It may not have the profile of the big-name competition, but Florida-based ThreatTrack has been in the security business for a very long time. Established in 1994 as Sunbelt Software, the company spent years developing anti-spyware solutions, introduced its VIPRE antivirus brand in 2008, and now offers a range of products for home and business users.
VIPRE Advanced Security is the company's consumer-oriented security suite, a blend of dual-engine antivirus (Bitdefender and its own), firewall, spam blocker, web filter and basic privacy tools.
New features include Edge Protection, a technology which protects any browser (not just Microsoft Edge) against exploits and drive-by download attacks.
The package has none of the big extras you sometimes get elsewhere – no parental controls, no backup tool, no VPN – but it more than covers the essentials, and could be enough for some users.
The standard price for a one computer, one-year license is $44 for year one, $55 for subsequent years. Even a top antivirus package such as Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is just $39, so you're paying a significant amount for the firewall and spam filter. There are huge discounts available if you add more computers, though, and a 5-computer license can be yours for only $60 in year one, $75 afterwards.
VIPRE Advanced Security has a 30-day free trial version which you can download from the website. You'll need to hand over your email address, but there's no further registration required.
The installer opened by requesting a license key. Would VIPRE email us a trial version? A welcome email arrived, but no license. We clicked Next without entering a key, to see what would happen, and that's when it offered the option to install as a trial. It would have been helpful if that had been explained earlier, but we accepted it anyway and the installer went to work.
Everything seemed to be going well, until suddenly an error message appeared stating that 'VIPRE installation cannot continue' because the installer was 'unable to update the definitions.' We clicked OK and the program closed, once again without giving us any idea what we should do next.
Checking our system tray revealed a new VIPRE icon, and tapping that displayed the Advanced Security console, as well as alarming warnings that its threat definitions were out of date, and both active antivirus protection and the firewall were turned off.
We hit the 'Update Now' button, a 'checking for updates' message popped up briefly, then disappeared again with no other visible activity or change. The problem repeated over several hours, and continued even after we repaired the installation, and removed and reinstalled it.
This was annoying, but also a good opportunity to test VIPRE's support. We raised a support ticket on the website, and were told we would normally get a response within 24 hours. In reality, it took more than 48, which is slower than we would expect. But the problem had resolved itself, anyway, suggesting that maybe it was some temporary issue with VIPRE's network or servers.
VIPRE's system footprint was reasonable for a security suite. It grabbed a chunky 1GB hard drive space, a little above average, but its four background processes used a minimal 75MB RAM between them.
Exploring the VIPRE Advanced Security folders, we found some interesting components which told us more about how the program worked. There were Bitdefender and VIPRE's own antivirus engines, as well as Bitdefender's antispam module, and custom modules to help the package work with Internet Explorer, Outlook, Facebook and other social networks.
It's important that security packages can prevent malware from disabling them. To test this, we run simple attacks to try and delete key files, close processes or change Registry settings. We only use very basic hacks that could be launched from a batch file, so most antivirus engines should block our efforts with ease.
VIPRE Advanced Security has had some small issues with these tests before, but this time it was more successful, and we weren't able to disable the program or turn off any of its protections, even temporarily.
VIPRE Advanced Security opens with a straightforward interface which focuses on just the core antivirus basics. Clear status information tells you whether the system is working correctly, your definitions are up-to-date and the firewall is active. You can see when the last scan finished and when the next one is due. Or you can tap the Scan button and immediately run quick, custom or full system checks.
Our first scans were slow, but subsequent times improved drastically as the engine only scanned modified and the most important files. An initial 'Quick Scan' took around 15 minutes, for instance, while a 'Full Scan' took 85 minutes, but next time they both fell to under three minutes.
All our malware samples were detected during the test scans. VIPRE Advanced Security keeps you up-to-date by displaying a running count of blocked malware at the bottom of its console ('we have protected you from 4 threats'), and clicking this displays a Timeline with more information.
