F-Secure Corporation is a Finnish security vendor with a 25-year history of antivirus development. The company now produces a wide range of consumer products, and recently it's also been expanding into the enterprise market.
The firm’s baseline package, F-Secure Anti-Virus, caught our eye immediately with its low £19.95 ($25) one computer, one year licence. This sounded great, until we browsed the feature list, and realised just how short it was. There's no password manager, Wi-Fi protection, banking protection, file shredder, not even browsing protection: it's just antivirus, and that's all.
This kind of simplicity could be an advantage, especially if you're an experienced user and happy to combine F-Secure with your favorite URL filter, firewall and whatever other security packages you need. But if you're a beginner, or looking for the convenience of accessing multiple functions from one interface, it could be an issue.
There's another disadvantage in the lack of bulk-buy discounting, which doesn't go beyond a three system, one-year license for $39 (£29.95). If you have multiple systems to protect, Bitdefender can cover 1, 3, 5 or 10 devices for 1, 2 and 3 years. There's real value in that, too: a 10 PC, three-year Bitdefender license costs just $162.50 (£125), a pocket-friendly $5.42 (£4.17) per device-year.
F-Secure provides a free 30-day trial of F-Secure Anti-Virus, but the company makes it more difficult to get than most. You can't download it until you've handed over your email address and completed a CAPTCHA. The company then sends an email with a confirmation link, and clicking that opens a web page explaining that another email is on the way with a license key and download link.
Our second email arrived almost immediately. Confusing, there was no license key, but that seems to be because it's built into the executable name. After initially complaining that the license wasn't invalid, the installer changed its mind, quickly setting itself up with no further hassles or complications.
Whatever the reason, the rest of the installation was very straightforward, and the program set itself up very quickly and with no further hassles or complications.
We browsed the F-Secure program folder, which contained a fairly average 700MB of support files. These revealed no major surprises, but we noticed that F-Secure is one of many to include the Bitdefender engine as well as its own. That works for us – it's very accurate – and it's good to know that both technologies are used by the product.
If you're used to antivirus products trying to win you over with stacks of bonus features, F-Secure Anti-Virus will be a surprise, because it doesn't have any. There's barely anything here beyond antivirus scanning and the related security layers and settings.
This approach pays off with F-Secure's interface, which is just about as simple and straightforward as you'll ever see. The main console has two buttons: Virus Scan and Settings. Tap the first and F-Secure Anti-Virus runs a very quick scan (under a minute on our test system), deals with any threats automatically and displays its verdict. Tapping the Settings button reveals a very minimal set of configuration options.
Experienced users might be a little frustrated by the lack of features and control. F-Secure doesn't give you a choice of scan types on its main console, for instance, running a quick scan by default. A full system scan is available, buried away on a settings menu, but that's it. There's no removable drive scan here, no option to create a custom scan type of your own. And while competitors like Avast and Avira have a mass of manual scan tweaks and configuration options, F-Secure has just two simple checkboxes: 'Scan only known file types', and 'Scan inside compressed files.'
There is one small but worthwhile extra in F-Secure's ransomware protection feature, which prevents untrusted applications from accessing files in whatever folders you'd like to keep safe. This isn't a particularly new or unusual idea - Windows 10's new 'controlled folder access' feature does much the same thing - but it's still a handy extra layer of ransomware-blocking protection.
Overall, F-Secure handles its core antivirus function very well, being speedy, accurate and user-friendly. The lack of other features – particularly URL blocking – is a downside, and you'll need to address it by finding other programs to fill the functionality gaps. But if you've no problem with that, this product could be a smart choice.
Our quick malware detection tests showed F-Secure Anti-Virus delivered solid and reliable protection, but to fully understand its abilities we also check the verdicts of the main independent testing labs.
AV Comparatives' monthly real-world protection tests show F-Secure does a great job of keeping malware at bay, with the package typically blocking 100% of test threats. But the tests also record a large number of false positives, which drags the score down a little.
For example, the February- June 2018 summary report found that F-Secure blocked 100% of threats across five consecutive tests, a great performance which earned it second place out of 18 contenders. But it also raised 111 false positives during testing, while Bitdefender (3rd place) raised only two and Kaspersky (in 4th place) managed just one.
AV-Test's August 2018 Windows Home User report also found F-Secure blocked 100% of test threats, but false alarms were much less of an issue. While installing and using 62 samples of legitimate software, F-Secure blocked only one action and raised an alarm about another. That's annoying, but hardly a disaster, and even if it did happen, choose to whitelist the application and the program wouldn't bother you again.
A quality antivirus package needs to do its work without slowing you down, and PassMark Software's November 2018 Security Products Performance Benchmark report gives a detailed comparison of 15 top security apps. F-Secure turned out to be just about as mid-range as it's possible to be (8th out of 14), but that does at least suggest performance impact isn't a major issue. Keep in mind that the test used the high-end F-Secure Safe suite, too-- F-Secure Anti-Virus is more lightweight and less likely to slow your system down.
F-Secure Anti-Virus has no bonus features – not even URL blocking – but its antivirus engine is fast, accurate, and priced lower than most of the top competition.
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