Start with the all-important protection against malware, add a firewall and some other useful security features, and, voilà, you’ve got a security suite! Comodo Internet Security Complete comes with the expected antivirus and firewall, as well as cloud backup, a VPN, and more. However, the antivirus fared poorly in testing, and the VPN and cloud backup features simply do not work. There are better security suites for your money.
The pricing doesn’t give you any clue that this isn’t a top-shelf product. At $89.99 for three devices, it costs more than many competitors. Bitdefender and Kaspersky Internet Security give you three entry-level security suite licenses for $10 less. Five top-tier Bitdefender suite licenses cost the same as Comodo’s three, and five licenses for Kaspersky’s top-of-the line suite cost $99.99 per year, which is not much more. Norton 360 Deluxe also gives you five licenses for $99.99, which includes a working cloud backup system and a VPN without the bandwidth cap that Comodo imposes. From the start, it’s not a bargain.
The product looks almost identical to Comodo’s free antivirus, and neither has changed appreciably since my last review two years ago. A big rectangular panel represents your security status—green for good, red or yellow if anything needs fixing. Four smaller panels give you quick access to run an antivirus scan, release a program from the containment sandbox, check for updates, or open the Secure Shopping Environment. The only difference is that, in the antivirus, that last panel instead launches Comodo’s virtual desktop.
Comodo also offers a free security suite called Comodo Internet Security Premium. Yes, despite “premium” in the name, it’s free. This suite does include antivirus and firewall protection, along with Secure Shopping, but you don’t get the Cloud Backup or VPN features. You also don’t get the VIP support and warranty offered to paying customers.
Features Shared With Antivirus
Naturally, when you pay for this suite you get every feature that comes for free in Comodo Antivirus. Please read that review for my complete findings; I’ll summarize below.
The independent antivirus testing labs put products through rigorous testing and regularly report their results. I follow four such labs, but only one of them includes Comodo in its latest reports. Products can earn up to 18 points from AV-Test Institute; Comodo scored 16.5. That’s not bad, but F-Secure, McAfee, and Norton took the full 18 points in the latest test.
In contrast with Comodo’s sparse results, eight products I follow show up in reports from all four labs. Among these were Avira, Bitdefender, ESET Internet Security, and Kaspersky, which all earned an aggregate lab score of 9.6 or better, out of a maximum of 10.
Comodo offers a variety of antivirus scan choices in addition to the typical full scan, quick scan, and custom scan. You can scan to see what trust level Comodo’s database assigns to your files. If tough malware resists cleanup, you can run the cleanup-only Comodo Cleaning Essentials. And if even that can’t root out a persistent infestation, you can burn a Rescue Disk on a clean system. The Rescue Disk boots into an alternate operating system, leaving Windows-centric malware powerless.
In my hands-on malware protection test, Comodo scored 9.1 of 10 possible points; that’s decent, but many competitors have done better. On a sour note, Comodo didn’t recognize the five ransomware samples I modified by hand. In theory, its behavior-based detection should have foiled them, recognized or not, but in practice most of them slipped past Comodo’s protection.
The Comodo Online Security browser extension should keep your browser away from dangerous and fraudulent websites, but it didn’t perform well in testing. It didn’t block access to any malware-hosting URLs, and only eliminated 56 percent of the malware downloaded from those URLs. Bitdefender and Trend Micro Internet Security, by contrast, defended against 99 percent of the malicious URLs.
Comodo performed even worse in my phishing protection test, detecting just 10 percent of the fresh, real-world fraudulent webpages. The phishing protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer vastly outperformed Comodo. At the other end of the scale, McAfee Internet Security and Kaspersky scored 100 percent in their latest phishing tests.
By default, Comodo’s containment system, previously called Sandbox, runs unknown programs in a kind of virtual machine, so they can’t do any permanent damage. In testing, it didn’t help at all against hand-modified ransomware samples.
The free antivirus shares several other features with the suite reviewed here. Comodo Dragon is a Chromium-based browser with several useful extensions built in. The Virtual Desktop isolates your programs from the possibly compromised regular desktop, and it emphasizes using Comodo Dragon for browsing. A Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS) limits activities by unknown programs, but it doesn’t protect against exploit attacks the way HIPS does in some products. Advanced tools let you analyze running processes and, if necessary, terminate them in various ways.
