The bottom line: Following on last year's big overhaul, Trend Micro makes a series of smaller changes to this year's Titanium security suites. While we loved the baked-in mobile support, free storage, and file encryption, inconsistent benchmarks hold the suites back.
Last year was a headliner for Trend Micro's security suites. Overhauled with a lightweight interface and cloud-based detection, and rebranded as Trend Micro Titanium, the changes made the suite competitive again. The 2012 version builds on those improvements, so this year doesn't have a lot of big changes. Still, there are enough substantial changes to make this version worth upgrading to, including a broader detection base and strong mobile support for both iOS and Android.
Editors' note: Portions of this review are based on CNET's review of Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011.
Trend Micro's updates for 2012 make some substantial yet largely under-the-hood changes to the Titanium suites. Several excellent features only available in the premium Titanium Maximum Security place the most high-end version above its siblings. However, the cost will likely cause many shoppers to balk at the upgrade.
Trend Micro Titanium Max Security strengthens the cloud
The new Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011 sports a rapid-fire installation. Once you've completed downloading the installer, the entire process is over in less than a minute. There's one screen where you're asked to fill in an e-mail address before you can run Titanium Maximum Security, but that's the extent of the registration hoops that are required. Although a reboot isn't mandatory, the program seems to run better after one.
You can also disable your contributions to the Smart Protection Network, Trend Micro's behavioral detection net, during installation. Doing so won't make you less safe. It will only prevent your data from becoming part of Trend Micro's analyses.
Titanium 2012 offers a marginally different interface from last year. The two differences are that the parental controls and system tuner have swapped places on the main screen, and that you can now apply skins to customize the interface. Not exactly world-shaking alterations, which is an acknowledgment of how the company feels last year's major overhaul is doing. In a word: great! (Well, the company thinks it's great, anyway. We certainly don't mind it either.)
The UI that debuted last year was different and minimalistic, and is a great choice for people who don't want to struggle with their security. The top quarter is taken up by a large icon and bar declaring your security status, and below it are three major security fields and a registration status indicator.
In these three quick-access slots are the Security Summary, System Tuner, and Parental Controls. Click the boldface name of one of the three to open a drop-down revealing more information; for example, under Security Summary, you'll see number and type of threats stopped. This perhaps could be phrased better, since if no threats have been detected on your computer, then you will see that "0 threats have been stopped." Accurate, yes, but slightly misleading, too.
The Support link lives in the upper right corner of the interface, marked by a text link and an icon of a boat's lifesaver ring. At the bottom of the interface live a one-click scan-on-demand button to initiate a Quick Scan, a drop-down arrow to change scans, a Settings icon, and a Security Report button for jumping to a screen that collects recent threat detection, system performance, and parental control notifications into charts and graphs.
For advanced security features, you must click on the blue Tools button in the bottom-left corner. It's the only blue button link in the interface, so it stands out well. Clicking on it reveals six smartphone app-style buttons for Parental Control, Data Theft Prevention, System Tuner, the Trend Micro Vault for online backup, Secure Erase, and the Tool Center. Each one has a status indicator letting you know if it's been activated.
The Tool Center opens the Web site for Trend Micro HouseCall, which is a free, online-only tool for removing malware.
Clicking through the others takes you to a landing page for each, which comes with an option to hide the landing page in the future. Since the landing pages only contain brief descriptions of the features within, it'd make more sense to spare you the bottleneck and put the descriptions somewhere else.
Within each tool is a sharp layout of features and instructions on how to use them. The interface is that rare combination of uncluttered and helpful, bringing the featured tools to the fore without feeling overwhelmed. And although each tool opened in a new window, it opened smoothly and replaced the window below it so that the main Trend Micro pane was always easily accessible. If only other complicated programs were this well-designed.
Features and support
The big new feature last year was that Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011, like Google Chrome, instituted automatic updates, removing the necessity of updating your virus definition files. The autoupdates in Titanium theoretically led to a higher level of security that was more responsive, too. The behavioral-detection approach worked well for Norton, Panda, and Microsoft. No doubt moving detection to the cloud made the program run with less interference in your system, and after a year, it's hard not to conclude that it is effective.
You can still schedule scans in Titanium, which you can do from the Virus and Spyware Controls panel under Settings. On that same tab, you can configure how Titanium handles various other security protocols.
In its 2012 version, Titanium adds two new engines to the fold. One is designed to detect and remove the "fake antivirus" type of malware, also known as ransomware, that plagues many people. The other stops botnets that might have infected your computer.
