9 security suites: maximum protection, minimum fuss

We look at 9 of the most comprehensive security suites to see how they rate.

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BitDefender Internet Security 2010

Romania-based BitDefender SRL only has a fraction of the U.S. security market, which is dominated by industry giants Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc. But BitDefender has a solid following in Europe. BitDefender Internet Security 2010 comes at a bargain price of $49.95 for three PCs, which is $10 to $20 cheaper than the prices of most other Internet security suites.

Internet Security 2010 comes with all of the expected bells and whistles; it's a complete suite that includes everything typical desktop users need to secure their systems, from firewall protection to antispam features.

Internet protection

BitDefender's firewall is easy to set up. The product seems to understand what ports and protocols are normally used by a PC, as well as the standard communications performed by common applications. That helps to prevent annoying pop-ups and warnings.

Like most anti-malware products, BitDefender relies on signature files to identify problems. However, the product's B-Have module also runs unknown files in a sandbox to detect malicious behavior. In addition, the company has added another layer of protection called Active Virus Control, which further analyzes programs and blocks them if they misbehave.

The product offers a few nifty features. For example, the integrated Wi-Fi monitor offers a way to see if anyone is trying to connect to your Wi-Fi network or to your PC using a Wi-Fi connection.

The firewall's Game Mode is another plus. Most online games work best when a firewall is disabled; however, users can easily forget to turn the firewall back on once they're done playing. The Game Mode acts like a switch that allows games to function and then returns the firewall to full functionality once a game is over.

Parental controls support multiple users, multiple policies and multiple exceptions, allowing you to set up custom access for each minor that might use your PC.

BitDefender's antispam capabilities work with Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail and Thunderbird; it will analyze e-mail messages and send spam into a "Deleted Items" folder. If you use a different e-mail client, you can use message rules to route obvious spam into a junk folder.


BitDefender Internet Security 2010 includes some major enhancements to improve the ease of installation and ease of use.

Installation and initial configuration use templates to speed and simplify the process. During the install, you choose from four user types (typical, parent, gamer or custom) and three interface levels (novice, intermediate or expert). It basically comes down to what type of user you are -- do you want the product to just do its job behind the scenes, or do you want an active hand in what is happening?

I installed BitDefender using the "typical" and "expert" choices and found the custom interface straightforward to work with. You can change your user type and/or interface level later if you wish.

The interface is laid out clearly and most functions are easy to locate and find -- although it does not offer the same level of polish and integrated help as some other products on the market. For example, BitDefender does not offer context-sensitive help that can drill down farther into definitions of the problem and recommended actions. The interface has features buried under menus and has some elements hidden under submenus. But on the whole, BitDefender Internet Security 2010 should not be difficult to master.

If you do run into problems, the company offers excellent tech support resources. If you need personal assistance, you can call support 24/7 or send an e-mail or instantly connect via live chat with a support specialist. The company also offers a wealth of resources on its Web site, ranging from searchable documents to a user forum.

Performance-wise, BitDefender worked well, although some initial scans were both CPU-intensive (sometimes CPU utilization hit 99%, at other times it was as low as 5%) and time-intensive, taking some 30 minutes to perform a complete scan on my Toshiba notebook. Luckily, the product builds a list of all the "scanned good" files on the system and can skip rescanning those files in the future.

Coming soon

The company is expecting to release a beta of BitDefender Internet Security 2011 sometime around August. Although details are sketchy, users can expect faster scan speeds and improvements in spyware detection that minimize false positives, as well as an antispam component that supports more e-mail clients out of the box.


BitDefender Internet Security 2010 comes in at a lower price than its competitors and offers all of the needed security features for the typical desktop user. However, it lacks the polish of some of the other products on the market.

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