I have never used Webroot products before and I was very curious to learn more about the effectiveness of their solutions. Unlike other products, Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012 focuses on providing only cloud based protection. It doesn’t have a mix of malware definitions and cloud intelligence as many other suites do. It this bet paying off? Is Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012 able to compete in providing top-notch security to Windows users? Let’s find out.
When you want to download the trial of Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012, you are asked to fill in your name and e-mail address. You will get all the details for downloading the trial, plus the activation key required to install it, in your inbox. Also, you will be automatically subscribed to their newsletter. Fortunately, you can easily unsubscribe and you won’t receive e-mail from them.
I find this process cumbersome. Having to use an activation key for a simple 14 days trial (instead of 30 days, as most security providers offer) is a bit too much, if you ask me. From there onwards, the installation is uneventful. It doesn’t require any customisation from the user nor any restart. Webroot installs only a 644KB file (Yes! You read correctly!) that will act both as your protection service and the main interface for Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012. I was both surprised and "afraid" at the same time. Can my system really be secured by a security suite which has only a 644KB file installed?
I was about to find out, once I was done with all my tests.
Integration with Windows
When I first installed Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012, I noticed that both Windows Defender and the Windows Firewall were not disabled. I was a bit surprised. I was expecting at least the Windows Firewall to be disabled. Later, during one of my tests, I installed Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012 and noticed that it recommended me that I enable the Windows Firewall, since it was manually disabled by me. This surprised me even more. Nowhere was mentioned that Webroot uses the Windows Firewall to provide firewall protection.
I really did not like the lack of transparency on Webroot’s part. I don’t mind them using a proven firewall to protect your system, but this should have been communicated more visibly, either on their website or in the main interface of the product. Also, Webroot should inform its users if the Windows Firewall gets disabled during the usage of their product, which it does not.
Another less ideal integration aspect I noticed was that Webroot still uses Windows XP-style icons for their products. They don’t have smooth scaling icons, a small design feature implemented by Microsoft since the launch of Windows Vista. Even though this doesn’t impact the level of security provided, it shows a lack of polish in the end product.
However, there are also positive aspects to Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012. Since it uses the Windows Firewall, it means you get great compatibility with all networking features included in Windows 7. The amount of RAM used by its protection process is only 18MB. This is by far the smallest memory consumption I have ever seen for a security suite.
Even though it doesn’t install any add-ons or toolbars, Webroot seems to actively scan the websites you visit for malware and other security problems. However, the responsiveness varies a lot between browsers. In Google Chrome I had the best experience while in Internet Explorer 9, Webroot forgot to react or reacted much later than in other browsers, when visiting mal-intentioned websites.
Also, the way warnings are shown is sloppy. Webroot adds a new layer on top of browser windows and displays a warning on the top-left corner. This layer has some weird flickering and the way it is positioned on the screen just doesn’t look elegant in any way.
As you can see, when it comes to integration with Windows 7 and Internet browsers, the picture is mixed. Let’s see how easy it is to use and configure Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012.
Ease of Use & Configuration
The main interface of Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012 is very simple and inspires a sense of calm and safety.
There are a few tabs on the left side, which give access to simple configuration options that are mostly about turning on and off the different protection modules.
If you want to change more advanced settings, click on the Settings button found on the bottom-left side of the main window.
You will learn that all configuration options are easy to understand and that the default settings are pretty solid. You won’t feel the need to change any setting.
However, there are some things you might miss. For example, you cannot set exclusions for the antivirus engine. You cannot set it not to scan a certain file or folder or to trust a file indifferent of whether Webroot considers it malware or not.
Also, you cannot create your own scheduled scans system. There is a daily scheduled scan, for which you can configure all the important parameters but that’s about it.
The few alerts being shown are very minimalistic. For example, Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012 informs you that an infected file was detected and that’s it. You cannot make decisions and set it to delete the file, ignore it, etc.
Threats are automatically quarantined and you take it from there. If you want the threats removed, they are automatically cleaned after a few days, or you can go to the Quarantine and erase them from there, manually.
Some people might appreciate not having to make decisions while others will rather have the option to decide..
Help for the product is available only online. The documentation offered on the Webroot site is pretty complete and easy to understand. Regarding support, you are again taken online. There you can find some contact numbers you can use to get in touch with representatives of the company. Also, you can open a support ticket online.
The reporting done by Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012 is either very simplistic, not offering much in terms of understanding the security status of your system, or very detailed, with an entry logged for each of the activities performed by the suite.
Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012 looks like a product targeted a normal users, without any exceptional knowledge of computer security. They should be happy with not having to change any of the default settings and letting the product decide for them. Geeks on the other hand might be frustrated and want more control over advanced aspects of the suite.
Regarding the firewall, there’s really not much to say except the fact that the Windows Firewall is doing most of the work. You get results that are identical (or almost identical) to when using the Windows Firewall or other security suites which piggy-back on it.
When you set the Home network location, Nessus and Nmap identify a total of 7 open ports, all with a low impact on security. Also, the MAC address and the operating system are correctly identified. When using the Public network location, there are no open ports and only the MAC address can be identified.
I made some brief tests also with the Windows Firewall turned off to see if Webroot provides any protection on its own. I can say that it does not. My test system had 13 open ports and was found vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. Turning the Windows Firewall back on made all the difference.
What I find strange though is that Webroot has an option for turning on or off its firewall module. However, this button doesn’t seem to have a real impact on the firewall protection you receive. The Windows Firewall remains turned on and continues to provide protection, indifferent of the setting you make in Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012.
As you can imagine, if you want to make any important changes to how the firewall protection works, it is best to go open the Windows Firewall and configure it. In Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012 you cannot set any rules. You can only choose to block or allow network access for some of the running processes.
Here are a few tutorials that will help in setting up the Windows Firewall:
If you enjoy using the Windows Firewall, then you will be OK also with the firewall protection offered by Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012. Before we give a final verdict, let’s see how Webroot fairs against viruses and spyware.
Antivirus and Antispyware Features
One of the first tests I make is to visit several malicious websites that either try to install viruses on your computer or steal your data. As I mentioned in the Integration with Windows section, my experience was mixed. You get the best integration with Google Chrome while in other browsers you might not be pleased at all with the responsiveness of the security suite.
A second test I make, is to insert an USB memory stick filled with infected files. While Webroot did not prompt me to scan it, it started to scan it as soon as I opened the memory stick. In a few seconds it managed to identify and quarantine all the infected files.
Regarding the scanning speed of Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012, you will be amazed by how fast it is. The standard 30GB system partition I always scan, was finished in only a minute. That makes it the fastest scan I have ever encountered in my tests.
A newer test I decided to make is to pre-infect my system and then install the security suite I am testing, to see how well it fairs at disinfecting an infected system. I infected my system with the very aggressive Security Sphere 2012 virus, which pretends to be a security product, bugs you to buy it and pretty much paralyzes your system. Even though I managed to install Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012, and made three consecutive system scans with it, it simply did not identify the virus. It kept telling me how my system is not infected while the virus was happily running alongside. I was not pleased and had to reboot in Safe Mode and install another security suite to clean my system. Luckily, that solved my virus infection.
Webroot uses only its cloud technology to protect your system. This means that the 644KB file it installs doesn’t have enough intelligence to protect your system on its own. It depends entirely on the Internet connection to the Webroot servers, to detect and remove malware. I made a brief test and disconnected my test system from the Internet. As expected, when I asked Webroot to scan the same infected memory stick, it wasn’t able to detect any threats. Only when the Internet connection was established again, was it able to detect the infected files.
Regarding what other independent organisations had to say about Webroot, the picture is not very positive. Virus Bulletin did not test their products. AV-Comparatives tested their products but did not rate them due to problems they encountered with the cloud technology that is used by Webroot. AV-Test was the only organisation that tested and rated Webroot. They awarded an average 4.0 out of 6.0 for protection and a poor 3.5 out of 6.0 for repairing system infections and infected files. This is pretty much in line with the results of my testing.
When downloading Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012 I wasn’t expecting to give this verdict. I have not used Webroot products before but I knew they had a reasonably positive reputation. However, when looking at the results of all my tests, I can’t help notice that this product fails on quite a few levels:
- It is not well suited for geeks who want more control, advanced configuration options and protection features. For them, piggybacking on the Windows Firewall just doesn’t make sense. They purchase a security suite because they want more, not more of the same product found in Windows.
- Novice users will be pleased with its general friendliness and ease of use. They will also love the speed of this product and the fact that it uses so few system resources. However, they will receive average protection at best. The integration with web browsers is far from great, while the antivirus and antispyware protection is average at best. Also, installing Webroot SecureAnywhere Essentials 2012 on an infected system might not help in disinfecting it.
Unfortunately I fail to see a niche where this product fits well and cannot recommend it to our readers.
If you still want to go ahead and purchase this security suite, you can buy it from Amazon US (if you are from North America) or from Amazon UK (for European countries). When you are buying from Amazon, we also receive a small affiliate commission which will help pay for some of our work on the site. A big thank you to all of you who are buying using these links.