Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011

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Trend Micro
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$79.95 (1 year, 3 PCs)
Low impact upon system performance, great protection against new threats, clever firewall hardening and 10GB of free in the cloud data backup
Poorer protection against old threats, you probably won't use all the 'added value' extras such as anti-spam and system tuning
The Internet security software market is a highly competitive one, and in recent years there has been a trend (no pun intended) to downsize and go for low-impact, low-visibility protection rather than all-you-can-eat suites. With Titanium Maximum Security 2011, Trend has attempted to take the middle ground by way of differentiation and on the whole succeeded. System performance impact is low and the protection on offer generally high, plus you get some added value system tuning and data privacy tools thrown in.

The likes of Norton these days make much fuss about just how quick installing a security suite is, but you can forget all claims of being done in 60 seconds when it comes to Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security. Think less of speedy rocket-powered installations and more of slow and steady, with a certain degree of swimming through treacle wearing flippers thrown in. Having checked for any conflicting software (such as Norton) or even traces of such software left behind by other security suite uninstallation routines (hello Norton again) and then removing them, the Trend installer goes and fetches the latest updates before eventually getting on with the application installation itself. On our real world testing system the process took, including system restarts, a yawn-inducing 20 minutes from the get go to the got protected. So was it worth the wait?

There has definitely been a move in recent years to a less is more philosophy as far as the security software vendors are concerned, and that's most definitely a good thing. Many years ago now I attended a technical workshop hosted by Symantec at its Santa Monica base, and a senior firewall architect at the time was enthusiastic about what he referred to as 'the silent firewall' which essentially would perform all the blocking and filtering functions required to keep your computer secure, but without all the annoying 'you wanna let this do that' type prompts that were commonplace at the time. Trend Micro, like most of the leading security software developers, has adopted this silent approach as the default and as such once Titanium Maximum Security is installed it doesn't get in your way during day to day computer usage. No annoying prompts to interrupt whatever you are doing and confuse you in the process. This latter point being perhaps the most important, as security software that asks the user what it wants to do with some obscure process that wants permission to do something equally obscure does not good security make. Much better to let intelligent software make the decision for you and by so doing keep your system safe, than let you guess what the answer should be and either let the bad guys in or prevent your software from working properly. Equally importantly is the not so small matter if resource usage. Think about it, if your security software adds too much in the way of resource usage overhead and slows down your day to day work what is likely to happen? Yep, the user is likely to disable the security software while doing some task or other, or even uninstall it completely. Neither are good things. Much better that your security solution does not become a problem, instead just works away in the background without impacting upon your usage at all. Trend Micro seems to have pulled this off with the Titanium Maximum Security 2011 product. In my testing during the review period I found that, on the whole, it kept the 'Internet security that won't slow you down' promise. Now I say on the whole, as there is one area that it could be improved both in terms of speed as well as not confusing the user, and that's the rather bizarre 'System Startup Settings' which reside in the advanced configuration options.

These provide three options:Extra Performance for 'helping the operating system launch more quickly' by only loading the security software drivers after bootup. Extra Security for the maximum protection by loading those drivers as soon as the computer starts, but at the expense of a much slower bootup time. Balanced Protection which loads some drivers early and 'reduces delays' in system startup. Now forgive me if I'm being a little thick here, but surely it would be better for a product calling itself 'Maximum Security' if there were no options here at all and instead it just provided, well, the maximum protection. Here's the thing, while we all want our computers to be instant on these days we also don't want them to be compromised by the increasingly clever exploits that the bad guys are developing in order to steal our data and hijack our resources. Now if the bad guys are smart enough to develop exploits which can kick in before the operating system fires up, and they are (cough, rootkit anyone?) then surely the security software we use should be smart enough to be standing guard watching for any naughty stuff right from the get go, even if that means it takes 30 seconds or a minute longer to arrive at your Windows desktop. Selecting 'Extra Security' would appear to provide you with such early process protection, but what average user is going to choose that when they have the option to go straight down the middle with the 'Balanced Protection' option instead. Heck, many will immediately tick the 'Extra Performance' checkbox on the basis of "well, these are security experts' they wouldn't give us the option if it made our computer less safe" and that's my problem here: take the options away, just give the user maximum protection and be done with it. At the end of the day though, the reason you are buying an Internet security suite is for the protection it provides. So how does Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011 perform in this most important of regards? Any antivirus application is only as good as the last update, and unless you download the very latest signature files will perform about as well as a chocolate teapot. Trend employs an obvious solution to this problem by automatically handling these updates which run 'silently' in the background. Not only do you not realise that your security software is being updated, you don't have to worry that it might not be up to date either. Which is a good thing. Security scanning was efficient and while not as speedy as the likes of the latest Norton security suite (Norton appears to have done some serious tuning as far as scan speed tweaking is concerned) is certainly no slouch either. It will scan for threats when opening, saving or downloading files as well as scanning your compressed (ZIP) files for problems. Which is also a good thing. In order to combat the major malware threat facing users today, namely a veritable flood of exploit variants, Trend employs a system that combines in-the-cloud protection with fuzzy signature detection and behavioural pattern analysis. According to Trend Micro (and other security big hitters for that matter) the average lifespan of a malware threat is extremely short, around three days maximum. Any given, unique, malware variant will infect no more than ten computers on average. The figures are surprising, but reflect the direction in which malware development strategy has moved in recent years: away from the easily detected big exploits and towards the harder to detect multiple-variant scattergun attack methodology. Trend Micro recognised this and so has opted to prioritize detection of these new and emerging threats, the ones most likely to infect your computer in fact. Which is good, but also a bit bad.