One thing that distinguishes Comodo’s paid products from the free ones is an impressive warranty. Comodo promises that if malware gets past the product’s protection, support agents will spend as much time as it takes to remotely remediate the problem. In the unlikely event that the malware comes out victorious, the company will reimburse up to $500 in repair costs. Norton, Check Point ZoneAlarm Extreme Security, and McAfee offer similar guarantees, though they offer a refund, not reimbursement for repairs.
Don’t imagine, though, that you can install Comodo on some nasty, grunged-up PC and then immediately demand reimbursement. Quite reasonably, Comodo insists that you make sure the product is configured correctly, for starters. During the process of activating this warranty, it checks that you have Antivirus, Firewall, Auto-Containment, HIPS, and VirusScope enabled, and that Comodo is configured to log all activity. To finalize the activation process, you must run a full scan and deal with any found threats. After that, once the computer is in a known clean state, the warranty kicks in.
While Comodo doesn’t offer anything like the identity-theft features of Symantec Norton 360 with LifeLock Select, its warranty also includes a degree of help in that area. If your identity is compromised despite Comodo’s protective efforts, the company will reimburse you for costs such as refiling loans denied due to identity compromise, notary and postage costs, and credit reports. It will also reimburse up to $500 per week in lost wages, for a maximum of four weeks.
There’s an overall cap of $15,000 for any incident, a far cry from Norton’s Million Dollar Protection Package, but still more than you get from most companies. In addition, where Norton, McAfee, and ZoneAlarm require you to sign up for automatic renewal if you want a guarantee, Comodo only insists that you configure the product correctly.
Comodo offers its firewall as a standalone free product, one that shares many ancillary features with the free antivirus. With powerful firewall protection built into Windows, we’re no longer convinced that you need a personal firewall, but it does make a nice addition for a security suite.
The firewall component handled all our port scans and other web-based attacks, putting the test system’s ports in stealth mode. That means they’re not merely closed to unauthorized access—they’re not even visible to outside attackers. Of course, Windows Firewall can do the same, so this is more a baseline than an accomplishment.
The other half of a typical personal firewall involves controlling how programs access the network and the internet. Some firewalls rely totally on the user to decide which programs can use the network, blasting out confusing pop-up queries. Others, like Norton, make all their own decisions. Norton automatically configures network permissions for known good programs, exterminates known bad ones, and puts any unknowns under heightened surveillance. Kaspersky’s firewall does something similar, assigning trust levels to unknown programs and putting stringent limits on what untrusted programs can do.
With Comodo’s firewall, the user has many choices—too many, in my opinion. The typical user who leaves all settings at their defaults gets only the simplest application control. Out of the box, the firewall runs in Safe Mode, which filters inbound and outbound traffic, but allows all connection requests without displaying any pop-up alerts. If you enable alerts, you’ll get notified when a new program attempts access, and you can set five distinct frequency levels for those alerts. To cut down the number of pop-ups, you can set it to create access rules for programs that Comodo certifies as safe.
Confused yet? There’s also Training mode, which assumes that all programs accessing the network are legitimate and creates rules to continue allowing them access, even in other modes. After training the firewall, you can switch to Custom Ruleset, which alerts you on any connection that doesn’t already have a rule defined. I could go on. But the average user will leave the defaults in place, meaning no alerts but also not much program control.
Here’s a smart feature: By default, if you connect to any unsecured network, Comodo suggests you secure the connection by turning on TrustConnect, the VPN component. I’ll cover TrustConnect below. You can tweak this behavior to also suggest the VPN when you connect to any public network, even one that’s nominally secure. If you choose the latter, you’ll be protected even when you connect to a network whose owner aims to steal your data. I’ll go into greater detail on the VPN below.
To see program control in action, I enabled alerts and launched a tiny browser that I wrote myself. I got a pop-up query from the firewall, as expected. Most firewalls simply have you choose Allow or Block, with a checkbox to determine whether your decision becomes a rule. With Comodo, you can allow or deny access on a one-off basis, but creating a rule requires that you choose a ruleset for the program from a list of choices that include Web Browser and Outgoing Only, as well as the more useful Allowed Application and Blocked Application.
As noted, Comodo doesn’t attempt to block exploit attacks at the network level, so I didn’t perform my lengthy exploit test. It’s worth noting that Norton detected more than 80 percent of the exploit attacks, blocking them at the network level and identifying many by name. No other firewall or suite has topped that, though Kaspersky came close.
