NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, September 2009
IObit Security 360 Beta 2.2 – Free Security Software
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

(click to email author)


I have been a fan of IObit software for several years, using both its freeware and commercial products. IObit has developed a loyal following of millions of users, and has earned accolades from the computer press. IObit recently released a free public beta of its newest security program IObit Security 360 Beta 2.2, which I have been testing. It is important to note that this release is a beta release, which means that it is a pre-production release, and that it may contain bugs or have other problems.

I routinely scan all of my computers for security threats that may have penetrated my protective suite of security software, as much of the malware in circulation today is expressly designed to circumvent the antivirus and anti-spyware software that we should all be using on a continuous basis. For the past few years I have been using updated builds of MalwareBytes AntiMalware and a-squared free to perform malware scans on my computers, and other computers that I check for malware, and have been very satisfied with both. Recently, with the public beta release of IObit Security 360, I now have another tool in my arsenal. What makes Security 360 different from what I have been using is that in addition to a security scanner, it is also designed to be memory resident and run alongside the users’ existing antivirus software.

I downloaded Security 360 beta 2.2, a 7mb download, installed it, and updated it. I did this on a computer on which I had very recently run updated versions of both MalwareBytes and a-squared. I was very surprised to find that while it did not find any active malware running on my computer, it did find some suspicious programs on my hard drive and questionable entries in my registry. Most of the suspicious software were programs that I had downloaded as far back as 2003, and was not currently running, but still had the software on my hard drive. A few of them were more recently downloaded programs, which had been scanned at download by my internet security software, and reviewed by MalwareBytes and a-squared with no problems. There were also several tracking cookies detected by Security 360 that were bypassed by the other products. Right clicking on a suspicious file will open a web page with more information about that potential threat.

I have learned in the past not to blindly follow the results of security software, and automatically quarantine or delete suspicious programs. I do not mind losing software that I will likely never use, but there always is a chance that some of the malware detected may be a false positive, and I do not want to delete beneficial programs. This applies to all security software, no matter what the brand name or reputation, as all security software can produce false positives, sometimes with disastrous results. The more sensitive and thorough the security the more likely it is to detect malware, but also the more likely that it will generate some false positives. The commercial software testing companies note the false positive rates in their findings along with the successful detection rates. In order to minimize the risk of false positives on my computer, and the havoc that occur if important or critical files are quarantined or deleted, I as a matter of personal practice, always upload suspicious files that I am unsure about to another free service, VirusTotal, http://www.virustotal.com. VirusTotal will run the uploaded file against dozens of updated antivirus and anti-malware programs and display the results. If several of the other services indicate that the file is malware, then I will quarantine or delete it. If very few of the services (or none) identify the file as malware, then it is likely a false positive, and the decision is mine whether or not to leave it alone or quarantine it. The reason for this discourse is that many of the better security scanners will likely detect false positives, and I want to avoid the problems that deleting a necessary file can cause.

I have had false positives from most of the security software I have used, and Security 360 was no different. I found Security 360 to be one of the most comprehensive and useful security scanners that I have used, as it caught items missed by the other top-rated scanners that I have been using. Doing a quick security scan on my computer took 12 minutes with Security 360, and it caught 18 suspicious files including tracking cookies and some files and registry entries that the other scanners had missed. These 18 items all looked like they may be a threat, so I chose to quarantine all 18, and eventually delete them if my decision is proven correct. I then ran a full scan, which took over an hour. Security 360 found more questionable files and registry entries. While I agreed with most of the findings and dutifully quarantined them, there were three files detected that I was not convinced were malware and might be false positives, so I uploaded those three files to VirusTotal. For each of the three files, only a very few of the dozens of scan engines found them to be malware, often disagreeing on the type of malware. For each of those three files I made a calculated decision to keep them justifying them as false positives, as they were components of software that I regularly use. If I had deleted those files, the software I use may no longer be functional. Security 360 has the ability to report false positives to the developers with a right-click, which I did. My risk and my decision.

In addition to being an excellent detection utility, IObit Security 360 Beta has several other very useful utilities. One useful utility is the real-time protection which offers a barrier to known and unknown threats. Fully cognizant that this is beta software, and not a final product, I activated the real-time protection and ran Security 360 Beta along side my existing internet security suite. While Security 360 is explicitly designed to run with other security products, I did find some conflicts with my existing running security suite, and some degradation of performance. In the support forum, conflicts are documented with some of the popular security software, and I added mine to the list. I chose to stop the memory resident feature of Security 360, but still use it as a scanner.

IObit 360 Beta 2.2 also has a collection of security tools that offer additional benefits. The Hijack Scan detects browser helper objects (BHO) and other items that can hijack a browser, and neutralize any dangerous hijackers that are found. The Security Holes scanner compares the Windows updates installed on the computer to a database of those released by Microsoft, and recommends patches that need to be installed. The good thing is that needed Microsoft security patches can be downloaded directly by Security 360; the negative is that it detected that I needed security patches that I had verified that I had already installed, a bug that the developers are aware of, but again this is beta software. I found the Passive Defense to be very useful, but somewhat redundant with my existing security software, as it blocks access to thousands of questionable websites that are know to contain malware or pornography, as well as blocks thousands of tracking cookies from the browser, and preventing rogue ActiveX programs from running. The Unlock and Delete feature allows the user to delete files that are locked, an often useful, but sometimes dangerous function. Privacy Sweeper deletes internet browsing history, cookies, and tracks left while surfing the net. The PC Tuneup icon loads IObit’s Advanced System Care, and excellent PC maintenance utility available in both free and paid “Pro” versions. (http://www.iobit.com).

I found IObit’s Security 360 Beta 2.2 to be an excellent utility for detecting malware, despite a few false positives, and feature rich with other security functions. I did find some slowed performance and conflicts with my existing software, so I chose to turn off the real-time protection feature. Understanding that this is beta software, and not a finished product, some problems are to be expected. Currently the beta is free, but there is no indication of IObit’s future plans for Security 360, as their other flagship products are available as both freeware and as more sophisticated and feature rich commercial Pro versions. Still, if you would like to do a security scan for malware fully understanding the shortcomings of beta software, then IObit Security 360 Beta 2.2 may be a good choice.

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