This AV app takes aim at inexperienced users, but it misses the mark
When we ran our annual antivirus roundup in the May 2010 issue, many of you wrote in asking why we didn’t include Product X or Product Y. Fair question, so here’s the deal: We could have filled an entire issue reviewing just AV products, but that would have grown old by about page 32. Rather than do that, we’re devoting space each month to cover apps that didn’t make the cut, and CA Internet Security Suite is first up to bat.
Navigating CA's seemingly simple menu system is harder than it looks.
After we installed CA ISS, it quickly became apparent that power users are not the target demographic. CA took a wrecking ball to last year’s version and completely redesigned the UI in an attempt to “eliminate the technobabble that makes PC security difficult to understand and control,” but in doing so, it made it needlessly tedious to poke around under the hood. The main interface consists of four index card–shaped menus that you can cycle through like a tie rack. Sounds easy enough, but if you want to set up a scan schedule, for example, you’ll need to bring up the My Computer card, click the Update Settings link, highlight the Threat Settings tab, and then scroll to the bottom. You’ll fumble around like this until you get accustomed to the interface, and when you do, you’ll discover there’s not a whole lot to play with. Strike one.
Strike two came when we tested for performance. CA ISS added 30 seconds to our test bed’s startup time, trailing only Trend Micro (32 seconds) as the worst offender we’ve analyzed all year. When we fired up PCMark, CA ISS came in dead last and was the only security suite to turn in a score lower than 5,000.
If you see this screen (as we did after CA ISS failed to protect our test bed), then something has gone terribly wrong. The real Windows Security Center will never direct you to a paid security suite.
But our biggest gripe is that CA ISS leaves your system vulnerable to malware, though not because the scan engine is weak. By default, a couple of critical modules are left disabled, including Program Protection, which prevents unknown programs from spawning other programs when executed, and Code Injection Protection, which prevents programs from gaining access to system privileges. Left turned off, our collection of malware was allowed to run amok on our test bed, and that’s inexcusable for a security suite that touts ease of use over everything else. Strike three, batter’s out.
There were a few redeeming qualities that leave us hopeful for next year’s version, such as CA ISS’s stellar subsequent scan times. As is becoming standard practice in the AV industry, CA ISS skips over files that haven’t changed since the last time they were scanned, and this resulted in a subsequent sweep of our system in just three minutes and 19 seconds. We also dig the Link Advisor tool, which tells us if a URL is a gateway to a dangerous site before clicking on it. But these are just a couple of diamonds, the rest is pretty rough.
CA Internet Security Suite Plus 2010
Relatively fast scan times; effective link scanner.
Greatly slows down boot time; default protection levels are too low.
Scan 1 (min:sec)
Scan 2 (min:sec)
Boot (seconds added)
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a Core 2 Quad Q9400, 8GB DDR2/800, a Seagate Barracuda 320GB 7200.10 (~60GB filled across two partitions), a Radeon HD 3650, and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. The reviewed app is compared to the top-performing apps from our AV showdown in the May 2010 issue.