Panda Security was the first company to pioneer the cloud as the ideal place to hold AV signatures and other data used in checking for threats on a PC. Though many companies now do things more or less this way, the key feature of cloud-based protection is the light footprint it has on its host machines.
The new full version of the Panda product is Panda Global Protection 2013 and it offers most of the components usually seen in Internet security (IS) products, although it's yet to take a multi-platform approach for the wide range of devices many of us use now. That’s promised for the 2014 versions.
The main interface of the current product is smart, surprisingly colourful and an easy way in. The 10 main tiles, with a hint of Metro about them, cover most of the key things IS software should do. The top row lead to setting screens for scans, reports, services, quarantine and backup, while the bottom row shows the status of anti-virus, firewall, identity protection, anti-spam and parental control.
Below these are smaller icons leading to password management, tune-up, network management, a safe browser, USB vaccine and a virtual keyboard. At the top of the screen is a statistics panel and a gear icon leads to miscellaneous preference settings.
Although the software includes a flexible range of settings for its protection, the default ones are good for most general applications and you should be able to install and go. The defaults include signature-based protection for well-known threats and both behavioural analysis and heuristics scans for zero-day attacks.
Having backup integrated into IS software is a convenient way of protecting valuable data. Panda Global Protection 2013 supports local, network and online backups and offers, by default, to archive photos, office documents, contacts and Internet favourites. You can add videos, music, e-mail and extension categories to that, or choose to copy folders or files explicitly.
Surprisingly, the default folder for backups is on the C drive; most backup applications specifically prevent storage of a backup on the same drive as the source files, for obvious reasons; if you're C drive dies, you lose your backup, too.
Panda provides 2GB of online storage for free and has partnered with storage provider Mozy to achieve this. If 2GB isn't enough, you can pay for extended storage and Panda customers receive a 15 per cent discount.
Panda has also teamed up with a third-party for password management and Password Depot provides a secure vault to hold a full range of access codes, held under encryption. Network management shows the local PC and others spotted on your LAN. Worryingly, other machines show a red exclamation mark icon, but this simply means Panda isn't running on them.
The safe browser included with this suite needs to be downloaded separately, but then provides a sandboxed interface to the Internet, in case you need to access unreliable sites. When we tried to access bank accounts from a regularly installed browser, though, there was no indication that Panda was instituting any special data protection. Other offerings, such as AVG and Kaspersky, offer site checks after searches, before you try to browse to them.
In our usage tests, on a standard 30GB partition of mixed files, the program scanned 273,767 files in 21 minutes 48 seconds, giving a scan rate of 209 files per second. This is the second highest scan rate we've seen and an impressive throughput. Repeating the same scan, Panda looked at exactly the same number of files in a very similar time, implying that there is little fingerprinting going on.
Surprisingly, there was no difference in our file copy times with and without an AV scan running in the background. This doesn't necessarily mean extremely light resource usage, as Panda could be detecting the file copy activity and throttling back the scan so as not to impede that process. Either way, you shouldn't notice much performance hit when running this software.
The German test house, AV-Test, has still to evaluate this latest version of the Panda engine (at the time of publishing), but when it looked at version 2.0 of the free product, it gave it 13.0/18.0. This is a fair score, though not among the leaders. That score includes 5.0/6.0 for Usability, reflecting its very light resource footprint, though there were a few false positives under test, too.
The Repair category showed 4.0/6.0 and here the software produced a perfect 100 per cent in detection of widespread malware, including root kits and stealth threats and 95 per cent in removing them. It dropped back, though, in removal of other malicious components and repairing system modifications, where it only scored 44 per cent. This is quite a lot lower than the industry average of 60 per cent.
Under Protection, the software again scored 4.0/6.0, with 100 per cent scores in detecting recent and established malware, but a lower than average 86 per cent over two months in protecting against zero-day attacks.
Panda Global Protection 2013 is an easy-to-use IS suite with a light hit on system resources. It includes all the main modules you would expect to find in an application of this type and a few, such as password management, which are less often there. While there's a sandbox browser included, flagged protection within IE, Firefox or Chrome is missing.
Results from AV Test show the suite to be fair but not outstanding and it's a little disappointing to find this product still restricted to PCs only, although Mac Antivirus editions are available separately.
Test results courtesy of AV-Test.org.
Manufacturer and product
Panda Global Protection 2013
Yes, with sandboxing and virtual keyboard
PC only (Mac antivirus version available)
2GB (from Mozy) included
File clean-up and defragmentation
File shredding, File encryption, Password manager, Home network manager
Number of PCs covered
1 or 3