When it comes to picking the right security solution for your PC, you have lots of choices. Do you want to install a free or paid product, and what functionality do you require?
Should it offer more than just antivirus protection, e.g. a firewall or parenting controls, or do you want to go bare bones instead?
Depending on how you use your computer, and which programs you have installed on it that are security related, you may either prefer a complete security solution that ships with everything you could possibly need, or a program that concentrates on malware only.
Bitdefender Internet Security
Bitdefender Internet Security belongs to the first group, which makes it a complete solution when it comes to securing your PC.
Not only does it ship with the necessary tools to keep your PC secure, it also attempts to make things as easy as possible for users who do not want to be bothered by the software a lot.
The program's Autopilot mode, enabled by default, takes care of many of the chores and customization choices, so that you get started with limited interaction. What this means in effect is that the program will run silently in the background for the most part, so that you are not bombarded with constant notifications or reminders. Everything is taking care of by the application.
Users who want full control on the other hand can disable it to customize the security solution to their liking and needs.
As far as installation goes, it is a bit more restrictive than others. You may need to uninstall other security software that may run on your system before you can continue. In my case, it was Microsoft Security Essentials which I had to uninstall before I could even start the installation of the Bitdefender program (the program displays a prompt which you can use to uninstall the program).
Other security software, like the excellent EMET, Sandboxie or Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit were not rejected though.
Some reviewers have noted that you need to register an account before you can complete the installation. This is not the case, as you can skip the account creation during installation.
Bitdefender will install browser extensions to Firefox and Thunderbird, and likely also to other browsers. There is unfortunately no option to skip that step during installation, and you are left with going ahead with the installation, which in turn will close any open program, or cancel the installation of the program itself.
An option to have a say in that would have been very comfortable.
The program's main window looks similar to the company's other products. Its concentration on white and black ensures that the protection status of the PC sticks out, as it is displayed in green, yellow or red depending on its status. Events are also displayed in color, so that you know exactly when your attention is required.
Below that are links to four components of the program, which may also display colored indicators to you. Numbers indicate events, which you can check out with a click on the number or on events directly.
When you first start Bitdefender Internet Security after installation, you may receive a number of event notifications on the screen. The program will for instance scan your PC for known vulnerabilities, usually in the form of missing Windows security updates, and notify you about them.
What is even better, at least in my opinion, is the option to install those updates right from within the program's interface.
Just follow the on-screen instructions to download and install any missing update right from within the Bitdefender application.
Besides checking for updates for the operating system itself, Bitdefender Internet Security will also check for application updates automatically.
It checks the version of installed software on your system, compares it with the most recent version it has stored in its database, and informs you that an update is available if the versions do not match.
The vulnerability scan is part of the antivirus module. You can launch it at any time with a click on the arrow icon next to scan now, and the selection of vulnerability scan from the menu that opens up.
Internet Security will scan for missing critical and optional Windows updates, application updates, and weak Windows account passwords.
Applications seem to be limited to high-profile targets such as Adobe Reader, Flash, Skype, Java, Windows Live Messenger or web browsers such as Firefox
Four program modules are highlighted in the front page, with four additional ones available on the second page. You can either use the arrows on the left or right on the screen to switch them, or the slider at the bottom. A click on the icon next to the slider provides you with the means to change which modules are displayed on the front screen of the application.
By default, Antivirus, Privacy, Firewall and Update are displayed here, with Antispam, Safego, Parental Control and Wallet displayed on the second page.
Dividing the options on two different screens means that you will never have a full overview of all modules at once. If you want to find out if Antispam is turned on or off, you need to use the slider to check it out.
While the Events listing up top notifies you about any pressing matters, I'd personally prefer a view mode where all modules are displayed on the same page so that you do not have to scroll at all. This can be easily achieved by reducing the size of each module on the screen.
A switch below seven of the modules indicates whether its functionality -- or part of it -- is turned on or not. For Antivirus, autoscan is enabled by default, while the firewall switch indicates whether it is turned on or not.
