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Just about every significant feature beyond the basic antivirus engine comes only in the Pro edition. Given the poor performance of the commercial edition, I saw no reason to look at the less capable free version. Getting Started With Malware Fighter The product’s main window uses a charcoal gray background with minty green buttons. An animated status indicator dominates the middle, with a big Scan button below. At the left is a vertical menu that just shows icons, sliding out full labels when you point to it.
IObit Malware Fighter Pro
Just about every significant feature beyond the basic antivirus engine comes only in the Pro edition. Given the poor performance of the commercial edition, I saw no reason to look at the less capable free version.
Getting Started With Malware Fighter The product’s main window uses a charcoal gray background with minty green buttons. An animated status indicator dominates the middle, with a big Scan button below. At the left is a vertical menu that just shows icons, sliding out full labels when you point to it. And a bar at the bottom shows you the status of the three protection engines, IObit’s antivirus and ransomware protection engines, and an engine licensed from Bitdefender.
A couple of important features aren’t enabled by default; you need to fix that. First, turn on the Bitdefender engine, which requires a reboot. Note that for Edge you must install the extension from the Store. Note that the last menu item, titled Action Center, is just an upsell page encouraging you to install other products. Most from IObit, but some are from other vendors. This time around, the collection includes the Dashlane password manager and a backup utility from Aomei, along with a half-dozen IObit products.
No Help From Independent Labs Getting good scores in independent lab tests is important, but so is simply appearing in the lab reports. If a product shows up in a test report, it means the lab felt it was worth evaluating, and the company felt it was worth paying to participate.
I follow tests from four labs: Malware Fighter, by contrast, appears in none of the lab tests. Lab Test Results Chart Each of the four labs uses a different scoring method. I’ve created an algorithm that maps all four onto a point scale to produce an aggregate score. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus currently has a perfect 10, based on tests by three labs. As noted, all four included Kaspersky, and with 9.
With no results from the labs for Malware Fighter, my own hands-on tests are my only measure of its efficacy. Poor Malware Protection Scores The independent labs employ large staffs of expert analysts for their tests.
Me, I don’t have a staff, but I do test using real-world malware and my own hand-coded analysis tools. The main difference is that I can only refresh my malware collection once a year, because doing so takes so much time away from reviews. This time around I had the additional challenge of upgrading all my virtual machines from Windows 8.
With no other products tested on this exact set of samples, interpreting Malware Fighter’s results would have been tough. For comparison, I retested all our Editors’ Choice antivirus products, both free and commercial, on the updated testbed configuration. The results don’t look good for Malware Fighter. I start my malware protection test by opening a folder containing that collection of malware samples.
In most products, the tiny file access required to display each sample in Windows Explorer is enough to trigger a real-time protection scan. Kaspersky, for example, quickly wiped out 80 percent of the samples on sight.
Malware Fighter caught 67 percent, in each case asking whether to remove the threat, leave it but deny access, or whitelist it. I always chose Remove. To finish the test, I launched each sample that made it past the initial massacre, to give behavior-based protection and other real-time protection components a chance. This group of survivors included three ransomware samples, and all three of them ran to completion, encrypting data files and displaying their ransom demands.
That’s alarming, especially in a product that specifically touts a ransomware protection component. Overall, Malware Fighter detected 76 percent of the samples and scored 7. I’ll go into further depth on Malware Fighter’s ransomware troubles below. Tested with the same samples, Bitdefender detected 85 percent and scored 8. Given that Malware Fighter licenses the Bitdefender engine, I wondered why it earned lower scores.
I checked with my contact at Bitdefender, who explained “IObit includes some Bitdefender technologies, but not the full stack available to prevent all types of attacks. Also, it is relevant how the technology integration is done, because the final output on how threats are handled is very specific to each product. Malware Fighter’s score is the lowest in this group.
Even looking at products tested with my previous malware collection, only one scored lower than Malware Fighter. The program did pop a warning about a few samples trying to configure themselves to launch at startup.
However, I didn’t count this as malware detection, because it displayed the same warning about legitimate programs. Malware Protection Results Chart As noted, once I’ve spent the time to gather, curate, and analyze a new set of malware samples, I necessarily use that collection for a good long while.
