An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part X – Blink Personal Edition

Welcome to the tenth installment in our series on free antivirus programs. Be sure to also see:

  • Part I – AVG Free Edition
  • Part II – PC Tools Free Edition
  • Part III – Comodo Antivirus 2.0 Beta
  • Part IV – Avast 4 Home Edition
  • Part V – BitDefender v10 Free Edition
  • Part VI – EAV Antivirus Suite Free Edition
  • Part VII – Avira AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic
  • Part VIII – Clamwin
  • Part IX – McAfee/AOL Special Edition

Up for review today is Blink Personal Edition. Review version: 3.5.5 (Rule version 1435)

Product link: Blink Personal Edition

The Blink antivirus program is produced by eEye Digital Security, a company more well-known in the enterprise world than in the personal sector. In fact, I was not even aware that they produced a “personal” edition of their software until a reader pointed it out to me (thanks Andy!). Back in 2001, eEye was the first to discover the “Code Red” worm, and their customer list sports an impressive array of companies, including Visa, Harvard University, and the US Department of Justice.

With that in mind, let’s evaluate their free edition of Blink. Like the McAfee/AOL Special Edition, Blink Personal includes an antivirus program, anti-spyware, and a personal firewall. Be sure to download the “free” edition, and not just a trial of the professional version. Unfortunately, the free edition is only available to users in the continental USA and Canada. Other users will only receive a 30-day trial. From their website:

If you are located within the continental United States or Canada your subscription license will be valid for a period of 1 year from the date of activation. At the end of the 1 year license period, you have the option to purchase another subscription to maintain the protection you will have grown to trust.

If you are located outside of the locations noted above, you will receive a 30-day trial of Blink Personal.

Installation – In order to download Blink, you must provide an e-mail address. From what I have been reading, prior versions of Blink required product activation after installation. I am pleased that activation is no longer required. The download is hefty – weighing in at close to 44 MB.

During installation, Blink will ask for a serial number (not required). Without a serial, Blink will activate a subscription valid for one year.

blink_license.png

The verbiage on their website is confusing regarding this (my emphasis added):

At the end of the 1 year license period, you have the option to purchase another subscription….

Does this mean that one cannot simply re-register on their website in order to unlock another yearly subscription, or is this in reality only a one-year free trial? I suspect the former is the case, but I wish they would use the word “renew” instead of “purchase” if they truly intend to offer a “free” version.

A reboot is required after installation.

Interface – Blink’s interface resembles a standard Windows utility, with a navigation panel on the left and a main window on the left. While it is easy to navigate, my main complaint is that the white text on the light background is difficult to read.

blink_main.png

I like the ability to set its running mode to “silent” by right-clicking the system tray icon. This way it will not bother you if you are watching a movie or playing a video game.

blink_silent_mode.png

Updating – Almost every antivirus program I have reviewed so far includes an “update” button somewhere on the main window. Blink, unfortunately, is not one of them. This is not a big deal, but seems like a strange omission to me.

To manually check for updates, navigate to the Tools menu first.

blink_manual_updates.png

Like most every other free program, Blink includes an automatic updating feature. You may choose to have the updater check daily or only on the day/time that you specify.

blink_auto_updater.png

Footprint and Scanning – Blink’s resident scanner only occupies roughly 7 MB of RAM on my machine. When I activated a full scan, Blink’s memory usage unbelievably dropped below 5 MB! Impressive.

Blink offers three different types of scans: Quick scan, Full scan, and a Custom scan. I love the ability to set a scan priority – with the slider set to idle, I could still tell that a system scan was running, but my computer remained responsive.

blink_scan_properties1.png

With priority set to idle, Blink is no speed demon. Running a complete scan on my machine (over 400 GB of files) took just under two hours, making it slower than most competing free programs. Given the added weight of the spyware scan, this is expected (and acceptable). I did not scan with priority set to normal or high.

