Why Buy an Internet Security Suite?
Editor’s Note: Top Ten Reviews uses test results from the independent laboratory AV-Test as part of our review process for the best internet security suites software. AV-Test looks specifically at protection, performance and usability on multiple versions of Windows operating systems, and it performs these evaluations several times throughout the year. We use the most current AV-Test scores available at the time of our review. It is possible that new AV-Test scores will be released after our review goes live on the site. We will consider these scores during our next review of the best internet security suites software.
The top performers in our review are Bitdefender Internet Security, the Gold Award winner; Norton Security Premium, the Silver Award winner; and Kaspersky Labs Internet Security, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of the top internet security suites.
Antivirus and malware are general terms for internet threats meant to infest and destroy your files, extract your personal information, or freeze your ability to access your system. These threats include ransomware, spyware, adware, rootkits, Trojans and worms. However, viruses are only one area of computer security that you need to be aware of in order to help keep your system and your family safe.
Internet security suites are programs that provide a lot more safety tools than antivirus and antimalware protection. Parental controls, internet filters, firewalls and password protection are all features of the best internet security software and are there to help keep your personal information from being accessed by hackers, stop cyberbullying from threatening your children or prevent questionable content from being accidentally viewed by minors.
All the programs we reviewed include antispam tools that block fast-breaking attacks and are cloud-based, making it easy to quickly update your program during your subscription period to the latest version as more threats evolve and the computer protection of your security program improves to deal with them. They also include tools that automatically scan incoming email and instant messages to ensure nothing harmful is attached that could disrupt your computer.
Here are more features we evaluated while reviewing internet security suites. For more information on the internet threats and solutions available to tackle them, take a look at our articles on internet security.
What We Discovered While Reviewing Internet Security Suites
While ranking our top picks for internet security, we looked at their AV-Test results. AV-Test is an internationally recognized organization that has developed helpful tests of internet security programs that are considered the standard throughout the internet security industry. Several times during the year, AV-Test evaluates 20 to 30 of the most noted internet protection software and scores them based on how well each recognizes current and emerging virus and malware threats, how much it causes a computer to lag, and how often it falsely identifies a legitimate program as a threat.
For our internet security review, we only ranked programs that AV-Test has tested. We evaluated each based on the most recent tests as of this writing, which AV-Test conducted in March and April of 2016 on computers running the Windows 10 operating system. Bitdefender, our best-ranking internet security software, is the only program to receive a perfect score in all three test areas: protection, performance and usability. However, Norton Security, Kaspersky and Trend Micro each scored higher than the overall industry standard.
Detection & Removal Tools
Since computer protection extends beyond virus and malware control, we looked at the additional tools and features each suite includes for detecting and removing internet threats. For example, parental controls with internet filters is a very helpful tool that allows you to block specific websites or filter content from being seen or accessed by certain users in your home, such as your children. Most of the internet security programs we reviewed include these features, along with time controls that let you inactivate internet access during specified times of the day, like when your kids should be doing homework or in bed. McAfee, G Data and Avira all include these parental controls.
Another important tool that only a handful of suites have is a password manager. This allows you to keep your passwords to various programs, such as your bank account and social media profiles, in a secure place on your computer that locks down and does not allow a hacker access to it in the case your computer is compromised. It is also handy if you have difficulty remembering your passwords and need the reminder. Password managers are helpful because hackers tend to first look through unsecured files for documents that may contain passwords to sensitive files and programs. Avast is one of our top 10 that include password protection as part of its internet security suite.
An important feature to consider is social network protection. These tools allow you to see and filter content from social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, so you can be sure your children are interacting appropriately with friends you know instead of inadvertently sharing personal information with strangers. Some of these tools allow you to disable chat features, making it more difficult for cyberbullies to send hurtful and threatening messages to your family members. ESET is one program on our review that includes social network protection.
One growing need in internet security area is protection for mobile devices, such as cell phones. Several of these computer security suites extend internet protection to your mobile devices. However, there may be an added cost to include this feature. Norton Security is among our top three picks and the only one of them to include mobile protection as part of its internet security suite rather than requiring you to purchase an add-on or buy a pricier program.
Help & Support
All of the computer security software we reviewed has email and telephone support available, though the times personnel are available by phone varies. We gave higher scores to internet security companies that have 24/7 phone support, since internet threats don't happen just during business hours. Additionally, we gave credit to programs that have live chat for customer service and offer some weekend phone support.
Choosing a PC Protection Program
In some instances, a full internet security program may not be the best solution for you, especially if the cost is higher than you can afford. You can still invest in a decent program that will block and defend against the most common internet threats. We have reviewed and ranked the best antivirus software solutions that offer basic yet powerful PC protection. We also looked at solutions geared toward specific needs, such as Mac antivirus solutions and antivirus protection for small businesses.
If you already have basic internet security but wish to have access to the more advanced computer protection tools, consider purchasing internet filter software. These programs work alongside your antivirus software and provide the parental controls and content-filtering capabilities to help you keep threats such as cyberbullying and inappropriate content from harming your children.
Our Final Thoughts & Recommendations
An internet security suite is helpful because it has a few more features than basic antivirus software that enhance the security or your computer. We considered the internationally recognized standards of the AV-Test results and looked at important security features that help detect and remove internet threats. We conclude that Bitdefender, Norton Security and Trend Micro have the best internet security suites available, though most of our top picks scored well enough on the AV-Test evaluations and include some of the best defense tools to still be excellent choices for overall internet protection.