Titanium Maximum Security does offer the kind of robust, full-featured protection that's expected from a top-shelf security suite. Along with antivirus, anti-malware, and malicious link protection, Titanium Maximum Security protects your installed applications from being altered without your permission, optimizes the Windows firewall, and provides spam guards. There are also parental controls, identity guards for protecting credit card numbers and passwords, the aforementioned Department of Defense-standard file shredding, and the Trend Micro Vault, which is a remote file lock that will seal off files when you tell it to, say if your laptop has been stolen.
Trend Micro comes with a toolbar that autoinstalls only in Firefox and Internet Explorer. But for a few exceptions, security suites have been ignoring Chrome, which is a serious miscalculation in our opinion. It's reminiscent of schools of art that get ignored until they become cultural leaders: are the makers of consumer security suites simply not taking Chrome seriously yet? Or do they feel that it's too secure of a browser to be susceptible to social-engineering attacks that other browser users suffer from? We suspect the former, although the security companies' sluggishness implies either willful ignorance or the latter.
You can deactivate the toolbar in the Settings window after you install, although it's a bit annoying that you can't turn it off before you install. Internet Explorer 9 indicates that running the toolbar slows down the browser's start-up by 1 second. It also doesn't really contain much in the way of features, besides giving Titanium hooks into your browser so it can evaluate Web site search results.
Titanium did well with value-added features last year, introducing the system tuner, Wi-Fi verification, and online backup. The system tuner is quite robust and cleans your Registry, looks for recoverable disk space, cleans out start-up links to programs that no longer exist, deletes Internet cookies, and removes software histories including instant message logs to prevent spyware from accessing them. The Internet hot-spot verification will warn you if you're connecting to a network that's been compromised The online backup tool includes a leading 10GB of encrypted online storage. It includes syncing and sharing, and there's an option to purchase unlimited storage space.
Value-added enhancements in Titanium 2012 cover both the useful, like bundling one free license for Trend Micro's Smart Surfing for Mac, and the gimmicky, like the aforementioned selection of new interface skins for the Windows version. Does anybody spend so much time in their security suite that they want to skin it?
An excellent new "extra" is mobile security. Titanium Maximum Security 2012 comes with free licenses for iOS and Android security apps, which offer lost-phone tracking, antivirus, and SMS blockers. The Trend Micro toolbar for Firefox and Internet Explorer warns you about malicious links posted to Facebook and Twitter, as well as search, although there's no support yet for Google Chrome.
The Titanium firewall component generally relies on the excellent Windows Vista and Windows 7 firewall to get the job done. It does come with a firewall booster option, under Network in the Internet and E-mail Controls tab in the Settings menu. This activates the network-level firewall, which is a component that Windows is missing, but Trend Micro clearly doesn't think it's crucial, as the firewall booster is disabled by default.
There are some hang-ups with Titanium, though. For one thing, you can't access the interface while the program is starting, although you can when scanning. A more troublesome problem is that the suite doesn't really possess much in the way of virus and malware removal. It presupposes that it will block all threats that attempt to crack your system. As noted above, Trend Micro's HouseCall tool is the company's de facto post-infection threat killer, and it's Web-based. That may make some users skittish.
In its first year on the street, Titanium's new detection system proved itself handily. Although it wasn't the most effective suite last year, it was certainly in the upper echelons of security offerings. This year, CNET Labs and independent third-party testing organizations found that Titanium has continued an upward trajectory that nevertheless leaves room to grow. Titanium Maximum Security 2012 shares the same detection engines as its less feature-laden siblings, Titanium Internet Security 2012 and Titanium Antivirus 2012, so all three are discussed here.
CNET Labs' benchmarks showed that the Titanium suites were frustratingly uneven. The Quick Scan was the fastest CNET Labs has tested so far this year, with the slowest of the Titanium suites coming in at more than 400 seconds faster than the second-fastest suite, and they also had the lightest touch on computer shutdown times. However, Titanium had the biggest impact on system boot times, with the Titanium suite that was fastest at boot still adding 20 seconds more than the next-slowest competitor.
