F-Secure Antivirus Review

F-Secure has exceptional parental control features, but how does the rest of this antivirus program stack up?

F-Secure is a cybersecurity company based in Finland - as far as we know the "F" doesn't stand for Finland, however.

Poor jokes aside, F-Secure's lineup includes some free tools, such as an Online Scan and a Router Checker. Paid software includes their antivirus suite F-Secure SAFE, their FREEDOME VPN, and Identity Protection services.

Let's take a look at the antivirus suite.

F-Secure SAFE is the only antivirus suite that's currently offered by the company - formerly, there was an entry-level suite for Windows only called F-Secure Internet Security, but new purchases of that software have ceased (support for those who already own it still exists).

F-Secure SAFE, on the other hand, is a cross-platform suite available for not only Windows, but also for macOS, iOS, and Android.

To protect one device you'll pay $49.99 annually. For three devices, you'll pay $69.99, and for five devices $89.99.

Out of these, the $69.99 makes more sense than the $49.99 option - with only one device, you won't be getting the perks of the "My F-Secure" hub (we'll go into more detail below).

First, though, let's take a look at what features you'll get with the standard F-Secure SAFE software.

Features

F-Secure SAFE includes:

  • 24/7 antivirus protection
  • Strong parental controls - limit how long your kids can use their devices, and what types of sites they can view
  • Gaming Mode to stop notifications while you're playing a game
  • Web extension for Chrome and Firefox - steers you away from phishing sites
  • Anti-Ransomware protection

Installation and setup

When you first buy F-Secure, you'll be prompted to set up an account. It's through this account that you'll be able to access your personal "My F-Secure" page.

My F-Secure functions as a central hub for all of your devices. On this page, you'll see an "Add Device" button. When you click it, you'll choose whether you want to add your own device, one of your children's devices, or a friend or family member's device.

This is important to know because, when you set up a child's device, you can modify parental controls from this central hub.

Say you want to install F-Secure on your child's iPhone.

What you'll do is click Add Device, My Child's Device, and then Phone. You enter an e-mail address or if you want to send a text message, a phone number. You then will open the link on that device and install it.

The same goes for tablets.

If you're on a computer, My F-Secure will detect that and download the appropriate executable file when you set up that device.

Here, we'll focus on Windows.

On the first page of the installation, you can opt whether or not to send F-Secure your usage data in order to help them further develop the software.

If you want to do that, press the box then press Accept and Continue.

From there, things should go quickly.

Once installed, you'll get a notification to set up your browser extension.

To do this and ensure you get proper web protection, click "Set up Now" next to the orange alert on the default "Antivirus" page that says "[Your browser] extension is not in use. "

You'll be taken to the "App store" of whatever device you're using (for example, the Chrome Web Store) where you can download and install the extension.

That's all you'll have to do to get everything up and running.

User interface

F-Secure has a very simple UI colored primarily blue and white - it's one of the better ones we've seen, to be honest.

On the left-hand side of the program window, you'll see four buttons: Antivirus, Family Rules, Tools, and My F-Secure. Click these to access each individual tab.

On the Antivirus page, you can initiate a scan by clicking Virus Scan. From this page, you can also access the program's settings (mostly turning features on and off, though you'll get a better sense of what's included by checking out the settings page).

The Family Rules tab includes, of course, parental controls. If you have activated your children's devices through your My F-Secure, you can tweak the parental controls for each on your account page - a link to your My F-Secure page is included under this tab.

Under Tools, you can modify the settings of the scans you perform. App and File Control simply shows you any files that have been quarantined or protected, while under Allowed and denied websites you can enter certain URLs you want to block, or ones the program has flagged as suspicious which you wish to allow.

In the event that malware gets through, you can submit a sample to F-Secure here, too.

Finally, clicking the "Log In" button under My F-Secure will take you to your My F-Secure page, where you can add devices (depending on how many licenses you've already used) and modify parental controls.

What F-Secure SAFE offers

Unlike most other antivirus programs, there are no obvious "Quick Scan" or "Full Scan" options here. You can make scans shorter or faster, though, by going to Tools, Virus Scan options, then clicking Scanning settings from the drop-down list.

Under Manual Scanning, check or uncheck "Scan only file types that commonly contain harmful code (faster)" or "Scan inside compressed files (slower)" as desired.

Even while we had both enabled, the scan didn't take long - less than 10 minutes.

While there is no secure browser, the web extension will block incoming network traffic while you're on a banking or other site where you'll be making financial transactions.

F-Secure offers parental controls that allow you to set a time limit on your kids' Windows computers. On Android and iOS, you can track their location and bar off certain apps.

What F-Secure SAFE does not offer

If you couldn't tell by now, it's in the features department that F-Secure SAFE really lacks.

F-Secure SAFE's most notable omission is that it doesn't include its own firewall - under the Tools tab, by clicking Antivirus you'll simply be redirected to Windows Defender (or the Mac/iOS or Android equivalent).

You also won't get a password manager or VPN, though you can buy a subscription for the FREEDOME VPN separately ($34.99 for 1 year/3 devices, $89.99 for 2 years/7 devices). When there are effective free VPNs out there, it's not really worth it, though it does work on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, fitting in well with F-Secure SAFE's cross-platform capabilities.

Lab results

Tests run by AV-Comparatives found that F-Secure SAFE intercepted 99.3 % of malware, which is good but not great. It also made a lot of false positives - 25.

Recent tests from AV-Test, however, did find that it detected 100 % of malware, both known threats and zero-day results.

Overall, the software has mixed results. We'll have to see if this upward trend continues.

Before we reach our final verdict, let's sum up some pros and cons:

Pros

  • Good detection rate above 99 %
  • Solid parental control features for your kids' phones and computers
  • Simple UI

Cons

  • Lacks some expected features like firewall and VPN
  • Not many extra features compared to other suites
  • Not many advanced settings
  • High amount of false positives
  • The anti-Ransomware protection is exactly the same as that offered by Windows 10 Protected Folders feature

Final verdict

Overall, F-Secure SAFE is a very average security suite, even below average in some respects. We might be able to overlook the fact that it doesn't include a VPN, but the fact that it doesn't have a firewall is more unforgivable.

At the end of the day, the two pillars of Internet security are - at the bare minimum - an antivirus and a firewall.

The antivirus performs well, but not as well as those offered for free by Kaspersky or Bitdefender.

The best thing about F-Secure is the parental controls.

However, it's by far not the only antivirus with solid parental controls, so don't shell out money just for those. It makes sense to buy another suite with parental controls that is more feature-rich and has more consistent malware detection scores, such as McAfee Total Protection or Norton 360.