Panda Antivirus Pro (2017) Review & Rating
At $39.99 per year for one license, Panda’s list price is in line with competing commercial antivirus products. Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Symantec, and Webroot all cost about the same. You pay more for McAfee AntiVirus Plus, with its list price of $59.99 per year, but that lets you install McAfee security software on all of your Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices. Panda offers discounted prices for three, five, and 10 license bundles, along with unlimited licenses, for $129.99 per year. You can use these licenses to install Panda protection on your Windows or Android devices.
However, for 2017 Panda has launched a new, parallel, product line, one that makes buying Panda Antivirus Pro look like a bad deal. The old product line consists of the Pro antivirus and three levels of security suite, each with more features than the previous one. With these products, you purchase a fixed number of licenses that you can use to install protection on Windows and Android devices. With the suite products, you can also install Panda’s security software on a single Mac.
The new product line consists of three products: Panda’s free antivirus, Panda Protection Advanced, and Panda Protection Complete. A subscription to Panda Protection Advanced lets you install Panda’s entry-level security suite on any number of Windows computers. You can also install Panda Mobile Security on your Android devices. And it costs $34.99 per year, at least for now. That’s right. For five bucks less than a single antivirus license, you get unlimited security suite licenses for Windows and Android. I assume this confusion will shake out after a while. For now, Panda Antivirus Pro just isn’t as good a deal as it was last year.
All three products in the new product line have a completely redesigned user interface, with a lovely nature scene as the background of the main window. The Pro antivirus, along with the rest of the old product line, retains the same user interface as the previous edition. Square and rectangular panels of various sizes display security status and offer access to the utility’s security components. Two of the panels, Data Shield and PC Tuneup, display a padlock icon, meaning that you must upgrade to get access.
Shared Antivirus Features
Naturally all of the protective features you get in Panda Free Antivirus are also present in the Pro edition. I’ll go over those features briefly here, but for a full understanding you should read my review of the free edition.
Of the five independent antivirus testing labs that I follow, just two include Panda in their selection of products for testing, down from four last year. The three-part evaluation from AV-Test Institute has a maximum score of 18 points. Panda took just 13.5 points, which is poor, especially compared with the 17 points earned by the previous edition. Kaspersky Anti-Virus managed a perfect 18 points in the latest test, while Bitdefender and Trend Micro took 17.5 points.
I follow two tests that MRG-Effitas reports regularly. Unlike most of the other lab tests, these yield a pass/fail result. Like many other products, Panda failed both.
In my own hands-on malware blocking test, Panda detected 94 percent of the samples and earned 9.2 of 10 possible points. That’s a decent score, but Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, PC Matic, and Comodo all managed a perfect 10 in this test.
I also challenged Panda with 100 recently discovered malware-hosting URLs. It blocked just 48 percent of the samples, most of them by blocking all access to the dangerous URL. Among recent products, only Comodo has scored lower in this test. With 98 percent protection, Norton has the best score; Avira Antivirus Pro is close behind with 95 percent.
Phishing websites don’t need malware or drive-by downloads. They simply trick unwitting victims into giving away login credentials for banks and other sensitive sites. In my antiphishing test, Panda’s detection rate lagged 33 percentage points behind that of consistent phish blocker Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic. The phishing protection built into Chrome and Internet Explorer also beat out Panda in this test. Norton is a tough opponent, but Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Webroot all managed to eke out a score better than Norton’s.
There are a few bonus features shared by the free and Pro editions. USB Vaccination modifies USB drives so malware can’t configure itself to run automatically from the drive. The Rescue Kit lets you create a bootable USB antivirus, for cases when malware has locked up your computer, or invoke the aggressive Panda Cloud Cleaner, for malware that the regular antivirus couldn’t eliminate. And the Process Monitor offers detailed information on the security level and web connections of all processes. Trained experts who spot something fishy using this tool can terminate and block the suspect process.
With everything I’ve described so far being available for free, why would you pay for the Pro edition? Well, for starters, you might want tech support. Free users only get forum-based support. When you pay, you get direct tech support by email or phone. The Pro edition also adds several useful bonus features.
Application Control. Most modern types of malware use some form of polymorphism, meaning that every instance of the malicious program is different. This helps them avoid signature-based detection. However, the fact that every instance is different makes possible a different kind of detection. Panda’s Application Control checks each program that launches against its database of known programs. If it encounters an unknown program, it asks you whether to let it run. If that query is unexpected, you should click Deny. Initially, Application Control is off, but enabling is a snap.
