THE TOP SEVEN SUITES REVIEWED TO KEEP YOUR PC SAFE AND SOUND.
ALTHOUGH OPERATING SYSTEMS have become progressively better at security, hackers and virus writers always seem to be a step ahead.
If you want real security, you have to go to a specialist — and that’s what a suite offers. It’s a set of tools made by a company that specializes in stopping threats, and it’s still absolutely the case that a security suite offers much more protection than you’ll get in your default OS or from free tools. What’s more, and just as importantly, having a suite subscription also gives you access to expert tech support — someone to talk to when things go horribly wrong.
The most notable change in suites this year is the now near-universal anti-ransomware support. The current suites can often be set to monitor key directories for modification, and put a stop to it if it happens.
Some also have file locker capabilities — the ability to designate a specific directory that cannot be modified at all without passing a security check. This prevents unauthorized apps (ie. ransomware) from encrypting and deleting your files.
Other than that, we’ve started to see more use of cloud-based management, especially of parental controls. Instead of having to manage every device attached to the licence by going to it directly, cloud-based management tools let you change settings and trigger scans using a portal website. You don’t ever have to physically access the device. Even among top suites, it’s not yet universal, however.
Below, we’ve looked at our seven current favourite suites, based on both features and anti-malware performance.
HOW WE TESTED
Each of the suites reviewed here has been comprehensively tested by independent antiviral analysis company AV-Test (www.av-test.org).
Published here the latest results available at the time of writing, from December 2016.
Note that the results are not, in all cases, from the specific products we’ve reviewed below. For example, we may have reviewed the full suite where AV-Test may have only tested the stand-alone antivirus application, or we may have a product that has been updated since the tests were performed in December. That doesn’t change the validity of the results, since the same anti-virus engine is in use. Let’s break down what the numbers mean: * Protection against zero-day malware attacks is a measure of the suite’s ability to detect new viruses based on their behaviour. It’s perhaps the most important number here.
* Detection of prevalent malware shows the detection percentage of known viruses released in the four weeks before the test.
* The performance impact ratings give percentages by which the suite slows down a mid-range PC when performing common tasks.
* False warnings is the number of instances where the suite flagged legitimate software and websites as a threat and either blocked it or produced a warning popup.
For convenience, AV-Test also provides three overall scores, rating each suite’s protection, performance impact and usability out of six, to give a total score out of 18. (Usability, in this instance, is not a reference to ease-of-use, but is based on the number of times the program produced false popups and blocked legitimate software).
We should note that AV-Tests aggregate scores are based on combined November-December performance, while we’ve only printed December results due to limited space.
While we’ve provided an extended table of results, we don’t have room here to review every antivirus product tested.
We limited ourselves to the suites that we currently think are the top picks based on both their test results and features.
SECURITY SUITE BUYER GUIDE
SOME OF THE KEY THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A 2-IN-1
WHAT TO LOOK FOR AND BE AWARE OF WHEN SHOPPING
FOR A WINDOWS SECURITY SUITE.
This should include either a file locker or file monitor (or both).
These tools deal with one of the biggest current problems — monitoring files for modifications and/or locking files preventing modification.
IDENTITY THEFT AND ANTI-PHISHING TOOLS
These tools stop you from visiting fake sites and revealing information about yourself that you shouldn’t.
MANAGED AND CLOUDBASED PARENTAL CONTROLS
A new feature in many suites, cloud-based parental controls let you monitor and manage kids’ internet access without needing to access their devices directly, managing it on a website instead.
A PASSWORD MANAGER
So you can make and remember proper passwords.
A VPN SERVICE
Several suites now have this — a way to stay anonymous online and to protect yourself when you’re on public Wi-Fi networks.
Remember to check how much data per month you get with it.
A SECURE BROWSER FOR ONLINE BANKING
These privacy browsers are designed to prevent snooping when you’re conducting financial activities online.
This checks for updated versions of your apps.
BACKUP, POSSIBLY INCLUDING CLOUD BACKUP
The best defence against theft, ransomware and hardware failure.
A few suites come with cloud backup (check how much storage you get if they do).
CLOUD MANAGEMENT TOOLS FOR MULTIPLE DEVICES
A common feature of business security tools has now come to some consumer products. These services let you manage the security on devices attached to your account through a web browser, rather than having to go to the devices individually — ideal if you’re managing remote PCs or just have a lot of devices in your house.
This protects your files in case your device is lost or stolen.
Encrypted files cannot be read without a password, even if the hard drive is removed.
A SYSTEM CLEANER AND OPTIMISER
These system utilities remove junk from your startup sequence and registry (for faster bootup and operation) as well as clean document and internet histories.
TABLET AND SMARTPHONE PROTECTION
Many Windows security suites now include licenses that will let you download security apps on your mobile as well — such as password managers or (on Android) anti-malware scanners.