It may not have the profile of the big-name competition, but Florida-based ThreatTrack has been in the security business for a very long time. Established in 1994 as Sunbelt Software, the company spent years developing anti-spyware solutions, introduced its VIPRE antivirus brand in 2008, and now offers a range of products for home and business users.
VIPRE Advanced Security is the company’s consumer-oriented security suite, a blend of dual-engine antivirus (Bitdefender and its own), firewall, spam blocker, web filter and basic privacy tools.
The package has none of the big extras you sometimes get elsewhere – no parental controls, no backup tool – but it more than covers the essentials, and will probably be enough for most users.
The standard price for a one computer, one-year licence is fractionally higher than we expected at £29.27 ($34) for year one, £45 ($56) for subsequent years. There are huge discounts available if you add more computers, though, and a 10-computer licence can be yours for only £53.22 ($66.50) in year one, £81.88 ($102) afterwards.
VIPRE Advanced Security has a 30-day free trial version which you can download from the website. You’ll need to hand over your email address, but there’s no further registration required.
The installer seemed unusually sensitive about ‘incompatible software’, recommending that we uninstall Avira’s launcher. This was just the launcher, not Avira Antivirus, and it’s difficult to see how it could cause any problems at all. Fortunately, the package allowed us to ignore the warning and carry on, so it didn’t cause us any issues.
The rest of the setup process was clear and straightforward, with the installer telling us what it was doing every step of the way. Folders were created, files downloaded, updates fetched and an initial quick scan launched. When it was done, there were no red ‘Problem!’ warnings demanding that we manually run updates or do anything else, because the suite had already been properly set up.
VIPRE’s system footprint was reasonable for a security suite. It grabbed under 800MB hard drive space and added only two background processes to our test PC, using barely 25MB RAM between them.
Exploring the VIPRE Advanced Security folders, we found several executables from other developers, including the Bitdefender engine, some email filtering components from the excellent Cloudmark, and other third-party DLLs. Several of these files are unsigned, but these were mostly the third-party products, and it’s very unlikely to make any functional difference to the security suite.
It’s important that security packages can prevent malware from disabling them. To test this, we run simple attacks to try and delete key files, close processes or change Registry settings. We only use very basic hacks that could be launched from a batch file, so most antivirus engines should block our efforts with ease.
Sadly, VIPRE Advanced Security wasn’t quite that successful. It did protect against attempts to delete its code or close the main processes, but we were able to run scripts that might affect VIPRE’s drivers, and an attacker with administrator rights could delete VIPRE’s main service from the Registry and disable it entirely.
This isn’t quite the security hole it seems. Most malware won’t go to this kind of effort, and if a dangerous executable is able to run on your system with administrator rights, you’re in big trouble anyway. But it does show VIPRE Advanced Security is a little more vulnerable to attack than some of the competition, and that leaves us wondering if there were other issues we didn’t spot.
VIPRE Advanced Security opens with a straightforward interface which focuses on just the core antivirus basics. Clear status information tells you whether the system is working correctly, your definitions are up-to-date and the firewall is active. You can see when the last scan finished and when the next one is due. Or you can tap the Scan button and immediately run a quick or a full system check.
Our first scans were slow, but subsequent times improved drastically as the engine only scanned modified and the most important files. An initial ‘Full Scan’ of our test system took 70 minutes, for instance, but next time it was under three minutes, and a ‘Quick Scan’ took barely 90 seconds.
All our malware samples were detected during the test scans and processed entirely automatically. VIPRE Advanced Security tries to keep you up-to-date by displaying a running count of blocked malware at the bottom of its console (‘we have protected you from 4 threats’), and clicking this displays a Timeline with more information.
We found the report to be a little frustrating. When an antivirus tool tells us it has deleted or removed something, we normally want to see the affected files, but this takes some work. We had to click the ‘we have protected you’ message, scroll up, click the ‘Totals’ link, find the report in the list, and click its Information icon to see a list of detections. If there were multiple threats found, you must click a ‘Traces’ link for each one to see the removed objects, then close that window before continuing. When there were ‘too many’ threats, we couldn’t even view them all because the report window didn’t scroll.
The engine doesn’t support running simultaneous on-demand scans. We launched a full system scan, then right-clicked a file and selected ‘Scan with VIPRE’, but were told the program was busy: our only options were to cancel the current scan, or wait for it to complete. That could be a problem if it tempts users not to scan something they’re concerned about, because they don’t want to interrupt a lengthy scan.
VIPRE doesn’t have as many low-level antivirus settings as the more expert-level competition. There are a few things you can tweak – whether you want the program to scan inside archives, and whether it should delay scheduled scans if a laptop isn’t plugged in – but the options are mostly very simple.
Elsewhere, the suite provides a URL filter for blocking access to infected and phishing sites. It works at the network level, which means all your browsers are covered without the hassle of extra extensions. The filter managed only average results in our tests, but it did pick up some sites that Chrome and Microsoft missed, and overall it’s a worthwhile addition to the suite.
A spam filter uses Cloudmark’s specialist email fingerprinting technology to keep your Inbox junk-free. Detection rates are good, but you need to be on Outlook or a client which uses SMTP or POP3 for sending and receiving messages, and there are barely any configuration options.
A built-in firewall filters incoming and outgoing traffic, and uses a Host Intrusion Prevention System and other techniques to block network attacks.
The firewall has a lot of features and functionality, but you won’t know about any of them unless you go looking. A ‘Learning’ mode helps the program understand your network traffic, for instance, but it’s disabled by default. The Intrusion Detection and Process Protection systems are also turned off initially, and even if you decide to enable them, it’s not obvious which settings will work best for you.
Put it all together and this probably isn’t a good firewall for network newbies. Knowledgeable users might find it more interesting, but expect to spend some time exploring dialogs and testing the settings before you’ll be able to decide.
There are a few other small extras tucked away.
‘History Cleaner’ aims to clear away the histories of Windows apps and many third-party applications. It supports a lot of software, but many seem distinctly out-of-date (the latest version of Office mentioned is 2007, and it lists Opera 9 when the browser is now at version 48).
‘Social Watch’ is a simple tool which can be scheduled to check your Facebook feed for dodgy links.
The best of the bonus features could be ‘Auto Patch’, which scans your other installed apps to look for missing updates. A lengthy list of supported applications covers everything from Adobe Reader, Chrome and Firefox, to UltraVNC, Wireshark and GIMP, and can detect, download and install most of these updates with a click.
VIPRE Advanced Security passed our simple malware detection tests with ease, but to really understand its abilities we also check out the much more detailed reports from independent testing labs.
AV-Comparatives’ combined February to June 2017 Real-World Protection Test scored VIPRE reasonably well, placing it seventh out of a field of 21. It can’t quite match big names like Bitdefender or Kaspersky, but still rated higher than F-Secure, Avast, Avira and more.
AV-Test’s July/August Home User test also rated VIPRE Internet Security Pro relatively highly for protection, with the package scoring 99.9% protection rates against known malware and 99.5% with zero-day threats.
MRG Effitas Q2 2017 360 Degree test checked 17 top security packages to find out whether they could either block all test infections, or in 98% of cases detect any missed malware and repair the system. Only seven packages passed, and VIPRE wasn’t one of them. But there were some other big names who also failed – Norton Security, Panda and Trend Micro – so the company wasn’t alone.
VIPRE Advanced Security stays out of your way and does a reasonable job of keeping you safe, but there’s no compelling reason to choose it over the top competition. You can get better protection and more functionality elsewhere.