Bitdefender Total Security 2017 review
Bitdefender Total Security 2017 is a comprehensive security package for Windows, Mac OS and Android, all managed from a central web portal. Its core technology regularly scores top marks in independent tests, and it now offers features that will protect users from new and emerging threats, such as ransomware. See also: Best antivirus and free security software
Bitdefender Total Security 2017 review: Price
Total Security is the flagship product in the Bitdefender range, and offers 5-device protection for £59.99 (£69.99 for 10 devices). Unlike comparable suites from other vendors, this includes Android and Mac OS cover.
If you don't need such comprehensive coverage, there's also Bitdefender Advanced Protection for 3 devices (£49.99). This offers most of Total Security's features except anti-theft protection, and is only available on Windows. There's also Basic Protection for £39.99 (3 devices), which also lacks the file shredder and parental controls.
This all compares very favourably to other products. Avast Internet Security weighs in at £139.99/year for 10 Windows PCs (Android or Mac OS protection sold separately). Kaspersky Total Security 2017 is currently £63.99/year for 10 PCs (again, Windows only).
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Bitdefender Total Security 2017 review: Features
So, what do you get for your money? Firstly, installation is fast and simple. The whole process, including a signature update and system scan, took around 20 minutes on a 5-year-old dual-core laptop currently coming to terms with Windows 10. On Android, you simply install the app from Google Play and sign into your Bitdefender account to activate its defences.
For a product with so many features, the interface on both Windows and Android is clean and sleek. The categories you'll use most (Protection, Privacy and Tools) are all well organised. Clicking a category displays its individual modules and tools.
Most users can leave the default AutoPilot protection mode engaged. Website, file, and application protection are all enabled, as is the firewall. This mode also ensures that you're not bothered by intrusive security alerts. These defaults should take care of most things, but to make best use of all the facilities offered, perusing the online manual is highly recommended.
For example, deep down in the settings you can choose from one of several pre-canned security profiles, designed to beef up protection or stop Bitdefender bothering you depending on what you're doing. Modes include gaming, movies, and public Wi-Fi. You can even have Bitdefender decide which mode to use by detecting your current activities.
Credential and credit card management is amply catered for by creating an encrypted wallet, which can be automatically shared among your other devices. Alternatively, each device can have its own. Each wallet has a master password, which is asked for when you log in. Once entered, form filling and log-ins are handled automatically. For extra safety while performing financial transactions, there's also the Safepay browser, which is offered whenever Bitdefender detects you're on a banking site. This is for when you need a secure connection over which to send sensitive data, and a secure browser running in a safe, isolated environment from which to send it.
Bitdefender contains many other useful features. The vulnerability scanner, for example, identifies missing Windows updates, weak passwords, and problems with Wi-Fi security. The latter is always a worry, and the scanner can bring peace of mind.
Bitdefender's web protection module places green tick symbols next to links in search results to indicate that they're safe. Usefully, these also appear next to links on Facebook to show they're safe to click.
There's also the ability to set up a secure file vault, containing all the stuff you don't want anyone to see.
The Bitdefender Android app offers all the usual features you'd find in similar products, such as a malware scanner, privacy advisor, anti-theft features, and web browsing security. The privacy advisor will warn you if it thinks an app is putting you at risk with its permissions, and gives you the ability to uninstall it.
The Android app contains some useful extra touches. You can automatically capture a snapshot of a thief failing to open your phone with the wrong PIN, for example. You can also nominate a second phone from which to send a wipe command to your device. Also included is the ability to assign a PIN to any app as an extra layer of protection and privacy. Bitdefender even suggests which apps should have this measure applied.
Bitdefender Total Security 2017 review: Performance
Overseeing everything is the Bitdefender Central Activity Dashboard. This is a web portal with a clean layout that you can access from anywhere. It gives a simple view of all your devices, alerts, and subscriptions. You can also locate devices, send alerts to locate lost or stolen ones, and lock or wipe them. Alerts can make the device play an amusingly loud Klaxon as well as displaying a message. If you enable parental controls on a device, the Dashboard also lets you track your child's online activity, visited places, interests and social behaviour.
It's not all plain sailing, however. Running the OneClick Optimizer to speed up a Windows system deleted browser cookies along the way, which had the effect of logging out of all websites. Not really what we wanted.
Ransomware is arguably the biggest threat facing online life today. Bitdefender has a dedicated ransomware module, but surprisingly this is inactive by default.
Once enabled, the ransomware module automatically protects files in your Documents and Pictures folders, and any other files and folders you care to add. Attempting to edit a protected file results in a pop up asking if it's OK for the application to do so. Agreeing adds the application to a whitelist. All other software (including ransomware) believes the protected files and folders to be read only.
On Windows, Bitdefender installs a bootable rescue partition so you can scan your computer without Windows (and any malware) running. In testing, however, it couldn't contact its update server via Wi-Fi prior to a scan, and needed a wired connection. That's one black mark. The other is that once underway the scanner estimates the time remaining, which would be great if it didn't dance around the 2-minute mark for hours.
Bitdefender is very proud of the claim that it doesn’t slow the system, and this is true, especially on Android. There's nothing worse than missing a call because an overzealous antivirus product insisted on laboriously testing the phone app before allowing it to run. Opening a new app for the first time might take a couple of seconds longer than usual, however.
Like all antivirus products, there are options for on-demand scanning, and you can also scan individual files and folders by right clicking them. The overall scanning speed is good. We scanned 50GB of data contained within about 31,000 files. This took just over 33 minutes. A second scan to test the product's file fingerprinting abilities took just 9 minutes.
An inbuilt shredder securely overwrites files with random characters before deleting them, thereby rendering recovery utilities useless. You can drag and drop files into the shredder, or right click a file and select it. The shredder is very slow for bulk data, though, taking over 3 hours to shred the same 50GB of data used in the scan speed test.
These criticisms really are just quibbles more than anything. They do little to detract from an otherwise impressive product. The 10-device, multi-platform licence is very generous for the price. You will, however, need to delve into the online manual to get the most from some features.
SHOULD I BUY BITDEFENDER TOTAL SECURITY 2018?
Bitdefender has a fine technical reputation. The new release for 2017 delivers the usual top drawer protection in a simple, no-fuss style, and carries plenty of genuinely useful features. It should be near the top of any family antivirus shopping list.