F-Secure is perhaps one of the lesser known names in the security business. And there are some pretty solid reasons for this that are hard to argue with. But we will get to those in just a little bit.
F-Secure is a Finnish company specializing in privacy and cyber security that’s been on the market since 1988. The company has a large worldwide presence and offers a variety of security solutions across all sorts of devices. But today we will be focusing on the Antivirus software that F-Secure offers.
Just to be clear, though, F-Secure Antivirus is one of the three main products in the F-Secure range of consumer antivirus systems. And the one we are reviewing here today is a package that offers core protection for your computer, no strings attached. It comes at a highly agreeable price of only $36 per year for a single device. And if you pay a little over that to bump it to $40, then you get yearly coverage for two devices.
That’s compares very closely to some of what the bigger brands have on the market, such as Kaspersky and Bitdefender. However, their prices almost double with the subscription renewal, whereas you don’t need to worry about that happening with F-Secure Antivirus.
However, F-Secure Antivirus does have its share of rather serious limitations. For example, it can only be used on PCs. In addition, it doesn’t offer protection against malicious URLs, and there are pretty much no extras to benefit from either.
To get those you will have to upgrade to one of the two more advanced products in the range. These are F-Secure SAFE and F-Secure Total. And the former even comes at the exact same price point for the first year, but then the cost leaps to $70. However, you get to protect three devices, including Macs, as well as Android and iOS devices. And on top of that you get all the URL filtering, ransomware protection layers, a basic level of parental controls and others.
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Once you get down to actually trying to download F-Secure Antivirus, you may find that’s a bit more of a hassle than you would expect.
You will first need to head over to the manufacturer’s website, type in your email address and complete a CAPTCHA before you can submit the respective web form. After that you need to check your email for the message containing a confirmation link necessary for you to confirm your email. And only then you receive another email that has the download link for this software product.
After you have downloaded the F-Secure Antivirus, you will find that it is relatively lightweight, requiring 500MB of storage space and launching a total of 6 background processes in the Task Manager. And overall resource consumption is about average for this type of product. Furthermore, upon subsequent testing we found that it hardly had any impact on the computer’s overall performance, which is good news. This means that this antivirus app will be rather unlikely to slow your machine down.
But a more important feature of any antivirus program is its ability to protect itself from malware and other external threats during the installation process. Moreover, it’s also important to know whether an antivirus package is capable of protecting itself after it’s been installed as well. It’s no secret that some of the more advanced malicious pieces of code out there have the capacity to disable antivirus programs once they’ve made their way into the victim’s computer.
To get to the point, we found that F-Secure Antivirus passed all the tests and proved perfectly capable of protecting its core processes. However, it wasn’t able to shield some of the files responsible for the application’s interface. But this didn’t seem to have an effect on the overall protection of the system.
Nevertheless, this is an issue that we don’t often see with applications of this type and it’s something definitely worth taking into consideration before purchasing. This can be seen as a sign that F-Secure Antivirus may not be able to withstand a more serious attack. And if there’s a possibility to delete files, then that may open up the opportunity to replace them as well.
When choosing an antivirus product to shield your computer or other devices with, a good place to look is the AV-Comparatives Real-World Protection Test. Every year it takes 16 of the world’s best antivirus engines and sees how well they deal with some of the latest malware variants. And after all is said and done, the test comes up with a ranking based on the results, also offering a detailed explanation of who did (or didn’t) do well and why.
Sadly, F-Secure finished in 13th place in 2019, which was as disappointing as it was unexpected. This wouldn’t be the first time that this company’s product participated in this exact test, and in previous years it had performed quite well.
The AV-Test came out with better results, though, and gave the product 6/6 for protection, also certifying F-Secure as a Top Product.
Our own testing of F-Secure Antivirus proved to be quite successful as well. It handled all the test malware variants that we threw at it. And in addition to that, it also stopped every download of malicious files that we attempted.
If you already have some experience dealing with different antivirus products, then you have likely grown accustomed to the fact that they usually come packed with a bunch of bonus features. Well, if that’s the case, then your experience with F-Secure Antivirus will be quite different.
