Panda 2012 focuses on building a better virus trap

More of an incremental improvement than a massive overhaul, Panda 2012 relies on improvements to existing features and a new interface to draw people in.

A new interface capstones changes that otherwise are under-the-hood improvements made by Panda Security to its 2012 suites, released today exclusively with CNET There are four available to download: Panda Antivirus Pro 2012, Panda Internet Security 2012 for Netbooks, Panda Internet Security 2012, and Panda Global Protection 2012. Many of the features that Panda is touting as new were in fact soft-launched in last year's updates. Along with some decent gains in program benchmarks, the new and updated features include file encryption and shredding, remote access and control, system optimization, safe browsing, and silent mode.

Panda Global Protection 2012's new interface. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

The new interface keeps the dark theme from previous versions but exposes more of the program's features up front. The navigation tab sit on top, with value-added features like the USB vaccine, SafeCD, and the virtualized Safe Browser on the bottom.

Many of those value-added features received tighter integration into the 2012 update. These include the USB vaccine for ensuring that your computer doesn't receive a virus via USB stick; the SafeCD based on Debian for creating a rescue disc or USB key before disaster strikes; the network manager for seeing and managing protection on other home computers; safe browsing in a virtualized browser that protects sensitive data and banking transactions; and the Panda Safe Vault, which includes local file encryption for protecting your files from prying eyes and a file shredder for secure file deletion.

Panda 2012 offers a one-click fix system that worked surprisingly quickly. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Under the hood, Panda has updated its antivirus engine with tighter cloud-scanning integration, reflecting some of the gains the company has made with its free Panda Cloud Antivirus. The new behavioral analysis engine, which Panda calls TruPrevent, helps the program detect newer malware groups. Pedro Bustamante, Panda's Senior Research Advisor, said of the protection engines, "Our heuristic engine is updated every two weeks, and Panda doesn't rely only on heuristic detection to check on threats. Other companies update their engines less often."

Panda also reports some performance gains in the 2012 version. Panda consumes 0.4 MB less when idle in this year's version, as well as impacting system performance less. The time it takes the system to stabilize after booting was seven seconds faster with Panda 2012 than Panda 2011, and the overall performance loss was 6.9 percent in last year's version, compared to 6.5 percent in this year's.