Going further with our Security for Everyone series we will look at AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0. If you have a confused look on your face that seems to wonder who are these AhnLab fellows anyway, then you may want to know that they are one of the biggest players of Internet security in the Asian market. And while the first thing I could think of when I saw their web page was 'vaporware', AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 turned out to be the biggest and most pleasant surprise we have had in our series so far.
I will not lie to you: the first impression I had was anything but pleasant. I was vaguely familiar with AhnLab being an Asian company that developed security tools, but this was my first contact with one of their products. The first thing that struck me on their webpage was a 'Security meter' on the left which was conveniently set on 'Low'. The first thing I did, being used to the 'clever' marketing of security companies, was ironically wonder how they had retrieved that information from the Mac computer I was running at that moment. However, after some reading, I realized that the meter is not about the computer, but about the current status of Internet threats. Rule of IT Journalism #133: never judge marketing on first sight.
The installer is fast, clean and simple. Except for a somewhat panicking message that warns against using the program after it expires, there are no toolbars to install, no offers of opening an account with some special offer, no registration, no personal data to provide, nothing but installing the program. You may think this is a little thing but it's the first program in our series to be so clean. In fact, after more than one week of testing, I have not seen a single 'buy me' message, not even a nag screen or a 'special offer' on the main screen of the program. Korean politeness, we salute you!
Furthermore, AhnLab's website includes a fairly detailed FAQ and virus center, with tons of information that is actually relevant knowledge. While there's an obvious 'buy our stuff' hidden under it, they actually seem to try to educate their home users and offer them some insight about Internet security.
After the installation, one thing I noticed is the fact that AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 doesn't disable Windows Defender. Therefore you end-up having two anti-malware solutions running at the same time. It would be nice to ask users if they want to disable Windows Defender so that they don't waste computer resources.
Ease of use and configuration
AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 has a very well organized main interface. The main screen offers a quick overview of the amount of protection offered by the program, and every section can be accessed through the menu on the left. This main interface is just for overview and provides access only to the most common functions and to each module's settings page.
Setting up AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 is not exactly the easiest chore a user will have to go through. The options are well separated in their classes and while there is no separation between basic and advanced features, the settings are smartly ordered so that the basic options are the first one a user will see. However, they may be confusing through their sheer number. AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 offers a vast range of customization options, certainly much wider than that of most other programs I have tested. This is likely to be intimidating for many users and it certainly does not help if you are on the phone trying to help your wife find that particular option.
Fortunately, the only setting that should have been activated by default but was not, is the real-time scanning of files transferred via instant-messaging. By default, AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 offers the best protection it can get without getting in the user's way.
The firewall module offers a remarkable degree of integration. It offers several policies (Home, Office, Mobile etc.) and will automatically allow well-known applications to access the Internet. The likes of Yahoo! Messenger, uTorrent and other similarly popular tools I installed were correctly detected and allowed to access the network without hassles. Furthermore, the firewall will also check these programs to ensure that they have not been infected, and will check them on every run so as not to unwillingly open a gate. Firewall exceptions can be easily added if required.
The firewall also offers protection against a number of well-known attacks from trojans, worms and teenagers in their parents' basements. While the list is much shorter than that of Norton Internet Security 2010, it certainly helps having this class of features around.
Unfortunately, the firewall is somewhat less efficient when it comes to more subtle issues. It leaked some information to scanners (although, in its defence, I had to make the scanning so subtle that it did not provide anything helpful); nevertheless, it did withstand every attempt to disable it by killing its process from the task manager or otherwise.
Antivirus and antispyware features
The anti-malware features to be found in AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 are not necessarily 'state of the art', but they certainly do their job. I can assume that AhnLab does lack the infrastructure that allowed Symantec to implement some of their user input-based technologies, but regardless of the reason, AhnLab's solution does not provide anything truly innovative in this area.
On the bright side, what they lack in shine they certainly compensate in implementation quality. Despite not having any fancy technology to show off, AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 dully found and repaired all of the well known malware that currently lurks around the Internet. Most threats newer than a few days were ignored (a sign of weak heuristic detection) but the following update included the new misconduct signatures and they were promptly wiped out. The pace of updates certainly helps, and even without being technologically sound in this area, AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 offers good protection.
It is also fair to point out that AhnLab did include their TrueFind feature in the 8.0 version of V3 Internet Security. This feature allows AhnLab to cleanly deal with malicious programs that use rootkits to escape detection and install malware. While not having a tremendous impact since most of the malware you will find in the wild is not that advanced, TrueFind is a useful presence in an Internet security program.
AhnLab advertises V3 Internet Security 8.0 as being 'slimmer and more powerful'. I was slightly incredulous at first, especially when I saw that the default setting for CPU usage was 'High'. However, AhnLab really is slim. Scanning takes a lot of time (especially since there seems to be no caching, so all the hard drive is scanned on every scan), but even on the highest resource use settings, the computer was still perfectly usable for anything but games. Lowering the resource use did make the scan take a lot longer, but the system's performance loss was minimal.
This verdict was certainly the hardest to give so far, and I changed my mind several times. On one hand, you have to appreciate the effort that AhnLab has put into their product and I did appreciate the strong foundation they are offering. The features that they have already are rock-solid and while there is room for improvement, they are still better than average.
Even without getting a winning place in our series, AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 still deserves a lot of encouragement. AhnLab aims to be one of the top security software providers in the following years, and they certainly are on the right track. We are not talking about a bloated or hopelessly-crippled program but one that, while not strong enough just yet, has a solid foundation and is actually good enough for some users. Its low resource consumption would make it a good choice for aging systems and also for systems that are only moderately threatened.
However, AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 still has a bit to go until it reaches the top. The interface requires some polishing in order to deal with the huge number of settings, the documentation can be improved and some additions on the tech side cannot hurt. I do not think that a user with basic knowledge and security needs knows enough to cope with the shortcomings of this suite so far, so it is only fair to give the 'Buy for Geeks' award. If you want to give it a try, you can find the trial version here and you can buy the product here.