Contrary to many of its competitors, this antivirus engine doesn’t offer any extras. Basically, all it has in store for users are the regular antivirus scanning features. Other than that it’s just the settings and layers that are also related to security.
And if you like your software interface to be clean and neat, then this approach is fantastic. Because with so few features and functionalities available, the design of F-Secure Antivirus is super simplistic and straight to the point. You won’t find yourself fidgeting around with the different options and buttons.
In fact, once you open the client you will see only two buttons. These are labeled as ‘Virus Scan’ and ‘Settings’. If you click on the former, the system will automatically run a scan of your computer. It does this extremely fast (we’re talking around a minute, at least in the case of our test), and it automatically deals with any threats that it finds. And at the end of the scan, the application of course informs you of the results.
The ‘Settings’ button, on the other hand, will take you to an equally minimalistic settings menu with a very humble list of configurations.
The lack of fancy features and configurable settings may be disappointing to some users, especially those who have a knack for tweaking their applications. Perhaps the most unusual and strange thing is that there are no multiple scan types readily available. For example, there’s no Quick Scan vs specific file scan, etc. In the settings option you can look for the Virus Scan Options button. Here you will have the opportunity to select the default scan, but that’s about as far as it goes.
Hence, there’s no chance for you to create custom scans either. And there is also no way that you can scan a removable disk or drive. Instead, you can make use of the following two options: ‘Scan only known file types’ and ‘Scan inside compressed files.’
If you would like to run a targeted scan, you will have to do that with each and every specific file separately. To do this, head over to the file’s (or folder’s) directory and right-click on it. Select ‘Scan for viruses’. The good news is that scans are very fast and they become faster when you run them repeatedly.
However, when it comes to parallel scans, you might want to drop your expectations. During our tests, it turned out that F-Secure isn’t so great at multitasking, so it simply doesn’t do it. If there is an active scan at the moment and you try and run a different one at the same time, the program will simply switch back to the window of the scan that was already running. There will be no notification, no error message – nothing. But know that the second scan you tried to activate will not take place.
Another downside to this application, as far as its protection features go, is the lack of browsing protection. Namely, there’s no functionality relating to filtering malicious or potentially dangerous URLs and domains. Nevertheless, its other layers of protection should still enable a very decent level of security when you’re online.
Basically, it makes up for the lack of URL filtering by other mechanisms. For instance, if you were to try and download a malicious file, then F-Secure would scan and block it just like it would any regular file in the system. Then if you were to try and access a website that contained a file with a harmful script, the software would allow the HTML script to run. However, it would detect the threat in the file, and then block it before it has a chance to be launched.
All in all, we found that F-Secure Antivirus handles its antivirus functions quite well. It works at a very agreeable speed, and it’s also very user-friendly, which is always pleasant.
F-Secure does boast one extra, though, and we’ll have a closer look at it in the following section of this review. What we have in mind is the ransomware protection feature. Basically, it provides the same functionality as the ‘controlled folder access’ feature available on Windows 10 OS. And what it does is it restricts untrusted programs and applications from having access to specific files and folders that you have determined you want extra protection for.
So as pointed out, the F-Secure Antivirus package comes with a Protected Folders feature that is very similar to that of the Windows 10. You can use it to protect particular folders and/or files that you are most concerned about potentially losing to a ransomware attack. And in theory, these files or folders should have extra layers of protection on them.
However, some tests that were run using a ransomware simulator were able to breach these protection layers with just some small tweaks made to the executables. So as a result, thousands of files were encrypted despite F-Secure’s anti-ransomware feature and overall security mechanisms.
However, these results are to be taken with a grain of salt. There are many reasons why the F-Secure may not have been able to withstand the simulator, one of which is precisely because it was a simulator. It didn’t recognize the executable and therefore it may have taken it to be a legitimate encryption tool.
On the other hand, however, even if it didn’t recognize the file, we think it should have at least notified the user about the obvious encryption activity taking place.
To sum it up
The obvious advantages of the F-Secure Antivirus package include the fact that it is fast, compact and very simple to use – on every level. However, it does have some undeniable shortcomings when it comes to features. And apparently, during tests it showed mixed results, which puts us in a position where we cannot genuinely recommend this product.