What Does Heimdal Antivirus Cost?
With the company’s focus on business-style multi-seat installations, it’s not surprising that the base one-year subscription price for this antivirus, $59.95, gets you three licenses. Standalone antivirus utilities from Bitdefender, ESET, and Kaspersky all list at about that price for three licenses. The prices start to separate at the five-license level. Bitdefender goes up to $69.99, just $10 more, while ESET and Kaspersky Anti-Virus cost $79.99 for five licenses. Heimdal tops the list at $83.95.
Want to protect 10 PCs? The price spread widens. That $79.99 subscription price for five ESET NOD32 Antivirus or Kaspersky licenses gets you 10 Bitdefender antivirus licenses. ESET and Kaspersky rise to $129.99 for 10. At $140.95 for 10 licenses, Heimdal’s price is the highest. It’s not an extreme outlier, by any means, but it is the high end of the spread.
Heimdal’s consumer-facing products are going through a name change. Heimdal Next-Gen Antivirus Home, reviewed here, previously went by the name Thor Vigilance. In fact, the installer referred repeatedly to the Thor brand, and the product’s title bar refers to Thor Home.
The product’s main window is divided into two main sections, labeled Thor Vigilance and Thor Foresight. The latter, available as a separate product, is transitioning to the name Heimdal Threat Prevention Home. A third product, Heimdal Premium Security Home, incorporates both of these.
Heimdal’s antivirus includes the expected on-demand, on-access, and on-schedule scans. Theres a button on the main window to launch a quick scan, and another to open the full panoply of scan choices. Those choices include: Quick Scan, Active Processes Scan, Full Scan, Hard Drive Scan, Local Drive Scan, Removable Drive Scan, System Scan, and Network Drive Scan. Most antivirus products stick with a quick scan, a full scan, and a custom scan that would replace all the other scans that Heimdal defines.
On a standard clean test system, the full scan took about an hour and a quarter, just slightly longer than the current average. I always advise a full scan right after installing antivirus protection, on the off chance that you’ve got some pernicious malware lurking. Theoretically, real-time protection should handle any attacks after that initial thorough scan. For suspenders-and-belt protection, you can set Heimdal to perform any of its scans on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
No Help From the Labs
Testing labs around the world challenge antivirus products with real-world scenarios and in-the-wild viruses. I follow four that report their findings every few months: AV-Test, AV-Comparatives, SE Labs, and MRG-Effitas. If a product gets high marks from all or most of these, I feel confident that it’s an effective protector against malware.
Heimdal focuses strongly on the enterprise security space, so I wasn’t surprised at its absence from the consumer-side reports that I track. I did look at each lab’s enterprise-level tests and didn’t find Heimdal there, either. The only results I could locate involved a one-off test by AV-Test Institute from last year, which rounded up security suites rather than standalone antivirus products. The collection of products for testing included Heimdal Thor Premium, now called Heimdal Premium Security Home. That product fared poorly in testing, but this wasn’t the same test I track for all the other vendors, so it doesn’t count.
Heimdal isn’t alone. Fully a third of the antivirus products I track don’t appear in results from any of the four labs. On the other hand, a quarter of them show up in results from all four, many of them with excellent marks all around. My aggregate lab scoring algorithm normalizes all the results to a 10-point scale and combines them for a single result. Kaspersky, tested by all four labs, holds a perfect 10 points. ESET is nipping at Kaspersky’s heels, with a respectable 9.9, while Avast and Norton AntiVirus Plus score 9.7.
So-So Malware Protection
With no labs vouching for Heimdal’s antivirus skills, my hands-on malware protection tests become especially important. Even for a product with plenty of lab results, running real-world tests gives me an opportunity to see the product in action.
Many antivirus products spring into action the moment I open my folder of malware samples, tossing files into quarantine and performing their own style of popup notification. Heimdal didn’t blatantly announce that it found malware, but I could see that something happened. Windows Explorer displayed icons for about half the samples, while the other half just showed blank document icon. When I tried launching any from the latter group, a Windows error message reported “Insufficient system resources exist to complete the requested service.”
I opened Heimdal Antivirus and noticed that the main window reported quite a few infections detected. Opening the list of infected files, I found that it corresponded directly with the blank-icon samples. When I selected all the infections and clicked Quarantine, those files vanished. After that, when I opened separate folders containing ransomware samples and hand-modified samples, Heimdal sent them straight to Quarantine, reporting its action with a tiny transient popup.
Heimdal eliminated two thirds of the samples on sight, including all the encrypting ransomware samples. That seems good compared to products like Malwarebytes Premium and Avast, which don’t scan on sight but rather wait until the sample tries to launch. However, Kaspersky and Bitdefender eliminated 86% of these same samples as soon as they became visible in Windows Explorer, and Adaware hit 90%. On the plus side, when I exposed Heimdal to hand-modified copies of the samples it eliminated on sight, it saw through my trickery and eliminated all but two of them.
