EScan Anti-Virus review

eScan is a popular brand of security products developed by Mumbai-based MicroWorld Technologies.

This antivirus product is at the very bottom of eScan's PC range, but don't be fooled – it's more capable than you think. The program includes a two-way firewall and a spam filter, as well as behaviour monitoring, on-access threat detection, and more.

Its use of the excellent Bitdefender engine means you can be sure of a good baseline level of accuracy in terms of antivirus protection. The company claims to take this even further with layers of its own technology.

New features in this edition include proactive malware detection, USB vaccination to block autorun viruses and custom ransomware protection. The highlight is perhaps a bootable Rescue Mode which installs on your hard drive (no CD or USB required), and can be used to remove the most stealthy or stubborn malware.

The price is average at $30 (£24) for a one-year, one-PC license. If you're an eScan fan, a two-year, five-device license offers better value at $136 (£109). You can still get better deals elsewhere, though. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus' two year, five-device license costs £75 ($97.50), while Kaspersky Anti-Virus is fractionally lower at £72 ($93.60).

EScan Anti-Virus review

Setup

There are trial builds available for all the main eScan products, and although the download page asks for your email address, you don't have to provide it. Close the pop-up window and you can choose to download the package as normal.

Setup is simple, but a little unpolished. On first launch the program displays the 'Date of virus signatures' which was a couple of weeks out of date, presumably because it hadn't been updated yet. We expected this to be automatically updated, but no. We ran a scan to see if the program would warn us about the outdated signatures, but still nothing.

Around an hour later, a pop-up dialog finally complained about the lack of updates, incorrectly suggesting this might be a problem with our internet connection. We launched the update manually, and a minute or two later, the package was finally ready to go.

Checking the program's files and folders brought better news. Every eScan executable was digitally signed, and we weren't able to close or delete them. Malware won't have any easy way to disable eScan's protection.

EScan Anti-Virus review

Features

EScan Anti-Virus has a bulky console which is mostly white space, but with five tiles for key areas of the program: File Anti-Virus, Mail Anti-Virus, Anti-Spam, Firewall and Cloud Protection. You might think that clicking these would lead to useful actions or system stats, but no-- they largely take you to advanced settings which most users will barely ever use. It would have made more sense to bundle these into a single Settings dialog, where they're only visible when you need them.

Meanwhile the much more important Scan function is relegated to a small icon at the bottom of the screen. Still, click it and you get a good set of scan types: quick, system, USB drives, CD-ROM and a custom scan.

EScan Anti-Virus review

Tapping any of these displays assorted settings which you can use to change how the scan works. We're normally big fans of configurability and options, but in this case it's not clear what of them do. Would you check the box marked ‘Use separate exclude list for ODS’? What happens if you apply an ‘automatic’ action in case of infection, rather than ‘delete’? What's the difference between scanning program files only, and using ‘automatic type detection’?

There's a Help icon top-right of every dialog, so of course we clicked it to find out more. Unfortunately, this opened a very lengthy web page covering all scanning functions, and not just the dialog box we were using. It was also out of date, written originally for eScan 11, with some screen grabs dated 2010, and didn't have the information to cover all our eScan 14 features.

Scanning results were mixed in our tests. System scans seemed to run very quickly, but they also checked fewer files than most of the competition. That might be a good move if you're using some intelligent optimizations and can be sure they're not infected, but as eScan missed some of our test threats, that might not be the case. We'll look at other scanning results later.

There's no anti-phishing protection or general blocking of malicious URLs. The program will scan downloads to detect threats, but that's as far as the web protection goes.

EScan Anti-Virus review

The firewall is the major bonus feature here, but as with other areas of the program, there are few concessions to the novice. The firewall has four modes, for instance - Allow All, Limited Filter, Interactive Filter, Block All - but there's no up-front clues about the Limited or Interactive functions, and clicking any of them simply changes the firewall mode without offering any explanation about what you've done.

A Settings button takes you to some very expert-level options, allowing you to define custom firewall rules covering protocols, ports, IP ranges, applications, MAC addresses and more. Again, there's little guidance and beginners will be baffled, but experienced users should appreciate all the fine-tuning options.

The spam filter isn't so useful, in part because it works at the network level, rather than integrating with email clients. The module was able to detect spam and add a ‘[SPAM]’ marker to a message heading, for instance, but couldn't directly move it to our Outlook's Spam folder. That's something the user must set up themselves.

EScan Anti-Virus review

We didn't run a real test of the spam filter's accuracy, but based on its view of the 40 emails we received during the review, it's not exactly reliable. We found the module missed a similar amount of junk to Outlook's own Junk Mail filter, and flagged several legitimate messages as junk.

Expert users may be able to improve this by tweaking its advanced settings, including options to specify custom RBL servers, enable X-Spam rules or SPF checks. But if you're looking for an accurate spam filter which just works, this may not be the product for you.

This antivirus app has a few other bonus tools, including creating a bootable rescue environment, but there's nothing exceptional. They also suffer from a similar lack of documentation.

An option called Restore Windows Default Settings might sound appealing, for instance, if you're hoping to recover from damage caused by a virus, but we'd like to know exactly which settings it touches. Interface, network, security permissions, anything else? All the official wiki says is it restores items "such as desktop and background settings", utterly useless if you're trying to figure out whether it might cause you problems.

EScan Anti-Virus review

Protection

AV-Comparatives' Real-World Protection Test is one of the first benchmarks we use to assess antivirus performance. EScan hasn't been included in the tests since 2017, and the last summary report for July-November 2017 might tell us why: the package was rated 20th out of 21 contenders with a dire detection rate of 96.7% (most engines manage 99.x or even 100%).

AV-Test's Home Windows reports still include eScan Internet Security, but the February, April, June and August 2018 test results also failed to impress. EScan was rated 4th out of 18 in the April report, but it was bottom in February and August, and third from bottom in June.

VirusBulletin's VB100 test is a different type of test - more about certifying that security products have reached a minimum standard, than identifying which is the 'best' - but the October 2018 report still has a much more favorable view on eScan's abilities, giving it a 100% detection rate with no false positives.

EScan can do well in some tests, then, but its inconsistency at AV-Test and the lack of coverage at AV-Comparatives is a concern. If you're looking for reliability and accuracy, there are plenty of better-rated packages around.

Final verdict

EScan Anti-Virus is a basic product which underperforms in most areas. Apparent plus points like the firewall and spam filter are also unimpressive, and we see no compelling reason to choose this product over the top competition.

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