Humble anti-virus programs have long been surpassed by entire suites aimed at beating online perils. The latest edition of Panda Software's flagship package is a good case in point, offering a comprehensive range of security services that include not only protection against viruses and a personal firewall, but also antispam, antispyware, online fraud protection, parental controls and intrusion prevention facilities, all wrapped up in one neat and tidy interface.
Our review sample of the software got off to a flying start, rapidly identifying and disinfecting 101 files in our test PC's Windows XP system folders before it even installed itself. The rest of the installation was equally quick and painless, and included an automatic firewall configuration for our wireless home network, consisting of another desktop PC and a laptop.
In this case, the software proved even more useful, because it comes with licences for three different computers, all in the basic asking price, which starts at just £14 including VAT if you go for a three-month subscription.
The subscription itself gives you access to free daily software updates, including all the latest virus definitions, as well as 24/7 online technical support. A nice touch is that the tray icon changes to show you when automatic updates are being downloaded and installed.
Back at the sharp end, Panda invokes a two-pronged defence against viruses, utilising the company's tried and tested TruPrevent Technology. This is based on a heuristic detection approach, which checks programs and files for suspicious behaviour, on top of looking for known viruses covered by the daily updates.
There's a good level of customisation available in the package. For example, in the Scan section, you can choose whether or not to include compressed files and mail files in the search for infections, as well as adding in or excluding files with specific extensions.
On top of that, you can add spyware programs, hacking tools, diallers and jokes to the hit list of things to look for. Spyware detection worked particularly well, as did the Wi-Fi intruder detection system. Overall, this is a remarkably comprehensive, cost-effective package. Matthew Richards