Trend Micro Zaps the Bugs

Trend Micro's antivirus software helped me exorcise the ghosts in my machine and allowed to me to keep working while it performed its magic

Editor's Rating:

The Good: System scans don't tie up the machine, distinguishes between unwanted and desirable cookies

The Bad: Time-consuming scans, a bit pricey at $70

The Bottom Line: A solid security program that strips off spyware, controls spam, and attacks adware and viruses

There was a ghost in my machine. To be honest, I should have suspected as much. The signs of an outside force controlling my computer were all there. The IT department had threatened to block my Internet use for allegedly visiting objectionable Web sites at odd hours when I was more likely to be at home, sleeping. "Undeliverable Message" alerts had appeared in my inbox referencing e-mails I never wrote. Most frustrating of all, my computer had been running strangely slow.

Fortunately, Trend Micro was running a Halloween-themed promotion for its newest antivirus program, Internet Security Pro. "Who you gonna call?" was the message on the zombie-emblazoned postcard that accompanied my review copy of the software. Who am I to turn down a free exorcism?

Thorough Detection in Less Time

I installed it on my work laptop and on a home PC. The $69.95 purchase price entitles owners to load the software onto three computers. A three-computer limit is common for many security programs and, for many people, probably is more than enough. Because new viruses are being discovered all the time, the purchase entitles you to a full year of online updates from Trend Micro to help the software detect emerging threats.

The program took about 90 minutes to fully scan my office computer and about 45 minutes to scan my personal laptop. The wait would have been unbearable had the scans commandeered all the memory on those machines, the way some other security scans do, preventing me from doing anything but watch the rising tally of detected threats. Happily, Trend Micro has enhanced its latest product to consume 50% less memory during scans than its prior offerings had done. So during the scans, I was able to surf the Web, use my word-processing program, and perform a host of other tasks, all at roughly normal speed. Trend Micro also says it has made the scans run 30% faster than before.

The software detected a sweat-inducing 118 potential security threats. How many times had I checked my bank account from work, I wondered nervously. The vast majority of threats were relatively benign "cookies," the sweet-sounding nickname given to small files that Web sites embed on your computer. Some cookies are designed to track your Web-surfing behavior in a bid to display more relevant ads. Trend Micro's software automatically deleted this type of cookie, which can be a bit bothersome, though not a major security or privacy worry. More impressively, the system did not delete good cookies, namely those that enable favorite Web sites to recognize my computer and bring up personalized features without a log-in.

Improved Computer Performance

More troubling was the full-fledged spyware program that was trying to access the Internet, which the antivirus software detected when I rebooted my computer. The software immediately quarantined the rogue code and removed it. The scan also identified six security vulnerabilities capable of enabling outsiders to take control of my computer. Admittedly, the vulnerabilities were due to my own delinquency in installing Microsoft updates to my operating system and mail client. Microsoft had reminded me, on many occasions, to install those updates via an oft-ignored desktop alert. But had Trend Micro not explained the problem and how urgent was my response, I probably wouldn't have bothered with the updates.

As an added layer of protection, Internet Security Pro offers a nice feature called keystroke encryption to guard against viruses that monitor what you type in hopes of harvesting passwords.

As I didn't test this program on a machine deliberately loaded with known viruses and malware, I can't know for certain whether Trend Micro failed to catch any stray bugs. But my computer definitely appeared to run faster after the scan, and a subsequent check with another security program called Spyware Doctor didn't turn up any missed spyware or adware.

Good Peer Ratings

More rigorous testing services have given Trend Micro's system solid marks. It's certified for virus detection and removal by ICSA Labs, a division of Verizon (VZ) Business, and by West Coast Labs, a security software validation company.

Overall, I found Trend Micro's Pro system to be a solid offering. It kicked out the unwelcome ghosts in my machine and a bunch of unwanted adware and spyware files—without deleting the files I wanted. The firewall and spam filters worked, and the software lived up to its claim of proactively blocking intrusions by keeping bad programs already on the system from accessing the Internet. Next time my machine starts acting strange, I'm definitely gonna call…Trend Micro.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.