A small icon in the top right corner of each module leads to its settings. Here you can make changes to its behavior and functionality.
Four setting pages are displayed if you open the Antivirus preferences for example. Here you find the quarantine and its settings, can configure exclusions -- files, folders, extensions or processes -- disable vulnerability scan options, or configure the behavior of the virus shield.
If you are lost, or want additional information about a particular setting, use the question mark button in the lower right of the screen to display on-page hints that you can move the mouse over to display additional information. Note that this on-screen help remains active even if you switch pages, which I think is excellent, especially on first launch when you browse all the different pages and the settings to configure the program based on your requirements.
Antivirus is one of the core components of Bitdefender Internet Security. It includes options to perform a quick, system or custom scan, a vulnerability scan, and relaunch in rescue mode which enables you to remove viruses from your system that may not be removed during normal operations.
The quick scan took less than 30 seconds on a modern PC using a fast Solid State Drive as its main hard drive. The full system scan completed in less than 25 minutes
The two-way firewall is as unobtrusive as it can gets. I noticed no interruption of service or online connectivity after installation: everything worked like before which meant that I did not have to configure the firewall at all.
You can customize rules for applications or adapters, check out the network activity in the firewall settings, or enable paranoid mode which displays notifications to you whenever applications try to connect to the Internet.
The developers have added a couple of handy features to the most recent -- 2014 -- version of Bitdefender Internet Security.
Bitdefender Photon for example improves the scanning speed gradually by adapting to the PC. This may be one of the reasons why the suite scores that well in performance benchmarks.
There are other features worth of note. A once-a-week security report summarizes the security status of the last seven days to you. It highlights scans and disinfection as well as other critical information.
Bitdefender Wallet is a virtual wallet that stores important data such as credit card information, personal files or receipts for you in digital format. It can also be used to store website credentials, bank account numbers, pins, emails, and everything else that is sensitive and worth protecting.
Wallet can be used to automatically sign-in to websites, and to fill out other information in supported applications, emails or on websites.
As far as additional protection is concerned, the security software protects your computer from spam, offers an option to bank securely using Bitdefender Safepay by opening all banking sessions in a secure web browser, an USB Immunizer to protect against viruses on USB devices, Anti-Theft technology for laptops, a file shredder to remove files securely, anti-phishing to protect against fake websites and phishing attempts, and chat encryption to protect Yahoo! Messenger.
That's not all though: you do get parental controls, remote management, a search advisor that flags malware and phishing sites in Google and Bing search results, and a personal data filter that protects important data from leaving your computer.
A desktop widget is displayed by default, which acts as an indicator and reminder. It displays the number of events that require your attention, and the scan and firewall activity.
You can disable the security widget under General Settings > General > Display Security Widget.
Independent Test results
How good is the protection? The answer to that is best left to independent tests that test the effectiveness in lab-environments.
AV Comparatives placed Bitdefender third in its Real-Word protection test with a protection rate of 99.7%. Only Panda and Kaspersky Lab scored higher with 99.8% and 99.9% respectively.
The performance test by the same institute puts Bitdefender at the top of the list alongside Avira and Sophos, indicating that it has minimal system impact and is well above the average in this regard.
AV Test, a German security institute awarded Bitdefender Internet Security the highest score of all tested security solutions in the most recent tests it conducted for home users.
The program is one of the best in its class according to those test results, both in regards to protection and performance.
Bitdefender Internet Security is an unobtrusive highly effective security solution for the Windows operating system. It scored very high in independent security tests, has little impact on the performance of your PC -- less or equal than all other suites tested -- and ships with a boatload of features that make your online and local life more secure.
There are virtually no popups or other annoying event notifications that it forces you to deal with on a constant basis, and the Autopilot mode ensures that the software will make decisions on its own without bothering you at all.
All in all, this is one of the best security solutions on the market.