Webroot is a Colorado-based company which has been developing privacy and security software since 1997. It’s made some interesting acquisitions over the years, including buying the UK-based PrevX back in 2010, and today the company offers a full range of home and business antivirus packages with the SecureAnywhere brand.
Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus has a short but appealing feature list: real-time threat protection, anti-ransomware, real-time anti-phishing, and a sort-of firewall thrown in.
The package is exceptionally lightweight. Webroot says its installations use typically around 15MB of drive space, compared to 500MB+ for the competition. There are no bulky signature downloads to hog your bandwidth, and very speedy system scans are quoted at around 60x faster than average.
The price is average, at £22.50 ($28.10) for a one-year, one-device licence, discounted from £30 ($38). Adding more devices or years brings better value, so for example a one-year, three-device (PC or Mac) licence costs £30 ($38) initially, discounted from £40 ($50).
Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus protects Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.7.3 Lion and up, with 14-day trial builds available.
Webroot doesn’t require credit card details to use its trials, but you will have to register with your name and email address. The website then provides you with a download link and 14-day licence key.
Installation is so fast you might not even realise it’s happened. After running the setup program we sat watching the screen for a while, wondering if there was a problem, but no, it was finished – checking the Start menu revealed Webroot SecureAnywhere was listed right at the top.
How was this possible? Browsing to our C:\Program Files\Webroot folder offered a clue. It contained a single 1MB file, the main Webroot executable WRSA.exe, and nothing else at all. There are a few other bits and pieces, like a separate web filtering folder with a single 364KB DLL, but overall it’s unbelievably compact. Installation is over at speed because there’s almost nothing to do.
This simplicity makes for a very quick and easy start. The program doesn’t launch and immediately demand you update its definitions and code, because everything important happens in the cloud: there’s nothing to update.
Instead, Webroot launches and runs an initial system scan. This took a very brief 55 seconds on our test system, yet still found a couple of adware issues which other antivirus products typically ignore. You can review or deal with any results in a click or two, then leave Webroot to get on with protecting your PC.
SecureAnywhere AntiVirus looks a little complicated at first glance, with a host of panels, buttons, switches and icons to explore. That’s not necessarily a problem, though – experienced users might prefer all available options to be visible upfront – and anyway, in most cases the program is very straightforward to use.
Simple scans can be launched from the very large and obvious Scan My Computer button, for instance, or by right-clicking Webroot’s system tray icon. There are no options for quick or full scans as Webroot is so speedy by default (there’s a custom scan buried in the settings, though), and you’re alerted to any threats as they’re uncovered.
Our scan times couldn’t get close to the 20 seconds claimed on the website, but that was only an average, and the 60-75 seconds taken on our system was still very impressive. Detection rates were better than normal, with the program picking up all our serious threats and a few adware-related pests, too.
Alternatively, you can scan any file, folder or drive by right-clicking it from Explorer. This also runs the equivalent of a ‘full scan’ in other packages, checking every single file. It’s much slower than the usual optimised Webroot scan, but might be useful if you want to be completely certain that the target is threat-free.
URL filtering comes via a simple browser extension. Webroot says it “scans the internet three times a day, classifying millions of URLs, apps or files as safe, questionable or dangerous”. We don’t know about the process, but the results were impressive, with the system blocking more suspect sites than anything else we’ve seen.
The program offers what Webroot calls a firewall, but it doesn’t have any of the usual low-level geeky settings for protocols and ports. Instead, SecureAnywhere AntiVirus does most of the hard work, looking out for new and untrusted processes connecting to the internet, and blocking them when necessary.
A background Identity Shield tries to protect your browser sessions from keyloggers, screen grabber attacks, clipboard snooping and other attempts to steal your data.
Although Webroot doesn’t boast about them, SecureAnywhere AntiVirus also has some surprising bonus tools. Like a sandbox that lets you run dubious programs in an isolated environment, which makes it more difficult for them to modify your system.
An Antimalware Tools dialog provides a tool to remove suspect programs manually, along with their associated Registry entries. It’s not a full Revo Uninstaller, but the results are similar.
Convenient malware tools include an option to ‘Set system policies to defaults’. If malware or anything else has disabled Task Manager, Regedit, or imposed some other policy-type restriction, Webroot will fix it with a click.
Even the Reports tab has some interesting extras. Along with the times of every scan you’ve run recently, an Execution History box provides low-level details on all recently monitored applications, and some of what they’ve been doing. Well worth a look for experts who are trying some malware hunting of their own.
SecureAnywhere AntiVirus aced our simple malware detection tests, but that only gives us a basic idea of the program’s virus-squashing chops. To see the bigger picture we would usually examine how Webroot was ranked by the major independent testing labs.
Unfortunately, most of the labs haven’t assessed Webroot in years. The problem is the testing procedure. This typically runs a malware sample, marks it a success if it’s blocked immediately, or a fail if it runs. But Webroot doesn’t work this way. Often it allows a sample to run and looks out for suspect behaviour before it kicks in. You’re still protected – SecureAnywhere can remove the threat and reverse what it’s done, sometimes even restoring files encrypted by malware – but the test scores it as a fail anyway.
There’s one exception in MRG Effitas, which occasionally includes Webroot in some of its tests. The Q1 2017 MRG Effitas 360 Degree Assessment & Certification report is a relatively conventional real-world detection test. This gave Webroot low to mid-range results: not the worst, but not great, either.
There was better news from the Q1 2017 Online Banking Browser Security Report, which studied how 19 antivirus packages handled financial malware, botnets and more. Webroot SecureAnywhere was one of only three packages to pass both stages of the test (the others were Kaspersky Internet Security and specialist anti-financial product Quarri POQ).
We would like more confirmation, but based on our own experience we think SecureAnywhere AntiVirus is more accurate and reliable than most of the malware-hunting competition. Factor in the small size and low system impact and it’s a very appealing package.
An amazingly lightweight tool with accurate URL blocking and some interesting bonus features. It worked well for us, but a lack of independent testing makes it difficult to measure Webroot’s antivirus accuracy.
By Mike Williams
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