A run-of-the-mill internet security suite will protect your PC from most web threats, but that simply isn't good enough for discerning users. In our ultimate security group test, PC Advisor and independent lab AV-Test assess nine of the best suites.

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2009 security suites: what's the best security software?

With attacks on your PC increasing in frequency and sophistication, it's more vital than ever that you use effective security software. The best protection, as our tests of the latest all-in-one suites show, can thwart the nastiest viruses, spy- and adware and phishing schemes.

In the early days of computer malware, you could get by without antivirus software simply by surfing carefully. Today's crooks love nothing more than to discover a nasty zero-day security flaw, for which there's no defence, then infiltrate otherwise benign and popular websites with hidden, malicious programming designed to attack that flaw. While relatively uncommon, such tactics can ensnare even the most cautious surfer. Today, you need protection.

PC Advisor got respected independent testing lab AV-Test.org to put nine comprehensive internet-security suites through the ringer. Its researchers poked and prodded, surfed and scanned, until one of the contenders - Norton Internet Security 2009 - came out on top.

Symantec's suite did an excellent job, starting with an overall malware-detection rate just short of 99 percent. It has an attractive and well laid-out interface, and its automatic updates send new malware signatures to your PC every few minutes.

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The designers also incorporated cloud computing, with on-the-spot online checks to supplement local scans. Yet another feature compares new programs on your PC against a database of known apps, a step meant to improve the suite's performance by preventing it from scanning safe programs.

Harnessing the immediacy of the internet is a trend this year. The F-Secure, McAfee and Panda packages all use online checks to detect new malware more quickly, without waiting for a scheduled signature update.

Although Norton deserves its top spot, it isn't for everyone. Norton can't perform backups, for instance, while four other suites here can. And while its detection rate is very good, it isn't the best - Avira wins that accolade. It's also pretty pricey.

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