To complete the test, I launched each of the surviving samples and noted how Heimdal handled it. Some it totally missed, while it caught others the moment they launched. For still others, Heimdal detected the malware and wiped out some of its traces but left behind one or more executable files. Overall, Heimdal detected 87% of the samples and earned an 8.2-point score, with 10 points being the highest possible. That’s the lowest score among products tested with this set of samples. On the other hand, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Kaspersky, which both get top marks from the labs, also show up near the bottom of this group.
Heimdal bills itself as a next-gen antivirus—it’s right in the name. That being the case, you might forgive it for missing lower-risk malware that was gathered a few months ago. For a look at how each antivirus handles the very latest threats, I start with a feed of malware-hosting URLs spotted by researchers at MRG-Effitas. These are typically no more than a few days old.
The test is simple. I launch each URL in the browser and note how the antivirus reacts. If it diverts the browser to a warning page, denying access to the malware-hosting site, it gets full credit. If the malware download proceeds but the antivirus wipes out the payload during or right after that process, it gets equal credit. Of course, if the antivirus sits on its thumbs doing nothing while the browser downloads malware, that’s worth zero points.
Here, I ran into the main limitation of Heimdal’s antivirus—it doesn’t include browser-level protection against known dangerous or fraudulent URLs. That feature is reserved for Heimdal Threat Prevention Home. It’s not uncommon for security companies to withhold such a feature from their free edition, making it a reward for upgrading. Adaware Antivirus Pro is an example. But Heimdal’s antivirus isn’t free.
The antivirus did detect and quarantine many of the downloaded malware samples. In most cases it did so silently. My only clue was that the download failed with one of several error messages. Checking the activity log showed that Heimdal aborted the download. This antivirus eliminated 74% of the verified malware downloads.
Only a handful of products have scored lower in this test. Even Adaware Antivirus Free, with a similar limitation, managed 86% (its Pro edition pulled that score up to 93%). At the top of the list, McAfee AntiVirus Plus wiped out 100% of the malware downloads using a combination of blocking the dangerous pages and eliminating malicious files. Bitdefender, G Data, and Sophos all managed 99% protection.
See How We Test Security Software
Heimdal Antivirus includes a firewall with both simple and complex settings. By default, it allows all outbound network and internet traffic and blocks all inbound traffic that you didn’t request. Simple!
If you want it to manage network permissions for programs, though, it suddenly becomes complicated. Many personal firewall components include the ability to create rules by asking the user how to handle new connection requests. That process in itself can be confusing. But with Heimdal you’re in charge from top to bottom.
To create a firewall rule, you start by picking a name and the program involved, and choosing the ports controlled by the rule. You define it as a rule that blocks or allows activity, and indicate whether it affects TCP, UDP, or both. Really, if you’re not a network expert you shouldn’t meddle with firewall rules.
In an enterprise setting, having a firewall that falls under the IT department’s remote control is a big plus. For consumers, the firewall doesn’t offer much beyond the built-in Windows Firewall.
As already noted, the browser-level protection boasted by most antivirus products doesn’t appear in this one, being reserved for its sibling threat prevention product. Likewise, this antivirus won’t steer your browser away from phishing pages, those fraudulent sites that mimic banks and other sensitive sites in hopes of capturing your login credentials.
If you choose Thor Foresight on the main window, you’ll see four new panels. Three of them don’t work, requiring an update to the Premium product. Those three have the interesting titles Darklayer Guard, TTPC, and VectorN Detection. A fourth, labeled X-Ploit Resilience, doesn’t need an upgrade.
Clever hackers expend a lot of effort finding security holes in popular programs. And clever developers invariably find a way to patch those holes. But if you, the user, fail to apply those patches, your systems remain vulnerable. X-Ploit Resilience starts by checking for apps with unpatched vulnerabilities. On my test system, it listed Chrome and Firefox as apps that might need patching. When I turned on monitoring for those two, the list changed to show Chrome was up to date, but Firefox needed updating.
To reach full protection, I turned on automatic update for both browsers. Heimdal immediately started updating Firefox. Every user of this product needs to take that initial look at X-Ploit Resilience and turn on monitoring and automatic updates. Just set it and forget it. If you want to see what Heimdal has done for you, click View History.
The inclusion of patch management isn’t unique to Heimdal. Avira Free Security identifies apps needing updates, and its pro edition automates the update process. Avast Free Antivirus offers a similar arrangement. But Heimdal goes beyond these with a feature called One Click App Install. Really, it’s just a short step from updating an app that’s already present to installing an app that isn’t. Heimdal lists over 100 apps, from 7-Zip to Zoom, that it can install for you at the click of a button. And of course, once it has performed the installation it can keep the app updated.
Good, But Incomplete
Heimdal Next-Gen Antivirus Home brings Heimdal’s business-level security technology into the hands of consumers. It handles the basic tasks of an antivirus but lacks the browser-level protection against dangerous and fraudulent sites that forms the core of the separate Heimdal Threat Prevention Home. An advanced system for updating and installing software is welcome, but it doesn’t fill that void.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Kaspersky Anti-Virus routinely take top scores from multiple independent labs. McAfee AntiVirus Plus lets you protect all your devices with a single subscription. Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus is the smallest and fastest of all. Most consumers will find one of these Editors’ Choice-winning antivirus products both more effective and less expensive.