Bad in the sense that if your computer is already infected by some old malware exploit or other, the chances are quite high that Titanium Maximum Security 2011 will miss it. Hardly a great definition of maximum in my book and one that means you'd do well to use one of the many free online antivirus tools to scan for these old existing threats before installing the software. Talking of which, once installed I suggest you visit the 'free tools' center and use the Trend Micro Housecall product there as an additional scanning tool to be on the safe side. Overall then, a bit of a mixed bag here for Trend Micro as the competition performs much better when it comes to detecting old threats and surely a full 360 degrees of protection has to be the most secure option. Interestingly, when it comes to firewalling Trend Micro appears to have reached the same conclusion as many independent security experts: the Windows 7 and Windows Vista firewall is actually pretty good at what it does. So Titanium Maximum Security 2011 has opted to use the Windows firewall instead of replacing it with an own brand alternative. However, Trend does include a 'Firewall Booster' that armour-plates the already good levels of Windows firewalling by enabling network-level scanning and the Trend IDS (Intrusion Detection System) and in testing prevented everything I threw at it from penetrating my test system. What's more, I was unable to kill the firewalling through Registry changes or interfering with processes and services in the way that many exploits will attempt to do. Elsewhere, Titanium Maximum Security 2011 will prevent programs on portable drives from running automatically and check if programs try to make unauthorized changes to your system. A toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox will block access to dangerous sites, and flag potentially dangerous results returned when searching Bing, Google and Yahoo! This system of link ratings also works via a plug-in for IM clients including Windows LIVE messenger, AIM and Skype. The prevention of data theft through the transmission of your personal data, such as credit card or telephone numbers and email addresses for example, via the web or email is handled by a separate module which can be found in the 'Tools' section and needs to be toggled on by the user. You enter the data you want to protect, that data is then stored in encrypted form and the Data Theft Prevention tool blocks it from being entered anywhere after that. You can override this by entering a master password should you need an exception to the rule. When it comes to features, there is no shortage of them in the Titanium Maximum Security suite. It's the top of the range, for which read most expensive, version of the Trend Micro 2011 security product line and as such comes with some bells and whistles. So as well as the anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-phishing and firewalling that you would expect, you get a bunch of value-adds that you might not. You might not use them all either, but the chances are that most will find a place in the average user security toolkit.

Accessible by pressing the big blue 'Tools' button on the minimalist program home screen, the tools center provides parental controls, a system tuner, secure erase facility, data theft protection, a secure data vault and a button marked up as 'free tool center' which is where I'll start. This was simultaneously the most confusing and disappointing option to appear in the window that opens when you click the prominently displayed 'Tools' button from the main Titanium Maximum Security panel. Confusing as surely you've already paid for everything included in the tools section, so where does the 'free' enter the equation and disappointing when you discover it just whips you away to a web page where you can try out a bunch of mainly third party offerings such as online backup (10GB of data storage using the excellent SafeSync solution, reviewed in-depth here , which was previously known as Humyo until Trend Micro acquired it) and drive cloning services, keystroke encryption and the like. You can add another dose of disappointment when you spot that Trend Micro does not officially support any of the additional software or services, nor provide help or technical assistance for them. As such, I didn't bother to look any further for the purposes of this review as none of the 'free tools' are actually integral to the security suite, and just have the feeling of being external partner marketing opportunities instead.

As for the remainder, to be fair it's not a bad mix of system tuning and data security tools. You get parental controls which are based on pre-defined age ranges, although you can go off piste and select your own custom category unlocking option if you prefer. It should be enough to prevent all but the most hacker-oriented of kids from going where they shouldn't. But to be honest, if your kid is using an https anonymizing proxy to route around your parental controls I can't help but think your problems are less with the software and more with your parenting skills.

Titanium Maximum Security 2011 also throws spam filtering into the mix, which seems like quite an odd addition these days. I say that mainly as there are simply so many good alternatives out there doing the job already, why bother with a client-based one which only integrates with Outlook, Outlook Express and Windows Mail? Especially when the server-based options work so well, and so many of us use webmail services such as Gmail which has excellent, free, spam filtering built in? Still, if you are in the market for anti-spam, use the right client and have not found a solution before now it might be of use. In testing, it returned very few false positives in general although newsletters were mainly wrongly flagged as spam every time while ten percent of undeniable spam was let through. The system tuner utility encompasses a disk space recovery tool which is pretty pointless as the Windows default one works well enough, although the ability to check your Windows startup for any broken links that might slow performance is welcome. The all-in-one tool also deletes cookie and browser histories, and removes data from those recently used lists that Windows likes so much. I'm not keen on the fact that this System Tuner just gets on and does the cleaning without showing me exactly what it will be deleting, especially as it does not come with a restoration tool if you muck things up. And talking of deleting things you can't get back, there is a secure erasure tool that does exactly that when you want to be sure that files are ripped to virtual shreds and can never see the light of day again. Finally, there's a Micro Vault which password protects any data stored within this special desktop folder - even remotely. If your computer is stolen you can seal the vault online and the thief will be unable to access the contents. If your computer is recovered you can unseal it for access to the data once more. Neat. Overall then, Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011 is something of a mixed bag being both very impressive at much of what it does while prompting the odd 'Meh' on occasion. If you are going to use all the additional bells and whistles it offers, then it is pretty good value. If you just want the core system security without all the other stuff, you would probably be better off paying less for one of the slimmer Trend Micro security family offerings.