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Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium review: provides extra protection against sneakier security threats

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is a bit of an oddball. Not a traditional antivirus program as such, it works behind the scenes to provide extra protection, claiming to get at the malware many IS suites don't hit. Instead of using signatures of know viruses, it works only by looking at virus-like behaviour from new software that you introduce to your Windows PC.

It has rescued machines in this reviewer's care on more than one occasion, detecting and removing threats either not flagged up by conventional AV software, or cleaning out those 'hard to shift' attacks.

The new version, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium, is a pretty radical rework of the software. As well as a revised interface, the suite now contains five new technologies: a new heuristics engine, new anti-rootkit protection, Chameleon brute-force start up, malicious URL blocking and a revamped user interface.

This interface could do with being more demonstrative about what the software does, as its understated panels don't even highlight the new core features – the older Pro version offered them all as upgrades, so at least you knew what you've got.

The control panel has a conventional layout, with four buttons at the top, labelled Dashboard, Scan, Settings and History. There's also a link to account details.

The Dashboard sports a large horizontal band, coloured either green or red to show protection status. The screen also includes a Scan Now button, although unlike the free version of the software, protection is active, rather than being confined to manual scans.

The Scan panel offers Threat Scan, Custom Scan and Hyper Scan, the last being a check for anything running actively on your system. Should you be unlucky enough to be hit by malware which tries to prevent user access, Malwarebytes' new Chameleon technology claims to be able to regain control, so you have a better chance of defeating the attack. We couldn't test this aspect so we've no idea if it works.

The Settings panel has ten associated control panels, accessed from a menu down the left-hand side. These give good control over the software and include options for malware and web exclusions, in case of false detections.

We scanned the 50 GB test basket we normally use for testing IS software, and it took 6 minutes 56 seconds to scan 197,811 files. This is over three times as quick as version 1.61 we reviewed at the end of 2012. Repeating the scan examined the same number of files, but in a quicker 6 min 02 seconds.

We also looked at system loading, by comparing file copy times with and without a scan running in the background. There was a 20 percent increase in copy time – from 49 to 59 seconds – with the scan running. This is a low resource hit, compared with many of the IS suites we've examined.

As always with protection software, you only appreciate it when you're under attack. The rest of the time, you want it to stay in the background and not get in your way. This product does this perhaps a little too well. We'd quite like it to flag up when it's doing things, at least in the first few days of use, so you know it's working.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium covers three PCs at a very attractive price and happily runs alongside just about any conventional IS suite. We certainly had no trouble running it alongside the latest Kaspersky suite on the same test machine.

As for its efficacy in detecting and removing Windows malware, this remains unknown; we cannot currently find any independent test lab that has evaluated the software's efficacy in detecting and removing infections.


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