The engine doesn't support running simultaneous on-demand scans. We launched a full system scan, then right-clicked a file and selected 'Scan with VIPRE', but were told the program was busy: our only options were to cancel the current scan, or wait for it to complete. That could be a problem if it tempts users not to scan something they're concerned about, because they don't want to interrupt a lengthy system scan.
VIPRE doesn't have as many low-level antivirus settings as the more expert-level competition. There are a few things you can tweak – whether you want the program to scan inside archives, whether it should delay scheduled scans if a laptop isn't plugged in – but the options are mostly very simple.
Elsewhere, the suite provides a URL filter for blocking access to infected and phishing sites. It works at the network level, which means all your browsers are covered without the hassle of extra extensions. The filter worked reasonably well for us, and unlike some of the simpler competition, you can whitelist websites if VIPRE flags something you know is safe. (The program's instructions on how to do this didn't work on our test system, but we figured it out on our own.)
Email protection layers include a spam filter, checks for phishing links and virus-ridden attachments. Bitdefender's antispam module should do a reasonable job of keeping your inbox free, although you'll need to be on Outlook or a client which uses SMTP or POP3 for sending and receiving messages, and there are barely any configuration options.
A built-in firewall filters incoming and outgoing traffic, and uses a Host Intrusion Prevention System and other techniques to block network attacks.
The firewall has a lot of features and functionality, but you won't know about any of them unless you go looking. A 'Learning' mode helps the program understand your network traffic, for instance, but it's disabled by default. The Intrusion Detection and Process Protection systems are also turned off initially, and even if you decide to enable them, it's not obvious which of the many complex settings will work best for you.
Put it all together and this probably isn't a good firewall for network newbies. Knowledgeable users might find it more interesting, but expect to spend some time exploring dialogs and testing the settings before you'll be able to decide.
There are a few other small extras tucked away.
'History Cleaner' aims to clear away the histories of Windows apps and several third-party applications. It supports a decent range of packages, but many seem distinctly out-of-date (the latest version of Office mentioned is 2007, and it lists Opera 9 when, as we write, the browser is now at version 57). You'll be better off with CCleaner.
A 'Secure File Eraser' enables securely deleting files from the Explorer right-click menu, ensuring they can't be undeleted later.
The best of these bonus features is 'Social Watch', a simple tool which can be scheduled to automatically check your Facebook feed for dodgy links. If you don't live on Facebook, it could detect a problem before your Facebook friends get to see it, which is certainly good news. Of course, if your feed isn't that busy and this happens maybe once a year, you might not care too much.
VIPRE Advanced Security passed our simple malware detection tests with ease, but to really understand its abilities we also check out the much more detailed reports from independent testing labs.
AV-Comparatives' July to October 2018 Real-World Protection Tests showed VIPRE ranking anywhere from fourth to fourteenth out of a field of 18. Checking the February to June 2018 report (an average of five tests) also gave the package a mid-range ranking of tenth place.
Although this doesn't sound too impressive, keep in mind that the differences between these placings is very, very small. VIPRE's tenth place was based on a protection rate of 99.3%, for instance, but that's not so far behind Avast (99.4%), Kaspersky (99.7%) and Bitdefender (99.8%).
AV-Test's October 2018 Windows Home User test produced a similar result, where VIPRE Advanced Security performed better than average, but didn't quite match the best of the competition.
To complete the picture, we tried running our custom ransomware simulator on the VIPRE Advanced Security test system. As we had developed this ourselves, VIPRE wouldn't be able to recognize the threat from its file signature alone, and this would allow us to see if its behavior monitoring could detect and spot an unknown threat.
The answer, unfortunately, was 'no', and our simulator was free to encrypt more than 6,600 documents and multimedia files. We can't penalize VIPRE too much for this - our simulator isn't real malware, and we know from lab tests that the program blocks almost all real-world threats - but we also can't ignore than other antivirus packages have not only detected and blocked the threat, but also recovered any damaged files.
VIPRE Advanced Security stays out of your way and does a reasonable job of keeping you safe, but there's no compelling reason to choose it over the top competition. You can get better protection and more functionality elsewhere.
- We've also highlighted the best antivirus software in this roundup