BullGuard Premium Protection 2018 full review

BullGuard Premium Protection 2018 is designed to beef up protection for home networks with the introduction of a new network scanner. With heuristic detection of unknown malware, active identity protection, and a home network scanner, coverage looks good, but there are niggles and some notable omissions.  

Price

BullGuard Premium Protection 2018 costs a very reasonable £69.95/year for a whopping 10 devices, which should be plenty for even the largest family. The next tier down is BullGuard Internet Security for £49.95 (3 devices). This omits the Home Network Scanner and Identity Protection modules, but provides everything else. At the bottom of the pile, there's also BullGuard Antivirus for £24.95 (1 device), which further omits PC Tuneup and backup modules.

At time of writing, you can save 60% on BullGuard's antivirus protection products here.

The Premium version sits well with other AV solutions for the price and features it provides. The nearest rival is probably AVG Ultimate, which also contains a trial version of a VPN, and comes with unlimited installs.

For antivirus buying advice, visit our round-up of the best antivirus.

Features and interface

After installation, BullGuard's new offering for 2018 seems to tick all the expected protection boxes, and adds the new Home Network Scanner, which sadly is only available in the Premium version.

The user interface has a slightly technical feel. Pull-down lists for each category select the required functionality. For example, under Antivirus, you can select three types of scan, examine what's in quarantine, and access settings.

Along with the antivirus module, which mow features advanced heuristic detection of unknown malware, there's a useful vulnerability scanner. This alerts you to missing security updates, insecure connections, and incorrect digital signatures contained within downloaded packages. This is all very welcome, but noticeable by its omission is the lack of a dedicated anti-ransomware module. At a time when data extortion is at epidemic levels, dedicated ransomware protection is becoming standard.

Clicking identity protection (only available in Premium) takes you to your online BullGuard account. Here, you can enter details such as your name, email address, bank and credit card account details, and do on. BullGuard will then search the web for those details so that you know if your data has been leaked. If so, you'll receive advice about what to do next. This is a genuinely useful function.

The Parental Control module allows you to watch your children's use of mobile devices. You can see all the phone calls, messages, and pictures sent and received on a protected device, as well as track its location. At a time when kids have more digital freedom than ever, this should set parental minds at rest.

For gamers, there's nothing worse than popups at the critical moment. The Game Booster blocks these and optimises CPU performance. Except it didn't block Microsoft Mail popups for me. Running on a new gaming laptop, I also noticed no difference when playing the very demanding War Thunder because most number crunching is done by the GPU, not the CPU. Older machines may receive a noticeable benefit, though.

There's also a very useful PC tune up facility that will defragment your registry, clear browser caches, clean up temporary files, and keep your PC starting up and running as fast as possible.

The real star of the show is the new Home Network Scanner. This examines your connected devices (including connected thermostats, baby monitors, and other IoT devices) for vulnerabilities, but this also has its own quirks.

A few days after installation, I started receiving alarming popups from the BullGuard firewall about an attempted intrusion from a local IP address. The messaging centre gives the date and time of the attack, along with the IP address, but little else. I decided to look in the firewall logs.

Because you cannot expand the user interface, consulting the logs is frustrating. You must scroll across to read all the fields, and you cannot add or remove columns, only change their width.

The offending IP address turned out to be the computer on which I'd installed BullGuard! I discovered I could force an intrusion alert at will simply by running a full network scan. It seems that BullGuard sometimes reports its own scans as intrusions. Problem solved; panic over.

Safe links in search results are indicated with a green tick logo appearing next to them. A niggle here is that if your mouse pointer brushes the logo, a BullGuard popup obscures the link. If you happen to catch the logo as I kept doing, and the popup appears just as you click the search result, you will actually click the BullGuard popup, which sends you to the BullGuard web site.

The web site also says BullGuard has received a 100% effective rating from AV Comparatives and AV Test, but says nothing about the other big AV testing authority, SE Labs. In fact, BullGuard does not seem to appear in SE Labs testing results at all.

App

The BullGuard app runs on Android and iOS. The Android version is a non-nonsense offering, and is as simple to set up as installing it and logging into your account. All the usual facilities are here:  antivirus, call manager, parental control, antitheft and cloud backup. The antitheft module allows you to locate the device, perform a remote backup of all data, wipe it and even make it "scream" that it's stolen.

Performance

Compared to its contemporaries, BullGuard Premium Protection 2018 feels slightly sparse in its capabilities. Ransomware detection may be covered by its heuristic scanner, but something explicit, like the data vault of Kaspersky Total Security or the Folder Shield of Trend Micro, would give it a definite advantage for the price and number of parallel installs.