Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac full review

Trend Micro is a name well-known to fans of computer security. It offers two products for the Mac: Maximum Security, and Antivirus for Mac. We chose the latter, which misses out on the password protection of its bigger brother, as well as mobile device security. However, it’s also much cheaper for a year’s subscription, at £29.97/US$29.95 for one device for a year, available here.

Installation

As mentioned within several of our reviews of antimalware apps, macOS now makes it necessary for the user to click Allow within the security section of System Preferences, in order to authorise the installation of a kernel module that allows the always-on malware protection. Some antimalware apps go to lengths to explain how this is done, because it can be confusing for even technically-inclined users.

Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac simply pops-up a dialog box saying: “Your permission is required to allow Trend micro to protect this computer. Go to System Preferences and click Allow to enable protection.”

This simply isn’t good enough. Nor was the fact that when the app started, it prompted the user to update by clicking the relevant button. Why isn’t this automatic and invisible, as with some other antimalware apps we’ve seen?

Antimalware scanning

The first test was to run a full system scan of our Mac. This completed in about an hour, which is reasonable performance, although the last file to get scanned - a tiny system file of just a few kilobytes - evidently took around 10 minutes. We’re unsure why this was.

CPU usage during the scan varied between 50-90% of four cores utilised, with around 10% of the remaining four virtual cores in use. The computer became very hot but notably the fans never span-up to a whirr, and we suspect this might be what ultimately controlled the speed of the scan - Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac is programmed to complete scans as fast as possible but without creating noise.

According to the app the full scan "thoroughly checks every file on your Mac for malicious software". We were therefore concerned when the scan completed, and we were told that only 843,503 files had been scanned. Other antimalware apps we’ve tested on the same system claimed around to have scanned over two million files.

This is again very odd. However, there was good news when, a little later, we ran another full scan. This time it completed in around five minutes, which indicates Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac knows which files haven’t changed and therefore doesn’t scan them afresh. This massively speeds up the time taken for full scans and therefore makes the user more likely to do them.

There was again good news when we unleashed our 26 malware samples on our virtualised Mac testbed. The clean-up rate was an unambiguous 100%, with Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac spotting the malware very quickly.

Sadly, the pop-up dialog boxes that appeared each time were rather useless, telling us nothing about what happened and instead asking us to click to open the main app window, where the scan log was shown - although this didn’t make it entirely easy to see what had happened either. Even worse, the pop-up notification read “Scan results”, even though we weren’t undertaking a scan. This can only cause more confusion.

Other features

Web protection comes via extensions for popular browsers, and features include not just website protection (i.e. avoiding dodgy sites), but also includes a website filter that can block sites according to certain categories like "Adult" or "Illegal Drugs" (useful for protecting kids), and a social media privacy scanner that checks the privacy settings of any post you’re making or sharing.

FolderShield is Trend Micro’s protection from ransomware, and as with some other antimalware apps it blocks apps that aren’t on the Trusted Program List from writing to the user’s home directories such as Documents or Pictures. Unusually, it also applies this protection to any USB drives you attach, which is very useful considering ransomware has evolved to attack any backups the user has as well as the files on their hard disk.

New to the 2019 update of the app is Camera & Microphone Protection which is less about blocking access to these hardware items, and more about simply warning you when an app does so. While the light appears alongside the FaceTime camera on most Macs whenever it’s used, it’s been theorised that some malware might quickly snap pictures using the camera, and therefore the user may not even notice a brief flash of the LED. This protection should help guard against that.

Verdict

There’s no denying the clean-up rate of 100% is impressive. The additional features such as ransomware protection are also very welcome. However, the odd results when performing a full disk scan, in which only a fraction of the total number of files were reported as being scanned, is a little concerning. This might simply be a bug in the way the scanner counts files, but surely that can’t be any kind of excuse.

Add in the higher retail price of this app and, sadly, we’ve got to come to the conclusion that it’s hard to recommend. This is one example where we would suggest you download the trial version and take the app for a test drive to see how your own results compare.

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