Today, the Security for Everyone series welcomes Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2011. Trend Micro has been involved in securing desktops and server systems for more than two decades and has been one of the first security companies to embrace cloud computing. The review of the 2010 Internet Security product found a relatively easy to use product that unfortunately provided below average protection. Let’s see what the 2011 version has in store for Trend Micro consumers and evaluate if they managed to improve their security products.
I can remember being a supporter of Trend Micro many years ago when their web based Housecall product was my tool of choice when dealing with threats on PCs belonging to friends and family. Today the company I work for is a customer of Trend Micro enterprise products. I have not been a user of the consumer based Trend Micro products and am looking forward to seeing how Trend Micro operates in this space.
Downloading and installing Titanium Internet Security 2011 is non-eventful. There are no forms to complete or trials keys to wait for. You download an executable below 3 MB which, when executed, downloads the latest trial version from the Trend Micro servers. When I made my tests, the total download size was around 69MB. Once the install is complete you are met with a sparse interface and “sparse" may be overstating it a bit.
The first thing you may notice is a lack of detail regarding when the last update occurred or how current the definition or pattern files may be. This is due to Trend Micro handling updates differently than the majority of security suites. Trend Micro claims you will never again have to perform a manual update or download a new definition file due to the technology behind their Smart Protection Network, based on a cloud security implementation. This means that, as Trend Micro identifies threats, the Smart Protection Network is updated. Updates performed within the Smart Protection Network are made available to clients, like Titanium Internet Security, in real-time. This negates any need to download and apply new definitions or pattern files and is said to provide better protection against new threats.
The only negative I can come up with is there are no prompts to perform an initial scan. The installation is very simple and the resulting interface is light, with protection that is automatically up-to-date. Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security does not include it’s own firewall, rather it adds some functionality to the Windows Firewall. We will learn more about this in the coming sections. At this early stage, the impression is positive.
Ease of Use and Configuration
The main interface is sparse but does provide the information and component access you would expect. A security summary is available which provides a handy link to a summary level report of threat activity on your system. From the summary report you can choose to dive into a more detailed log.
In addition to the Security Summary you’ll also find links to setup or review parental control options and to view your subscription details. The remaining links from the main screen take you into the meat of the application and allow you to perform those tasks primarily associated with a security suite. These tasks, where Trend Micro is concerned, are significantly fewer than what you might find in most other security applications. This is primarily due to the lack of options associated with firewall setup and monitoring.
You have the ability to start a scan (Quick, Full or Custom). The custom scan consists of an explorer like interface where you choose the directories you’d like scanned. I ran each scan in my testing and the most exhaustive among them ran for little more than 26 minutes. The application settings are also within reach. The settings are grouped into 4 categories and include: Virus and Spyware Controls, Internet and Email Controls, Exception Lists and Other Settings.
The Virus and Spyware Controls display the default settings and allow you to edit them. You can also edit the scheduled scan using this interface.
The Internet and Email Controls let you dig into some of the network based settings. Here you can choose how aggressively Trend Micro should monitor for malicious sites. You may also enable the Antispam feature and activate the Firewall Booster which is designed to enhance the protection given by the Windows Firewall. We’ll discuss this last bit more in the firewall section.
The Exception Lists section leaves little to the imagination when considering the settings manged here. One can control exclusion lists (programs and folders) and edit the list of approved sites. The Other Settings section allows for adjustments to system startup, proxy settings, your participation in the Smart Protection Network and provides an interface for setting a password to prevent unauthorized changes.
As you can see, there is little difficulty when it comes to using and configuring Titanium Internet Security 2011. The settings are less than intimidating and should leave the novice user feeling in control. Of course, a false sense of security is often considered worse than no security at all. Let’s spend some time looking at the level of security provided by Titanium Internet Security.
As mentioned previously, Trend Micro chose not to include a firewall in their 2011 version of Internet Security. They chose instead to enhance the already solid protection provided by the Windows 7 firewall. This is done by enabling the Firewall Booster as found in the Network section of the Internet and Email Control settings.
I was able to find very little that explained what exactly the Firewall Booster does to enhance the Windows Firewall. What I did find simply stated that enabling the Firewall Booster introduces network level scanning and an intrusion detection system.
I performed my typical testing of the firewall using Nmap and Nessus. I ran a couple of scans without the Firewall Booster activated and then again with the Firewall Booster activated and after a reboot (it is not required but I was just being diligent). Each scan produced the same results. I did find a PC Mag review where they claim the Firewall Booster was indeed effective when scanned for exploits, yet they failed to mention if they performed the same tests without the booster activated. There is certainly the possibility the intrusive scans I was performing were not triggering the kind of activity the Firewall Booster enhancements would detect.
The good news is, we already know how well the Windows Firewall protects and I don’t think the decision to piggy-back on the effectiveness of the Windows Firewall is necessarily a bad idea.
Antivirus and Antispyware Features
Trend Micro has put together a scanner that is both quiet and effective against the latest threats. The prompts are kept to a minimum and performance is not impacted, even when a full scan is being performed. I was also impressed by how fast the scanner was able to complete its job.
While I do like the implementation of the Smart Protection Network, I’m a bit concerned about the protection provided against older threats or those threats that are not introduced via the Internet. I’m not able to provide any concrete results supporting this concern because everything I threw at the scanner was identified and removed. It just seems that a system geared toward Internet based threats may have some exposure when it comes to threats introduced via traditional means.
As you might expect, Trend Micro handled browser based threats very well. There were no toolbars added or search results filtered. Just good old fashioned protection that doesn’t interrupt the way you use the Internet.
The Antivirus and Antispyware features have proven to be effective. The Smart Protection Network is innovative and worth keeping an eye on. There may not be many bells and whistles in this suite but I think we’ve learned they simply aren’t necessary.
Trend Micro seems to have taken a page from the Microsoft Security Essentials play-book. Titanium Internet Security 2011 feels like the kind of suite that will please its users because it stays out of the way yet provides solid protection. I believe their choice to enhance the native Windows Firewall rather than introduce their own is a good one and speaks to the positive user experience the Titanium team has worked to introduce. Well done Trend Micro. It is good to see the old dogs continue to learn new tricks.
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