Security vendors who give away their antivirusprotection for free need to figure out some way to encourage consumers to purchase their non-free premium products. Panda Antivirus Pro ($43.99 per year; $60.49 for three licenses) adds a number of significant features not found in Panda’s free edition, among them firewall protection and a free license for the company’s Android security suite. As always, those using Panda antivirus for business purposes aren’t allowed to use the free edition.
Like the free edition, this product boasts a user interface that’s completely different from what I last reviewed. Both products previously displayed brightly-colored buttons against a dark background. This time around, the background is white, and the color palette for the buttons is subdued, shades of blue for the free product and shades of green for Pro.
One big panel reflects current security status and offers simple stats for recent antivirus activity. Buttons, of varying sizes and tints, offer access to the product’s numerous other security features. There are actually three pages of buttons, and you can drag them to new locations, putting your favorites on the first page.
Panda Security doesn’t hold back when it comes to free antivirus protection. Panda Free Antivirus (2016) does everything an antivirus should, and the Pro edition includes all of the free edition’s features. Read my review for full details on what the two editions share. I’ll simply summarize here.
Panda Antivirus Pro 2016 Lab Tests Chart
Panda Antivirus Pro 2016 Malware Blocking Chart
Panda Antivirus Pro 2016 Antiphishing Chart
Panda participates in testing with the three most innovative and stringent testing labs. It gets good scores overall, but not the clean sweep of top marks achieved by Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2015 andKaspersky Anti-Virus (2016).
In my own hands-on tests, Panda did very well. It earned 8.8 of 10 possible points in my malware blocking test. Top score among products tested with my current malware collection goes to Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security 2016, with 9.1 points. Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (2015) tops the products tested with my previous collection, with a perfect 10 points.
Panda also did well in my malicious URL blocking test. Its 73 percent protection rate is almost twice the current average. Here again Trend Micro holds the top score, 88 percent protection. With 85 percent,McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2015 isn’t far behind.
Challenged to detect and block access to fraudulent (phishing) websites, Panda didn’t do as well. Its detection rate lagged 45 percentage points behind that of my antiphishing touchstone Symantec Norton Security, putting it right in the middle of current scores. Kaspersky almost tied Norton, while Bitdefender managed to detect even more frauds than Norton did.
See How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests
See How We Test Malware Blocking
See How We Test Antiphishing
The free product actually packs in quite a few useful bonus features. You can use it to create a bootable rescue kit, for removing persistent malware. It links to Panda’s browser-based ActiveScan and its aggressive Panda Cloud Cleaner. The Toolbar Cleaner roots out unwanted browser toolbars, and the Process Monitor watches for processes that are connecting to iffy websites. It scans USB drives on insertion, and can “vaccinate” them to prevent chicanery by USB-tranmitted malware. You get quite a lot for free!
As noted, the free edition includes a Process Monitor that watches how apps use the Internet. The Pro edition adds Application Control. It’s a very simple concept. Each application that launches gets checked for trustworthiness. If it’s known and trusted, no problem. If not, Panda asks you, the user, to decide whether it should be allowed to execute.
As with several other features, the first time you open this component you walk through a three-step wizard that exhorts you to “Discover it. Enable it. Enjoy it.” Thereafter, you’ll have to approve each unknown program the first time it runs. Of course, if it’s not a program you recognize, and not anything you intended to launch, you can deny access.
You can also set it to block all unknowns without asking. The result is similar to Trusted Applications Mode in Kaspersky Internet Security (2016). If you rarely install new programs, consider setting Panda to simply forbid launching of unknown programs.
You’ll find an icon for the personal firewall in Panda’s free edition, but clicking it simply opens a page that lets you upgrade to Pro. In the Pro edition, this firewall is fully functional. However, its performance leaves a bit to be desired.
One simple firewall task involves putting all of the PC’s ports in stealth mode, so they’re not visible from outside. Windows Firewall handles this task just fine. Kaspersky, on the other hand, doesn’t bother with this task, figuring it’s more important to block actual attacks. Panda? Well, it clearly tries to stealth all ports, but just as clearly fails to do a complete job. Several of my Web-based tests found ports merely closed, rather than stealthed, and one found several significant ports actually open.
Early personal firewalls gained a reputation for blowing users’ minds with vast numbers of incomprehensible popup queries. Panda’s program control doesn’t do that, thankfully. However, instead of actively monitoring Internet activity the way Norton and Kaspersky do, or vetting legitimate programs with a huge database the way ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall 2015 does, Panda simply allows all outbound traffic to proceed unmolested. An untrusted program attempting to initiate an incoming connection should trigger a firewall query, though I wasn’t able to goad this feature into action.
