum Security protects your installed applications from being altered without your permission, optimizes the Windows firewall, and provides spam guards. There's also parental controls, identity guards for protecting credit card numbers and passwords, the aforementioned Department of Defense-standard file shredding, and the Trend Micro Vault, which is a remote file lock that will seal off files when you tell it to. This is in case your laptop has been stolen.

Trend Micro comes with a toolbar that auto-installs only in Firefox and Internet Explorer. This can be deactivated in the Settings window after you install, although it's a bit annoying that you can't turn it off before you install. Internet Explorer 9 beta indicates that running the toolbar slows down the browser start-up by 1 second. It also doesn't really contain much in the way of features, besides giving Titanium hooks into your browser so it can evaluate Web site search results.

The toolbar is still only available in Internet Explorer and Firefox, but the default buttons appear to be limited to the settings link hidden behind the Trend Micro logo. The toolbar is useful, though, and provides a hook for the program to see your search results and rate them for you. As you can see in this screenshot from Internet Explorer 9 beta, the toolbar does have an impact on the browser start-up time.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Three impressive added value features this year are the system tuner, Wi-Fi verification, and the online backup. The system tuner is quite robust and cleans your Registry, looks for recoverable disk space, cleans out start-up links to programs that no longer exist, deletes Internet cookies, and removes software histories including instant message logs to prevent spyware from accessing them. The Internet hot spot verification will warn you if you're connecting to a network that's been compromised The online backup tool includes a leading 10GB of encrypted online storage. It includes syncing and sharing, and there's an option to purchase unlimited storage space.

The Titanium firewall component generally relies on the excellent Windows Vista and Windows 7 firewall to get the job done. It does come with a firewall booster option, under Network in the Internet and E-mail Controls tab in the Settings menu. This activates the network-level firewall, which is a component that Windows is missing, but Trend Micro clearly doesn't think it's crucial: the firewall booster is disabled by default.

There are some hang-ups with Titanium, though. For one thing, while the program is starting users won't be able to access the interface, although you can when scanning. A more troublesome problem is that the suite doesn't really possess much in the way of virus and malware removal. It presupposes that it will block all threats that attempt to crack your system. As noted above, Trend Micro's HouseCall tool is the de facto post-infection threat killer, and it's Web-based. That may make some users skittish.

So, the big caveat is that much of the tech that Trend Micro's relying on is new and untested by independent efficacy tests, so it may be worth hedging bets against Trend Micro until third-party labs have had a chance to evaluate it.

CNET Labs' benchmarks showed that the suites backed up Trend Micro's claims of minimal system impact, in general. All three of the company's suite offerings this year, Titanium Maximum Security 2011, Titanium Internet Security 2011, and Titanium Antivirus+, barely touched the systems they were installed on when compared with competitors on the key benchmarks of computer start-up and scan time.

Maximum Security added only 2.29 seconds to computer boot time, and Internet Security and Antivirus+ followed closely behind with 2.5 seconds added and 3.62 seconds added, respectively. Scan times from all three suites were the fastest that we recorded, so far.

Security ProgramBoot timeShutdown timeScan timeMS Office performanceiTunes decodingMedia multitaskingCinebench
Unprotected system42.511.28n/a9171807804,795
Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 201144.7916.5650010602018524,765
Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 20114513.4448010142009334,779
Trend Micro Titanium AntiVirus+ 201146.121349010142008304,780

*All tests measures in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.

However, computer shutdown times were far less impressive, with Maximum Security actually slowing down shutdown the most of any 2011 suite reviewed to date. The impact of Internet Security 2011 and Antivirus+ 2011 on shutdown was more average. Trend Micro's impact on Microsoft Office performance and media multitasking both tended toward the slower end of the scale, whereas the iTunes decoding score was average and the Cinebench scores were at the top for all three suites.

In a real-world test, Titanium Maximum Security 2011 completed a Quick Scan in 46 seconds, and a Full Scan in 1 hour, 37 minutes.

There are no independent benchmarks available yet for all the 2011 suites, so expect this section to change as those get released. For the 2010 version, which has been noted as being drastically different from the 2011, scores were unimpressive.

Dennis Technology Labs, a member of the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organisation (AMTSO), found in itsJuly 2010 Web threat protection test (PDF) that Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2010 actually did very well, defending against 38 of 40 threats, neutralizing two, and compromised by none for an overall protection score of 100 percent. This was the second-best score of the test, below Norton's score of defending against 40 out of 40 threats. In Dennis Labs' August 2010 antivirus test (PDF), Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2010 fared much worse. It defended against 23 of 40 threats, neutralized 11, and was compromised by six, for an overall score of 85 percent.

In the test on Windows 7 from the second quarter of 2010, Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2010 scored 11.5 out of 18, with a 2.5 out of 6 rating in Protection, and a 4.5 out of 6 rating in Repair and Usability. Notably, the 2.5 rating was the second-lowest in the test for the Protection category. This overall score was half a point below the certification level, and was not certified by

It's hard to tell if the AV-Test score is an outlier, because the most recent tests showed results similar to both Dennis Labs' and AV-Test's. In the Whole Product dynamic test from August 2010, Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2010 performed extremely well. It blocked 98 percent of the threats sent against it, and was compromised by 2 percent. This tied Panda, Avira, and AVG for the top slot. In the On-Demand detection test from August 2010, Trend Micro Antivirus+ 2010 scored much lower, with many false positives, an average scanning speed, and 90.3 percent detection rate. It did not earn certification in this test.

It's clear that part of the reason that Trend Micro revamped Titanium the way it did was to improve user security, and thus score better. For that reason, we're comfortable giving Trend Micro a lower score now, and revisiting it if its performance changes in tests performed on this year's version over the next few months.

Trend Micro is taking a leap forward with its Titanium offerings for 2011. In terms of features and usability, the suite is fantastic, with only minor blemishes. Performance benchmarks, too, are impressive where it counts. However, efficacy tests on last year's model will leave you holding a mixed bag, which makes us uncomfortable recommending Titanium Maximum Security 2011 for now.


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