You can also set it to automatically deny execution of any unrecognized program, allowing only known programs. That should put a stop to any attack by zero-day or polymorphic malware. Just turn it off temporarily if you need to install something new.
Simple Firewall. The Pro antivirus includes a simple firewall. In testing, it correctly stealthed the test system’s ports. That’s good, but it’s no more than the built-in Windows Firewall can do.
The firewall also exercises a degree of control over how programs access the internet, but it’s limited. For specific known programs, it permits inbound connections. For all others, it blocks unsolicited inbound connections but allows outbound connections. Expert users can dig in and edit program control rules, but most users should leave them alone.
The firewall includes an Intrusion Prevention component, but it aims to block general network attacks, not attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in the system or in major applications. When I hit the test system with about 30 exploits generated by the CORE Impact penetration tool, it didn’t react at all.
Firewall protection isn’t much use if a malicious program can turn it off. When I tested Panda’s resistance to attack, I got mixed results. Out of four important processes, I found that it protected three but allowed me to terminate the fourth. When I tried to stop its four Windows services, it protected two, but allowed me to stop and disable the other two. Why not protect them all, the way Norton, Check Point ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2017 and many others do?
Wi-Fi Protection. Panda’s Wi-Fi protection evaluates the security of each Wi-Fi network you access. By default, it pops up a warning if it determines the network has medium or low security. If you really must connect despite the warning, you should probably use a virtual private network, or VPN, utility for safety. The Wi-Fi Inspector also offers recommendations for improving your network’s security.
You can also view a list of other devices on the network, and flag any that should not be allowed to connect with your computer. Avast Pro Antivirus 2017 offers a similar network analysis tool, and unlike Panda’s, it works on wired networks too.
Virtual Keyboard. A keylogger program records every keystroke you type, including your passwords. If someone installs one of these on your system, perhaps by telling Panda’s antivirus component to ignore it, you have no secrets. That is, unless you enter your passwords by clicking keys on the virtual keyboard. You can even set it to create decoy cursors, so a screen-scraping program won’t be able to determine which keys you’re clicking.
Protect More Devices
Various products in both Panda product lines include the option to install protection on macOS and Android. The Pro antivirus reviewed here supports Android, but not macOS. However, clicking Other Devices on the main window brings up an outdated screen that offers installation on Android or macOS; I notified Panda of this misstatement. Not only that, the old-school suite and mega-suite products support Windows, macOS, and Android, but the modern multi-device product line also omits macOS support. There’s also a completely free iOS app that does nothing but let you locate your device from the Panda online portal.
When I installed Panda on a Nexus 9 I immediately noticed that it looks a lot like the free antivirus, with a mountainous nature scene as background. It gave me the choice to use the free version, enter a code, or buy the Android product. I entered the activation code, thereby gaining access to all of the suite’s premium features.
Antivirus and anti-theft are the key components in Android security. Panda’s antivirus scan took just seconds to run. To activate anti-theft, I had to log in with my Panda account. As part of the process, I enabled Theft Alerts, meaning that after three failed attempts to unlock the device, Panda snaps a photo and emails it to me, along with a map showing where it snapped the photo. Nice!
As expected, you can remotely locate, lock, or wipe the device. There’s also an option to sound an alarm, helpful if you’ve simply mislaid the device. Here’s something I haven’t seen before: If you turn on the motion alert, you have five seconds to set down the device. After that, if someone picks it up it sounds a loud alarm, stopping only when unlocked.
The Privacy Auditor component scans your apps and reports on how many perform sensitive actions like tracking your location, accessing your contacts, or costing you money. You can click on each action category to see which apps are involved, and you can even uninstall an app that seems too snoopy.
You can use App Lock to lock specific applications using a PIN you specify. Task Killer lists running apps along with their memory and CPU usage, and lets you kill off those you’re not using. As you can see, this app covers all the bases for Android security.
Hold Off, for Now
Panda Antivirus Pro’s test scores, both from the independent labs and my own tests, are generally down from last year, a fact that’s reflected in its reduced rating. If you’re still tempted to buy it, here’s what I recommend you do. Take the $39.99 you would have spent on one antivirus license and put five dollars back in your pocket. Use the remaining money to buy Panda Advanced Protection (which I’ll review soon) and get unlimited licenses for the full Panda suite.
At some point this price dissonance will surely shake out, but until then, there’s no compelling reason to buy this antivirus. Instead, try one of our Editors’ Choice commercial antivirus tools: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, McAfee AntiVirus Plus, Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic, or Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus. All of these except McAfee cost the same as Panda Pro; McAfee costs more but gives you unlimited licenses.