In the era of security-suite-free Windows 7 computers that often take no more than 30 to 40 seconds to boot, and tough competition from Macs and Chromebooks that can boot in 20 to 30 seconds, doubling Windows' boot time is unacceptable. Note that CNET Labs has changed test computer operating systems, from a 64-bit version of Windows 7 to Windows 7 64-bit running Service Pack 1, so while we can mention the differences between last year's results and this year's, they're not directly comparable.
|Security program||Boot time||Shutdown time||Scan time||MS Office performance||iTunes decoding||Media multitasking||Cinebench|
|Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012||88||11.3||502||437||125||345||17,290|
|Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2012||94.8||11.7||465||406||126||344||17,238|
|Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus Plus 2012||83.3||12.4||449||419||126||342||17,084|
*All tests measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.
On a real-world Windows 7 computer, we found that the Quick Scan finished up in 4 minutes, 48 seconds, when averaged from three cold-boot runs. Also over three cold runs, the Full Scan took 2 hours and 11 minutes to complete. These times are interesting to note because they're much slower than last year's results, and much slower than the results Trend Micro predicted. It's not clear why the Quick Scan took nearly 4 minutes longer on average to complete than it did last year. We're going to chalk up the problem to a software glitch or installation error for now. Certainly, if you're seeing Quick Scan times that slow, get in touch with Trend Micro's tech support.
Third-party labs that look at the efficacy of virus detection and removal found Trend Micro 2012 equally uneven. While scoring high on threat detection and blocking from independent testing agency AV-Test.org, and earning low false-positive scores (that's a good thing), the Titanium suites did not do well on infection removal. During the first quarter of 2011, when tested on a Windows 7 computer, Titanium Internet Security 2011 scored 3.5 out of 6 on Protection, 3.5 out of 6 on Repair, and 5.5 out of 6 on Usability for an overall score of 12.5 out of 18, just above the minimum of 11 for an AV-Test.org certificate.
In the second quarter, on a Windows XP computer, Titanium Internet Security 2011 scored the same, 12.5 out of 18. The suite hit 4.5 out of 6 on Protection and Usability, and 3.5 out of 6 on Usability. Note that AV-Test.org defines its categories as follows: "The 'Protection' covers static and dynamic malware detection, including real-world zero-day attack testing. In case of 'Repair,' we check the system disinfection and rootkit removal in detail. The 'Usability' testing includes the system slowdown caused by the tools and the number of false positives."
Third-quarter results aren't in yet, but results shared by AV-Test.org with CNET indicate that the suite continues to perform well. It notched a 99.25 percent malware detection rate, higher than the overall average rate of 96.14 percent in July 2011 certification testing, ahead of Kaspersky's May score of 98.5 percent and just behind Bitdefender's 99.53 percent. However, Titanium was able to remove only 64.5 percent of active malware infections, way below the industry average of 80.7 percent. The rootkit detection and removal rate was average, with 90 percent detected and 70 percent removed. In AV-Test.org's zero-day attacks test, Kaspersky blocked 92.9 percent of the attacks, compared with the average July 2011 certification results of 85.7 percent. The suite also did not generate any false positives.
So, in short, AV-Test.org found Trend Micro Titanium 2011 and the new 2012 to be effective but not among the best of the best.
The most recent AV-Comparatives.org Whole Product test, which looks at on-demand scanning, retroactive tests, and "real-world" guards including cloud-based protections, puts Trend Micro 2011 in the top six suites tested. The June 2011 test found that it blocked 99.3 percent of attacks and threats thrown at it, only behind F-Secure and Panda. Meanwhile, looking at Whole Product test results cumulatively from January to June 2011 Trend Micro 2011 came in sixth, blocking 98.6 percent of threats.
A third testing lab, Dennis Technology Labs, found Trend Micro Titanium 2011 to be the one of the best suites it tested. Dennis Labs placed Titanium second out of 11 suites tested, with a Total Accuracy score of 142 out of 150--just behind Norton 2011. However, this test was conducted in January 2011.
It's fair to conclude that according to third-party tests, Titanium has been effective over the past year, but not remarkably so. However, because of weak malware removal scores, an enormous impact on boot time, and not getting the highest scores on the detection and prevention tests, we'd like to see better from Trend Micro in the future.
Trend Micro leaped forward and took a risk in 2011. It didn't for the 2012 suites, but it didn't have to. Instead, 2012 sees a solid upgrade, with some clever new offerings. What holds back Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security are its benchmarks. The lackluster threat removal scores don't stand up against the more well-rounded competition, and the abysmal boot-time impact must be improved. If Titanium can polish those areas, then that would be showing some mettle we could really get behind.