Given that it doesn’t attempt to control outbound traffic, I wasn’t at all surprised that Panda didn’t detect or balk any of my leak test programs. It’s not meant to detect network-based exploits attacking system vulnerabilities, either. I did run my usual test using exploits generated by the CORE Impact penetration tool. Panda didn’t detect a thing (though the exploits didn’t crack security on my up-to-date test system).
Panda doesn’t expose any Registry settings that would allow an attack program to just turn the firewall off. Nor could such a program kill its essential processes. In testing, I managed to disable one of its three Windows services, but my Panda contacts explained that this particular service only serves to handle statistics and marketing, so they didn’t armor it like the others. That’s bit of an improvement over last year’s product.
Firewall protection is merely a bonus in this antivirus, not an essential component. That’s a good thing, because Panda’s firewall is pretty limited.
Wi-Fi Protection and More
My virtual machine test systems don’t have Wi-Fi capability, so I couldn’t put the Wi-Fi Protection component through active testing. Still, this two-part tool looks quite useful.
This component will warn you if you attempt to connect to a Wi-Fi network that has “security problems.” An unencrypted connection is a problem, naturally, but Panda examines a number of other factors to rate a network as medium or low security. If you connect despite the warning, the network in question gets added to an exclusions list.
You’ll also get a notification when a hitherto-unknown device connects to your PC over the network. If you didn’t initiate the connection and don’t recognize the device, you can mark it as an intruder and block it from any further access.
Panda’s virtual keyboard lets you enter password and other sensitive information without risking the possibility of capture by a keylogger. It does the job, but it’s very dated-looking compared to the rest of the product, and it bears the peculiar Window caption “Password Depot 7 – Panda Secure Vault Edition.”
On the program’s second page of buttons, you’ll find Data Shield and PC Tuneup. However, these aren’t actually present in the antivirus. Click either and you’ll get an invitation to upgrade your protection to the full security suite.
Your one-device subscription for Panda Antivirus Pro also lets you install Panda’s premium protection on one Android device. It’s a nice touch, and the Android product has some interesting features.
To get started, click on the button labeled “Protect more devices.” Note that while the resulting page mentions Android, Mac OS, and iOS, really it’s just Android. You don’t get premium protection on the Mac unless you upgrade to the full security suite, and Panda’s iOS location app is still awaiting final approval from Apple.
Panda Mobile Security for Android initially installs as a free edition, but on launch it asks if you have a registration code. Click the My Products button in the Windows antivirus and copy the activation code to your Android device; now you’ve got full protection.
A full antivirus scan ran quite quickly; the antivirus also scans new apps. Anti-theft features include the expected remote locate, lock, and wipe, plus a couple extras that I really like. If somebody gets hold of your Android device and starts trying to unlock it, you’ll find out, because Panda emails you a photo of the thief after three wrong attempts. And if you must leave your device unattended briefly, you can enable the Motion Alert. Whoever picks up the device had better unlock it quickly, because after just a few seconds it starts blaring an annoying alarm sound and doesn’t stop until it receives the correct unlock code.
The Privacy Auditor component scans all your apps and reports those that could possibly harm your privacy. Specifically, it separately lists all apps that: Track location, Access accounts, Access media, Access network, Access contacts, or Access storage. You can tap any category to see the matching apps, and tap a button to uninstall any app that seems dodgy.
The Task Killer component lists all tasks running on your device, identifies how much memory and CPU each is using, and lets you terminate almost any task. I was surprised to find that let me terminate seemingly-important tasks like System UI, and seemingly-internal tasks like com.android.systemui.screenshot. I tried killing off every single task that it let me, without any ill effect on the device. However, I found that quite a few of them came back immediately. I think I’d like a “Kill ’em all!” button on this page.
We’ll have a full review of the Android product in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, I can say that it looks good to me, and it’s a nice bonus for those whose happen to use one Windows and one Android device.
The Best Things in Life Are Free
Our three Editors’ Choice products for premium antivirus, Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (2015), Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2016), and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2015, all cost just under $40. At $43.99 per year, Panda Antivirus Pro costs about 10 percent more. It does deliver some useful bonus features. Android users will appreciate the free license for Panda Mobile Security, and Wi-Fi Protection can be handy. But those three Editors’ Choice products have their own bonuses.
If you choose Panda’s antivirus for your business, you’re required to use the Pro edition. For non-commercial use, I’d still suggest you stick with Panda Free Antivirus (2016), our Editors’ Choice for free antivirus utility.