To measure a product’s effectiveness against the most current malware, I use a feed of recent discoveries supplied by London-based testing lab MRG-Effitas.
Typically, these malware-hosting URLs are no more than a few days old. I launch each of them, discarding any that have already gone dead. For those still active, I record whether the antivirus diverts the browser from the dangerous site, catches the malware during or just after download, or totally fails to prevent the malware download. The Surfing Protection feature’s stated aim includes protecting your browser from “various online threats,” suggesting it should prevent access to nasty URLs.
Indeed, it did make an appearance, but blocked just 4 percent of the dangerous URLs. The antivirus jumped in to kill off many downloads, frequently wiping them out before I could even hit Save, but still only got 55 percent of them, for a total of 59 percent protection. I also encountered several instances of what seemed to be a split personality.
Malware Fighter simultaneously displayed a notice that the downloaded file was safe and another popup identifying the same file as a threat. That’s not helpful! The URLs for this test are different every time, but they’re always the most recent. McAfee and Sophos came close with 97 percent. A score of 59 percent is among the lowest. Somewhat Slow Scan When you install an antivirus utility, you should always run a full scan at the start, just in case the system is already infected.
After that, the real-time protection should keep out any new problems. Malware Fighter strongly encourages this initial scan. The status indicator on the main page won’t go green until you take care of that task. This is the first product I’ve timed since upgrading my test systems to Windows 10, so its results aren’t necessarily on the same scale as existing products.
The previous average was 50 minutes; Malware Fighter took 85 minutes to finish that full scan. That’s not terrible, and a repeat scan finished in less than 40 minutes. In my phishing protection test, Surfing Protection did absolutely nothing. Phishing sites don’t include malicious code.
Rather, they aim to trick unwary users into giving up their credentials for banking, gaming, even matchmaking websites. If you think you’re logging into PayPal, not noticing that the URL is wrong, you’ve given away your account.
Sure, these frauds get caught and taken down, but they just pop up again with a new fake URL. For testing purposes, I gather the newest reported frauds I can find, aiming to get ones that are too new to have been widely blacklisted. I launch each simultaneously in four browsers.
The product under test protects an instance of Internet Explorer with its internal phishing protection disabled; the other three use phishing protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. In a few instances, it popped up a threat detection warning, identifying the HTML file with a name like “Trojan.
They brought the program’s score up to a pitiful 12 percent detection. Of recent products, only Comodo Antivirus scored lower. At the other end of the spectrum, Kaspersky Anti-Virus and McAfee both managed percent detection in their latest tests. More than a third of recent products scored better than 90 percent. The best that I can say about Malware Fighter’s score is that it’s an improvement since my last review, where it scores a big fat zero in the antiphishing test.
Last time I reviewed the product, this component did nothing out of the box, because its list of protected folders started off empty.
The current edition doesn’t seem to limit protection to specific folders, so it works right away. For a sanity check on products that aim to block unauthorized file access, I use a simple-minded fake ransomware program simply XOR-encrypts all text files in the Documents folder, and a very simple text editor, both of which I wrote myself.
Malware Fighter correctly detected attempts by these programs to modify protected files and blocked access when I clicked Block. Next came the big guns; testing with real-world ransomware. As mentioned above, I had already found that Malware Fighter failed against three samples, even with all protection layers active. Normally I turn off real-time antivirus protection, simulating a situation where the ransomware is so new it doesn’t get caught. I couldn’t turn off IObit’s own malware engine, but when I turned off Bitdefender, the product didn’t wipe out any ransomware samples on sight.
Real-time protection caught many of them, but a couple managed to encrypt files even though Malware Fighter detected and supposedly blocked their activity. In my ransomware protection testing, I’ve encountered products that fail when ransomware launches at startup. To test that possibility, I set my ransomware simulator to launch at startup.
That was enough to defeat Malware Fighter. The best free ransomware-specific utilities are vastly more effective than Malware Fighter. Bonus Features Malware Fighter includes quite a few bonus features, many related to browser protection. It prevents unauthorized changes to your home page, search engine, and DNS settings. Surfing Protection marks up search results to show safe and dangerous links. It also blocks ads on web pages; you can’t control ad blocking separately.
The Security Guard page offers a laundry list of protective features.
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