A burglar alarm with a big, accessible Off switch wouldn’t be much use; the same is true of security software with a Registry setting to turn off protection. Comodo exposes no such switch, fortunately. However, I found that I could kill off its processes using a third-party task-kill utility. I can’t see what would stop a malware coder from doing the same. It also let me set the startup type for all its services to Disabled. When I rebooted the test system, Comodo silently repaired those settings, but I’d be even more impressed if it prevented the change in the first place. The best security products, such as Norton, Kaspersky, and Bitdefender Internet Security, are hardened against this kind of tampering.
With the basic Comodo antivirus, you can enter a Virtual Desktop to protect your sensitive activities. Processes in the regular desktop can’t interfere or even see processes running in the Virtual Desktop. Processes in the Virtual Desktop can’t make any permanent changes to the system. If you run a sketchy program and it misbehaves, you just empty the containment system to negate its actions.
The Secure Shopping experience is similar, but without the features needed for running sketchy programs safely. It’s all aimed at protecting your legitimate programs. You shop in a virtual desktop, and Comodo prevents spyware programs and keyloggers from tracking your keystrokes and capturing your screen. It also detects man-in-the-middle attacks and unauthorized remote connections.
To start shopping securely, just click the Secure Shopping icon from the main window. The separate shopping desktop puts all your browsers on the taskbar, for easy access. You can leave Secure Shopping at any time, or flip back and forth between it and the regular desktop. And for super-duper security, you can enter sensitive data using a floating virtual keyboard.
Like the SafePay feature in Bitdefender and Safe Money in Kaspersky, Secure Shopping can kick in automatically when it sees that you’re about to visit a shopping site. But unlike the other two, Comodo doesn’t come with a list of known shopping sites. You must dig into Settings and populate the list yourself. Now when you visit a site on the list, Comodo gives you three choices. Two are clear enough—you can open the site in the Secure Shopping Environment, or continue using the unsecured browser.
The third option, visiting the site with Secure Browser, keeps you on the regular desktop, but applies Secure Shopping technology to the current browser—everything except full process isolation. A blue border identifies the secure browser instance.
I tried visiting Amazon.com in the Secure Browser, but I kept getting an invitation to download a JSON file, followed by another Secure Shopping prompt. I couldn’t use Amazon in the Secure Browser. For another view, I added Walmart to the protected list and tried to go there in Internet Explorer. I got the Secure Shopping popup and chose Secure Browser. When the pop-up reappeared, I again selected Secure Browser, over and over, stacking up blue-edged browser windows.
I don’t really care that much that Secure Browser didn’t work for me. The full Secure Shopping Environment is a better choice. It’s easy to use, you can flip back and forth to the regular desktop if necessary, and it includes a virtual keyboard. It’s just better.
Local security software can’t protect you if an out-of-control self-driving car plows into your computer. Having a backup offsite can be the ultimate in security, if it lets you recover your important documents. This suite offers 50GB of hosted storage for your online backups. Until recently, that was more generous than most, with 25GB being typical. Norton products have broken out of that mold, offering 100GB, 250GB, and 500GB respectively.
Norton’s backup technology comes from Symantec’s own developers. They even sell it as a separate product. By observation, from reading the license agreement, Comodo gets its backup technology from Acronis
Adding online backup is a way many security companies distinguish a top-tier all-included suite from their entry-level security suite, and many put the backup feature front and center. With Comodo, you might not realize you have access to backup until you go exploring. To find it, click Tasks from the home page, select the General Tasks tab, and click Cloud Backup.
When I tried this, Comodo launched an installer for the backup system. However, the installation failed, repeatedly, citing a corrupted install package and offering to try again. I tried rebooting, and I tried running a repair install on Comodo itself, but nothing helped.
There’s a button right on the main window for Live Support; I clicked it and quickly connected with a GeekBuddy support expert. My expert was responsive and knowledgeable. Alas, what she knew was that there is an overall problem with Cloud Backup right now, and that developers are working on it. She couldn’t give me any kind of timeframe for a fix.
So that’s it. As of right now, you simply don’t get the promised Cloud Backup.
Like maintaining online backups, using a virtual private network, or VPN is a kind of outside-the-box security technique. Your local security suite can’t do a thing to protect your data once it heads out into the wilds of the internet. Using a VPN encrypts your traffic as it travels to the VPN company’s servers, protecting it from meddling by others on your same network, even by the owner of the network.
