Our computers are more secure than they’ve ever been, but unfortunately the threats they face are more sophisticated than ever too. That means security software isn’t just a nice thing to have; it’s essential, especially on Windows PCs.
As more of us move to multiple platforms, security suites have moved too – and you’ll find that some big-name suites now offer to protect not just PCs, but Macs and mobile devices too. It’s hard to buy a bad security suite these days, but with wildly differing features and pricing it can sometimes be tough to pick the best one. These are our current favourites.
Don’t want to pay a penny? Here’s the best free antivirus software
Bitdefender is a regular visitor to the top of the security charts, and with good reason – it’s lightning fast, exceptionally accurate and boasts a range of tools including secure browsing, a password manager and a very effective spam filter.
In its Total Security guise it also delivers password management, secure browsing, battery management, Wi-Fi protection, ransomware protection, system optimisation, file encryption and shredding, and a licence for five PCs, Macs or Android devices. Not bad for £59.99 (around $75, AU$95) per year. Bitdefender’s secret is simple: it’s very, very good at what it does.
Kaspersky is another name you’ll hear mentioned when talking about the top security players, and with good reason. The company’s Total Security product starts at £32 (around $40, AU$50) for one device, rising to £48 (around $60, AU$75) for five devices, with support for 10 devices setting you back £64 (around $80, AU$100) for a year’s coverage in each case. Pay for two years and you’ll get a bit of a discount at the lower-end of the scale, or a substantial one for the top-tier offerings.
Total Security protects PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices, with very solid security scanning supplemented with file backup and encryption, password management, parental controls and child safety measures, along with privacy protection, including a VPN for trace-free browsing.
At £89.99 (around $110, AU$145) per year the Intel-owned LiveSafe isn’t the cheapest product out there, but it’s particularly user-friendly. There are parental controls and anti-spam, password management and identity protection, website scanning and a guaranteed 100% virus removal or your money back. The licence covers unlimited PCs, Macs, phones and tablets, although as with any such suite the PC gets all the toys while Macs and mobile get a subset of the main package.
Norton Security Premium is usually £59.99 (around $75, AU$95) per year for up to 10 PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices, but at the time of writing it’s just £39.99 (around $50, AU$65) – making it less than half the price of other premium suites.
Once again we have parental controls, identity protection and excellent malware scanning, and there’s also a useful Android feature that warns of dodgy apps – the biggest current source of Android malware. There’s a 100% virus removal guarantee, 25GB of cloud backup and a network firewall, but you don’t get a password manager or any system optimisation tools.
Here’s another security suite with big discounts: BullGuard is usually £69.96 (around $85, AU$110) per year for 3 PCs, but it’s currently £27.98 (around $35, AU$45). Once again the basic antivirus protection is enhanced – you get parental controls, anti-spam, identity protection, 25GB of online backup and automatic upgrades, and BullGuard also offers to warn you about inappropriate content on your children’s social media. There’s no password manager or support for mobile devices, but BullGuard is a solid offering for protecting PCs.
Oh look! Trend Micro is on sale! We’re starting to detect a trend here, and that trend would make us very wary of signing up for any security suite that isn’t currently offering a big discount on the RRP. You don’t want to be the only person who paid full price for a sofa, after all.
Trend Micro’s Maximum Security protects up to five PCs, Macs or mobiles for £41.97 (around $50, AU$65) per year (it’s usually £69.95 – which is about $85, AU$110), and the suite includes ransomware protection, identity protection, parental controls and a password manager. It also offers PC optimisation tools to speed up sluggish computers.
Avast is well known for its excellent free antivirus product, and its paid-for Internet Security starts at $49.99 (£40, AU$65) per year for one PC. In addition to the core antivirus/antimalware product you get router security, browser clean-up, password management, sandboxed downloads, DNS hijacking protection, secure browsing and anti-spam. It’s a very good product but it can’t help but look awfully expensive when everybody else appears to be offering double-digit discounting.
Panda Internet Security starts at £39.99 (around $50, AU$65) per year for one device, although inevitably it’s on sale: the current price is £29.99 (around $35, AU$50), rising to a discounted £97.49 (around $120, AU$155) for unlimited devices.
As with most security suites the main tools are for Windows, with additional apps for Mac, iOS and Android; although unusually the three-license option only allows one Mac installation. At this level you get antivirus, Wi-Fi protection, parental controls, backup and data protection as well as smartphone location and Android antivirus – but if you want file encryption, file shredding and PC tune-up tools you’ll need to move up a level to Global protection. That starts at £38.49 (around $50, AU$60) for one PC, rising to £129.49 (around $160, AU$210) for unlimited devices.
AVG has done well from the freemium model, offering a very good antivirus package for nothing in the hope that it’ll drive sales of its paid-for products. At £69.99 (around $85, AU$110) per year for unlimited Windows, Mac and Android devices, AVG Ultimate is good value for money, especially if you’re a small business with lots of different devices.
The suite also boasts one of the fastest malware scanners around – although in independent testing that speed meant it was found to be missing some potential threats. There’s no password manager, secure browser or parental controls, but it’s a good option for protecting multiple PCs, Macs and Android devices.
F-Secure’s flagship product has three pricing options, to cover three, five or seven devices at £79.99 (around $100, AU$130), £99.99 (around $120, AU$160) and £119.99 (around $145, AU$190) per year respectively.
That’s at the higher-end of the market, but you do get a lot of tools for your money including a private VPN for encrypted connections to Wi-Fi hotspots and to evade geoblocking. In actual fact, Total Security and Privacy is two products bolted together: the F-Secure SAFE security suite and F-Secure Freedome VPN. The suite covers Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices, although the Mac component is just antivirus.