Immunet offers peace of mind

Common Windows security wisdom says it's a bad idea to run multiple antivirus apps simultaneously, but the point of Immunet is to effortlessly bolster the security you've already got.

Common Windows security wisdom says it's a bad idea to run multiple antivirus apps simultaneously. Generally that's true, but Immunet 2.0 intends to play nice with your existing protection and bolster it with help from the cloud and the crowd. Immunet's latest update introduces new scanning tools, detection engines, and support in a bid to persuade users that the program is the spackle they need to plug the holes in their security wall.

Installation and setup
The installation of Immunet 2.0 asks for registration, which you can skip to avoid sending your data up to the cloud without adversely affecting your security. However, the cloud-based defenses work better as more people contribute their data. This is a common defense tool from security vendors.

Immunet opts you in to the Ask toolbar and default search engine switch, so users who don't want them should go through the install process carefully. Otherwise, the installation process is straightforward and simple.

Interface
The interface is a blue wall behind three columns that provide access to Community, Computer, and Product settings. On the far left side of the interface, Immunet quietly informs you of your other installed antivirus program, while on the far right there are two bars keeping track of CPU and memory usage.

The new Immunet interface puts a lot of information at hand, but navigating within it could be smoother. (Note that the screenshot is from an release candidate and the yellow 'RC2' won't appear on the version you can download.)

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Annoyingly, much of the interface uses text that comes in varying shades of blue, which can make it harder to read than it should be. We also found that switching screens within Immunet, as well as tooltips, were slow to respond to clicks and mouse-overs.

Features and support
Similar to PC Tools' ThreatFire, which didn't originally address virus-related threats but does now, Immunet seeks to present a lightweight method to enhance already-installed protection.

On features alone, there's no doubt that Immunet 2.0 is a better product than its predecessor. The free version offers a new cloud-based detection engine called ETHOS, a heuristics engine that offers on-demand scanning, in-product updates, a visual representation of the Immunet community, a silent gaming mode, and a stream from the Immunet security blog.

Immunet also offers a bit of exploration of the program's community network, with an interactive visual representation of the friends that you're connected to. (Note that the screenshot is from an release candidate and the yellow 'RC2' won't appear on the version you can download.)

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

There's also an unusual amount of attention paid to user-support issues for a free program, with free 24-7 telephone support. The service includes installation problems, assistance with potential virus issues, and sluggish computer performance that may not be virus-related. E-mail support has been dropped from this version in favor of online forums.

The new scanning tools come in the three standard flavors: the quick Flash scan, Full, and Custom. The Flash scan, which checks out only processes and the Registry, took just more than one minute to finish, while the full takes much longer because it checks your entire computer. Immunet doesn't lock you into a running scan, so you can hide it and use other parts of the program. However, Immunet restricts rootkit scans to its paid upgrade, sacrificing some of your security.

Immunet's new scans give the program much more appeal than before, but they do limit rootkit scans to the paid version. (Note that the screenshot is from an release candidate and the yellow 'RC2' won't appear on the version you can download.)

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

The History window, under the Computer column, provides a reasonably in-depth accounting of what Immunet's been up to. This includes an option to view by all file events, which essentially acts as an Internet traffic log. We're fans of exposing as much data as possible about security behavior to users, but this could be improved by allowed users to access the folder location where the activity took place.

Performance
During a day of anecdotal testing, we noticed no unusual system slow-downs while running Immunet concurrently with Avast. Third-party security performance benchmarks are not yet available, but it's highly unusual when running multiple security programs not to see even slight anecdotal sluggishness. This suggests that at least on the performance front, Immunet does do all that it claims.

Conclusion
At this point, there's no one feature in Immunet that's impressive enough to make it stand out against the competitive security field. What it does offer though is an extra dose of peace of mind for those users who feel, for whatever reason, that their current security just isn't enough.

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