Curiously, Blink identified part of the open-source 7-zip application as infected with W32/Istbar.CXB. Considering that none of the other antivirus programs that I tested came to the same conclusion, I can only assume this is a false positive.

Types of Protection – The number of features offered is definitely one of Blink’s strengths. The inclusion of spyware detection and a personal firewall puts it in the same league as McAfee/AOL Special Edition. Blink includes:

  • On-access and on-demand scanners
  • Spyware detection, blocking, and removal
  • Online identity protection (anti-phishing)
  • Built-in firewall (includes stealth and passive modes)
  • Computer settings protection (protects applications and the Windows registry)
  • Missing patch protection (for media players)
  • Vulnerability assessment (an awesome tool!)

Like most programs, Blink includes a targeted scan in the “right-click” explorer menu. Performing a targeted scan is a mult-step process. First, Blink will spawn a settings window.

blink_right_click_scan_settings.png

Secondly, a scan window will open that must be closed manually, even if no threats are found. I prefer Avast’s current method – a targeted scan spawns a scanning window, but the window automatically closes if no threat is detected.

The rules-based firewall performs admirably, but will require some tinkering and training, as there are rules available for both applications and the entire system. Many common rules are already in place and can be activated or de-activated with a click of the mouse.

blink_firewall_rules.png

I appreciate the ability to create custom firewall rules with a wizard.

blink_rule_wizard.png

One delightful feature that I have not found in any other free programs so far is the ability to create a Vulnerability Report customized to your system. Upon your demand, Blink will generate a highly-detailed report categorizing any security vulnerabilities by risk (high to low). All information regarding hardware, ports, and services will be displayed.

blink_vulnerability_report.png

I’m a fairly literate guy when it comes to personal computer security, so it damages my pride to say that Blink found five “high-risk” vulnerabilities. 🙂 Fortunately, four of them were related to out-dated media players (such as Quicktime). My fifth vulnerability was related to anonymous access to the registry, something more important in a production environment than in a personal environment. Blink even offers instructions on how to fix any vulnerabilities. Nice!

EICAR TestHere is a link where you can download a harmless test file that should be detected as malicious by antivirus programs. As I’ve mentioned before, it is NOT a real virus. In order to test the effectiveness of a program, I download the EICAR test file to my desktop and start counting to see how long it takes the antivirus program to find it. Sooner is always better than later. Let’s see what Blink thinks of it.

blink_eicar.png

Blink snagged it before it could even touch the desktop. Excellent.

Final Thoughts – Blink is a competent, yet complex, tool. Like McAfee/AOL Special Edition, Blink will appeal to users who do not wish to install and maintain separate antivirus, antispyware, and firewall applications.

Blink does a lot of things well. It’s light on resources, feature-laden, and offers a massive amount of customization. Its Vulnerability Report alone is unparalleled in the free antivirus arena.

However, with power comes responsibility. Blink’s high level of customization also means that it takes a more knowledgeable user to fully harness its abilities. This is not an ideal “install and forget” security package for your grandmother, but more advanced users will appreciate the level of control given to them.

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6 thoughts on “An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part X – Blink Personal Edition

  1. Great documentation! It is very useful. I write because I’m curious about a newborn antivirus called LIA (Little Intelligent Antivirus) which is only 14 months old. Could you evaluate it? I am looking forward to see your review on it. Thank a lot!

  2. I am an unsophisticated user. 1) Can I trust the Blink default security settings? 2) Will Blink interfere with my Firefox and iGoogle gadgets?

  3. I’m wondering how the renewal of the personal license went after the first year (USA/Canada). On eEye download page, it appears to me that the first year is simply a trial period, after that, you need to pay or do you simply renew the free registration status?

    From:

    http://www.eeye.com/html/consumer/products/blink/download/index.html

    “Register now for your license of Blink Personal Internet security with Antivirus. Your copy of Blink Personal is limited to personal and home use, and may NOT be used within in commercial, corporate, or government environments.