The TrustConnect VPN feature is even more elusive than the backup system. It doesn’t show up on the main window, and only appears in Settings on the firewall page, where you can choose to have Comodo suggest using the VPN when you connect to a risky network. A link on the desktop included items like Status and Connect/Disconnect in its right-click menu, but choosing them had no effect in my testing.
Poring over the online help, I learned that I had to log into my Comodo account online to set up TrustConnect. I eventually found a link to download the Windows client. After a lengthy installation, I had to dig up my license key to activate the service, but I eventually got it installed and running.
TrustConnect’s interface is minimal, consisting mostly of a notification area icon and its menu. I chose Connect from the menu, but found that my IP address didn’t change, meaning the VPN was not active. Checking the log, another menu choice, I found the message “Unable to retrieve server list.” Indeed, when I opened the minimal advanced options dialog, the list of available servers was empty there as well.
Once again, I turned to GeekBuddy for support. Once again (believe it or not) I learned that the feature in question is “having an issue” and that developers are working on it. Right now, you don’t get VPN protection.
Even if TrustConnect had functioned, I would still have some issues with it. The version you get with the suite has a bandwidth cap, 10GB per month. I will admit, it’s common for security companies to offer a limited VPN as a suite component. Both Bitdefender and Kaspersky put a bandwidth cap on the included VPN; lifting the cap requires an extra payment.
However, the VPN that you get with Symantec Norton 360 Deluxe is much more robust, and doesn’t have any limits on bandwidth. Panda’s current products all include a VPN component; at the very top tier, Panda Dome Premium, you likewise don’t have a bandwidth limit.
In the realm of dedicated VPNs, you can use AnchorFree Hotspot Shield Elite for free if you can accept a cap of 500MB per day, which is about half again what Comodo gives you. And ProtonVPN doesn’t cap usage by free customers at all.
If you need a VPN—and, trust me, you do—don’t rely on Comodo. Choose a security suite like Norton 360 that puts no limit on your VPN usage, or check our roundup of the very best standalone VPN products. As noted, even some free VPNs give you more bandwidth than TrustConnect.
Surprising Performance Impact
As you’ve seen, Comodo doesn’t include the vast array of features found in, say, Bitdefender Total Security, and some of the features it promises simply don’t work. Some might consider it a saving grace if at least the suite kept a light touch on system resources. If it’s not doing a lot, at least don’t get in the way of other processes, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Comodo.
It had little to no effect on my file system performance tests, which is good. But my boot time test took 82 percent longer with Comodo installed. Naturally that’s not a one-off measurement. I average many runs on a blank test system for a baseline boot time. Then I install the security suite and repeat the test. A product’s score is simply the percent difference between the two times.
As you can see in the chart, Bitdefender, Norton, Trend Micro, Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete , and several other suites put no measurable drag on the boot process. Only two recent products, AVG and Avira, increased the boot time more than Comodo. Note that this isn’t the first time Comodo has slumped in my performance tests. Two years ago, it did even worse.
It’s true that most of us reboot only when forced to by an update or similar need. Comodo didn’t slow day-to-day file operations the way some of its competitors did. Even so, five recent products showed no slowdown at all in any of the three tests, and Comodo’s average impact is among the worst.
A Product in Disarray
What’s wrong with Comodo Internet Security Complete? Did all the developers get called off to work on Enterprise-level products? We’ll probably never know, but it’s definitely not anything you should purchase as it stands. The core antivirus only has certification from one independent lab. In our own tests, its scores ranged from decent to dismal. And its touted behavior-based protection completely failed to protect against hand-modified ransomware. On top of that, two of the big-ticket suite-specific features, Cloud Backup and TrustConnect VPN, just didn’t work in testing.
If you’re looking for an entry-level security suite, you’ll do much better with Bitdefender Internet Security or Kaspersky Internet Security, our Editors’ Choice products in that field. Both cost less than Comodo, and all their components work. For just a little more than Comodo’s price, you can get five licenses for Symantec Norton 360 Deluxe. It’s an Editors’ Choice for cross-platform security, with fully functional cloud backup and VPN components that outstrip what Comodo offers.
Note: These sub-ratings contribute to a product’s overall star rating, as do other factors, including ease of use in real-world testing, bonus features, and overall integration of features.
Parental Control: n/a