PROS / McAfee Internet Security includes a digital file shredder and parental controls.
CONS / The firewall component is not impervious to the most sophisticated hacker techniques.
VERDICT / Firewall performance has been weighed in the balances and found lacking.
McAfee Internet Security from McAfee (Santa Clara, California) is firewall software that stands in between McAfee’s AntiVirus Plus and McAfee Total Protection products. It contains all of the features of AntiVirus Plus except for the anti-theft file protection, home network defense protection and the enhanced McAfee SiteAdvisor Plus, which offers improved protection from dangerous websites.
The core of McAfee Internet Security is a two-way firewall that is designed to block attempts to hack the system from without or within. If a threat breaches the firewall, McAfee contains the threat and doesn’t allow it to talk to the sender. Unfortunately, the McAfee firewall does not exhibit a high success rate when subjected to simulations of advanced hacker techniques. It often fails to protect from malicious code that attempts to survive system reboot. It fails many leak tests designed to trick the firewall into allowing a threatening file to communicate with its sender. And it often shows weakness in protecting itself from attacks intended to exploit the processes that McAfee depends on to run itself.
Additional Security Features
Because the product is more than a firewall, it also finds and takes out adware and rootkits. A variety of scan types are available to discover viruses and spyware. Whenever the PC operator (or applications within the PC) uses a file, McAfee Internet Security checks the file to determine the level of threat. The product also scans based on a schedule that the user can configure.
The product discovers and blocks spam. Antiphishing features provide alerts in case a user is about to access a site that is designed to steal identity. And websites associated with malware threats trigger warnings so that the user can avoid risk. If the user’s McAfee-protected PC is on a network of other McAfee-protected PCs, the user can see a map of the network and respond to security situations that occur on the networked PCs. The included parental-control features allow the user to restrict what a child can do or see. A parent can apply a password to the administration of the parental controls so that nobody can alter the settings.
The suite contains additional useful tools such as the ability to delete unnecessary files that are affecting system performance. It can shred files that contain sensitive information so that they are permanently deleted and unrecoverable. The product also includes a disk defragmenter to optimize disk storage.
Ease of Use
The process of downloading the software is easy. In case a user experiences any challenge, the download page contains links to frequently asked questions about download and installation, a video that describes the download process, and technical support via live online chat.
Configuration of most of the modules within the security suite is simple, clear and accompanied by an in-context knowledge base. The personal firewall module offers advice about if and when to provide internet access to applications. The personal firewall can automatically apply the recommendations or alert the user to make the decision. The default (after installation) allows internet access from applications, and the user can then decide what levels of restrictions to impose. If the user wades too far into the advanced settings to understand what is happening, it is always possible to restore the original default settings and start configuring from scratch.
One aspect of the firewall component that is perhaps confusing is in the Ports and System Services configuration area. There are radio buttons that seem to indicate whether specific ports or ranges of ports or system services are secured or not. But the interface is confusing because there are also buttons to “Edit,” “Add” or “Delete.” Only the “Add” button is clickable and the “Edit” and “Delete” buttons remain grayed out whether or not the radio buttons associated with Ports and System Services are checked.
Help & Support
McAfee Internet Security includes a virtual technician that attempts to diagnose and then solve issues. If it fails to fix a problem, it provides the user with relevant information to enable useful searches of the online knowledge base. Tech support via email and chat is available for free. Telephone support is free for the first 30 days of a subscription. McAfee also hosts a blog and a page on Facebook.
In spite of being surrounded by many additional useful security features, the firewall at the core of McAfee Internet Security cannot go toe to toe against the current generation of hackers.