    If you are located outside of the continental United States or Canada, register here to receive your 30-day trial of Blink Personal. If you prefer to have protection for more than 30 days, you may purchase Blink Personal from our online store, starting at $24.95.

    If you are located within the continental United States or Canada, your subscription license will be valid for a period of 1 year from the date of activation. At the end of the 1 year license period, you have the option to purchase another subscription to maintain the protection you will have grown to trust.”

  4. Blink Personal Edition is now up to version 4.2.4. A lot of improvements have been made since its prior versions!

    Two of the biggest improvements are:

    1. New Patent Pending ActiveX Protection
    2. Upgraded Norman AV engine

    To see the latest release notes on versions of Blink that are released go to:
    http://forums.eeye.com/forums/13.aspx

    =================================================================
    To answer some of your questions:

    1. After the free one year trial of Blink is up, I have found that if you un-install it completely from your system and then clean your system of any remaining files or registry entries, you can install a newly downloaded copy of the free version and you “should” be able to get another free year out of it. I personally have been using Blink Professional Edition (because you receive support via a Customer Support Portal and trouble tickets that you submit). Personal Edition users receive support via eEye’s Forums.

    2. Blink works fine with Firefox and all of its add-ons, however, eEye designed Blink to provide you maximum protection if you’re using IE – eEye specializes in WINDOWS OS’s and software only primarily. With this being said, they have what is called an “IE Plug-in” (which is not something you will see visually anywhere) however, this allows Blink to scan SSL connections (like a SSL proxy can, but it is not a proxy) and it also gives it the ability to parse out HTML and other scripts in WebPages to identify web based attacks.

    3. The Personal Edition of Blink was designed for the everyday user (if you use its out of box settings), however, Blink truly IMO, fits your knowledgeable users much better. It has the capability to allow someone that is skilled in such area of firewalls and IPS’s to custom create rules, fine tune its detection abilities, and really lock down one’s systems.
    The biggest thing that separates Blink from a lot of the other security suites out there is the fact that it has eEye’s Vulnerability Assessment program (aka “Retina”) built into it. For someone that wants to keep up on the latest patches, fixes, and misconfiguration issues on their system this is a must! For the everyday user, Retina’s report that it outputs may be a bit confusing if they do not understand what it is trying to display and show them.
    Finally, Blink also uses a detection method that most other security suites do not. This method is called “Protocol Analysis”. I don’t mean this either by Blink scans a port associated with a protocol either, I mean it by Blink scans the Protocol itself looking for attacks within it. Most upper end security technologies are able to do this, but it is hard to find such a capability in the applications that are made now days to protect desktop and server platforms.

    To sum things up, quite honestly, IMO you can’t compare Blink with a lot of the other security “All-in-One” suites out there, because it is focused on doing something entirely different. Blink is attempting to protect you from vulnerabilities that exist in software programs and OS’s. It is trying to protect you from the attack vector that delivers the “payload” (i.e. the worm, virus, Trojan horse, rootkit, etc) to your system. It is not concerned mainly with building a wall around the infection once you are already infected; it is trying to protect you from the avenues of attack that deliver the infection. Most of the other security suites focus too much on the “Payload” and the outbound leakage of information after it is already too late! Yes, there is a place for that in security, but with today’s rise of vulnerabilities in software applications (because of sloppy coding and such) these other applications will not protect you. To a lot of people this is difficult to explain, but to someone that understands, it makes a lot of sense. This is why I made the statement that it is hard to compare Blink with the rest.

    You can download the free version of Blink Personal Edition from:

    http://free-antivirus.eeye.com/

    Keep in mind; you do NOT want to stack any other security solution with Blink. Blink is meant to cover all the aspects of the different layers of a systems security. Adding more to this already complex scenario will only give you a headache from a slow system, software conflicts, and so forth.

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