IObit Malware Fighter Pro review

As ever, IObit piles on the features…

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Our Verdict

You get loads of features here, but not enough protective power to justify the price.

For

  • Low first year price
  • Lots of features
  • Anti-ransomware

Against

  • Easily disabled
  • Slow scans
  • Poor URL filtering
  • Antivirus capabilities are average at best

San Francisco-based IObit is best known as a popular developer of PC maintenance utilities, including IObit Uninstaller, Advanced SystemCare and Driver Booster.

IObit Malware Fighter Pro is the lead product in the company's security range, and has what looks like a capable feature set. It boasts both the IObit and Bitdefender antivirus engines, anti-ransomware capabilities, URL blocking, webcam protection, ad blocking, browser privacy tools and more.

There is a 14-day trial of Malware Fighter Pro available. It doesn't require credit card details, and unusually, you don't have to hand over your email address. (You're asked, but it's optional.)

The price appears reasonable, at least for year one, at £15.50 ($19.40 – 50% off the usual cost). IObit also offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, although the small print contains a lot of potential gotchas. You may struggle to get a refund unless the program has major technical troubles or doesn't work as advertised.

Setup

Malware Fighter is available as a very limited free edition as well as the Pro trial, so it's important to be careful of exactly what you're downloading. Follow the ‘Download trial’ link from the official IObit Malware Fighter page rather than visiting any other pages or download sites.

Setup was a little unusual, as IObit offered to install third-party software along with its own code. There was nothing wrong with the choice of application (the excellent Dashlane) and its installation was disabled by default, but this isn't the type of marketing we'd expect from a commercial antivirus tool. It was easy enough to click through the offer, though, and IObit Malware Fighter Pro set itself up with no other hassles.

We checked IObit's files and folders, and found executables from several providers. Most were IObit's own, all correctly digitally signed, but we also spotted Bitdefender's engine, a launcher for Dashlane (even though we hadn't installed it) and one or two others.

We've noticed that antivirus tools which use major components from other developers sometimes have little self-defence capability, presumably because they're not in complete control of every executable. This means they're unable to protect themselves from being disabled by malware, potentially a significant weakness. 

Testing Malware Fighter confirmed that this is a problem. We were able to close IObit processes without difficulty, leaving us unprotected. Any attacker could then use a single command to delete almost every file in the IObit folder, completely disabling protection with no visible warning to the user.

Bear in mind that it wouldn't be easy for malware to do this. It would have to get you to download a program and then run it, without being detected by IObit and Bitdefender's antivirus engines. It would also have to know about Malware Fighter, which processes to close, and which files to delete. But it is a vulnerability that you don't get with most packages, and that has to be a concern.

Features

IObit Malware Fighter Pro may be crammed with features, but its main console is simple and straightforward. There's a clear display of your security status, a large Smart Scan button, and a tiny toolbar on the left-hand side.

IObit's Smart Scan is the standard way to check your system, and works its way through system areas, processes which are currently running, the Registry, and key files. It doesn't take long to realise that the system is slow. Really, really slow. Quick Scans with other antivirus engines typically take four or five minutes on our test system, but Smart Scan averaged 30 minutes.

You may not be able to abort a scan, either. We found the Stop button sometimes worked, but sometimes didn't – we've no idea why.

There were some issues with running scans in parallel. Normally, we could right-click a file in Explorer, select Scan and get a report immediately. But if a Smart Scan was running, IObit simply switched to the Smart Scan window and left us waiting to get the results.

Malware detection was average. Unfortunately, the package raised several false ‘Trojan.Generic’ alarms, including from such trusted providers as Microsoft. There's no exclude option on the report screen to tell the program to ignore the file in future scans. Instead you must hit Cancel and manually add the files to a whitelist in the Settings dialog. Not what we'd call convenient.

An anti-ransomware engine tries to limit which programs can access key files. This is stricter than we expected, popping up to ask if 7-Zip – one of the best-known and most trustworthy archiving apps around – should be allowed to unzip a file. But once we'd added 7-Zip to the whitelist we were able to use it without difficulty, and overall this extreme vigilance may be able to stop even brand-new ransomware.

A browser extension aims to block ads, highlight dangerous links in search engine results and prevent access to malicious sites. The ad blocker worked reasonably well, but we struggled to find any URL that would generate a warning.

IObit Malware Fighter Pro lists download scanning as a separate feature, which seems odd as it's included by default everywhere else. It does work a little differently, though. While other packages only warn you if there's a problem, by default Malware Fighter Pro also displays a pop-up telling you that an individual download is safe. That's less than helpful, because it isn't necessarily true: we downloaded infected zips and were told they were safe. The program detected the threats when we unzipped them, but if we emailed those files to someone else there could be problems.

Elsewhere, a ‘webcam guard’ aims to stop ‘unauthorised programs’ accessing your webcam. We ran a command line program to grab and save a camera image, and it worked exactly as usual, apparently without IObit noticing. The program might block some applications, but it's clearly not reliable.

Malware Fighter Pro has several other tools which work in the background. Homepage Protection prevents malicious changes to your browser home page and search engine, while anti-tracking clears tracking cookies when your browser closes, and DNS Protect makes it easy to set custom DNS servers, and prevents malware changing them. We didn't test these in depth but they all have some value, and aren't the type of features you'll normally get with the competition.

Protection

IObit Malware Fighter Pro had average detection results in our tests, but some unexpected false positives – including some DLLs used by Microsoft Message Analyser – let the package down.

Our tests are too small-scale to give a definitive picture of antivirus accuracy, so normally we would check how a product is reviewed by the major testing labs. Unfortunately, that's not possible here as IObit isn't covered by any of them.

We do know that Malware Fighter Pro includes the excellent Bitdefender engine, which is a definite plus. But it's not implemented in the same way as the original, and there's no guarantee you'll get the same level of protection as with Bitdefender's own products. 

Adding IObit's own engine may help protect you from even more threats, but we're unconvinced. It mostly raised false alarms for us.

There's not a lot of data to go on, but overall IObit Malware Fighter Pro doesn't stand out for its protective abilities, and there are clearly more accurate products around.

Final verdict

IObit Malware Fighter Pro seems to offer a lot of functionality for a low price, but some features don't work as expected, the core antivirus seems average at best, and it can easily be disabled by a targeted malware attack.