F-Secure Safe 2018 full review
F-Secure Safe 2018 is an antivirus solution aimed at families. It has a small but essential set of useful features, but we found that some technical difficulties made it tricky to use. Read on to find out more about F-Secure Safe in our full review.
F-Secure Safe has a range of pricing depending on how many devices you need to cover. At the low end is 3 devices, which comes in at £59.99/US$69.99 per year. Unusually for a domestic product, you can order up to 25 licences which drops the price per seat. There is a free trial available, too.
For families needing to secure a handful of devices, the price is comparable with other products we've reviewed, which you'll find in our round-up of the best antivirus 2018, but the features and problems encountered during its use may make users look elsewhere, which is a shame.
On first installing F-Secure Safe, it started to run its Cleanup Tool. This sweeps the system for harmful files and apps before it installs the main product.
Creating a known baseline for the system is a good idea, but unfortunately, clicking the Accept and Scan button resulted in a second screen telling me that there was a problem with the downloaded databases.
I was advised to restart the Cleanup Tool and try again, but the only scans available post-installation are Virus Scan and Full Computer Scan. Re-installing from scratch didn't result in a second attempt to run the Cleanup Tool, either.
That wasn't the only problem. After installation, I received an email telling me I could now install the Freedome VPN (see also: Best VPN services). I downloaded and installed it, but when I came to enter my username and password to register it, I was told there were no licences available.
At this point, I'd installed F-Secure Safe on a laptop and an Android tablet, so there should be three licences free out of the initial five. My online account said there were in fact only two left, because it counted the re-installation to try to get the Cleanup Tool to run again as a third installation.
Freedome has a support tool, which I ran expecting to be able to submit a ticket to F-Secure support. Running it only resulted in being told that a .7z file had been generated and placed on my desktop.
You must install the open source 7Zip archiving utility to read such archives, but many home users would not know that. The file contains several folders with technical and system information spread throughout.
There is free online support chat, which is good, and support phone numbers for each country, but an email address for people who prefer a less interactive form of engagement is also needed.
Another niggle is that the browser protection add-on isn't enabled by default. The main interface invites you to set it up, but clicking the relevant button only results in a help page that goes into technical detail about how to manually check that add-ons are enabled.
OK, so there are issues, but what about the product itself? Well, behind the interface is a small but essential box of tricks.
The Deep Guard technology has a distinctly next generation feel, which goes some way to make up for the previous technical problems. The reputation of the applications you run is checked against a cloud database to ensure nothing dodgy runs on your machine. If an app is not in the database, Deep Guard monitors its operation for the telltale signs of malware, and stops it if any are detected.
The Family Rules module allows you to set sensible total time limits and bedtimes on laptops and Android devices so your kids don't spend all day every day playing games and surfing the web. You can also filter content to just kid-safe stuff. The range of content types to block allows you to create profiles suited to individual family members.
Once browser protection is engaged, surfing to your bank or other financial institution results in some web sites and applications being blocked while you're logged in. This is to prevent web-based tricks used by hackers to access your account and steal your money.
You can also submit a file or a URL to F-Secure for deeper scanning and a verdict on whether its safe or not. Additionally, if you find a bug or a vulnerability in an F-Secure product, you can report it and possibly earn money for your efforts.
The mobile app isn't as well-featured as comparable products, but all the essentials are here. Family Rules enables you to limit the accessible content and usable time for your kids. There's also a Finder module to help you locate lost or stolen devices.
The Finder also allows you to sound an alarm on a stolen device, lock and unlock it, and perform a remote wipe. Finally, there's an app privacy report, which shows you if any software is potentially slurping off more information than it should.