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 premium 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 premium security suites software.
The top performers in our review are Bitdefender Total Security, the Gold Award winner; Kaspersky Lab Total Security, the Silver Award winner; and Norton Security Premium, 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 10 best premium security suites.
The biggest difference between premium security suites and internet security suites is the number of tools included. Some companies give some functions, such as a password manager and social network protection, to both, while others only include them in the higher-priced premium suites. All premium internet security suites include antivirus protection, a section that is independently tested by software lab AV-Test.
Most of the features that premium security suites include in addition to antivirus and internet security suites have equivalent stand-alone utilities that you can buy from various developers. However, purchasing these utilities separately often costs much more than purchasing them as part of the premium internet security tier available.
What We Evaluated While Testing the Best Premium Internet Security Software
The most important part of a premium internet security suite is how well it protects your computer from malware threats. After this, the best premium security suites in our review include all the best features to extend protection beyond basic virus blocking. Here is more in-depth information on what we looked for as we reviewed premium internet security suites.
AV-Test is an independent laboratory whose sole focus is testing antivirus software. While it tested very few premium suites during its last round of evaluations on Windows 10 machines, this information is still very important and valid, since the antivirus software is the basis of the premium computer security program. This lab also tests internet security solutions on other Windows operating systems and on Mac test computers. For our evaluation of the best premium security suites, we looked at the March and April 2016 Windows 10 results.
Most of the programs we reviewed received perfect or above-average scores in protection. This means the antivirus portion of the program detected and blocked over 22,000 known malware threats and more than 100 more viruses that were so new they had not yet been identified and listed in the malware database. The lowest performer for protection is McAfee. Its antivirus program was unable to sufficiently stop many threats, earning it the lowest score for protection in our premium security suite review.
Another important test is the usability test. AV-Test uses this to evaluate how often a security program mistakes legitimate files as malware and blocks you from accessing them. AV-Test used over 1.2 million websites, applications and files to see how often a program would give a false positive. Most of the programs in our review scored above average, and those that dipped a little only had a couple more false positives than the industry standard of three. In addition to our best internet security programs, Trend Micro scored perfectly in both protection and usability.
The third test AV-Test conducted determines how much of your computer's resources the antivirus program uses while running. While there will be a bit more lag with premium internet security suites, the basic test is a good way to compare solutions across the board. eScan and G Data used the most resources and caused the most slowdown in the Windows 10 test computer of programs in our review. However, in both cases, the most lag tended to occur while copying files. The test computers ran fine while accessing popular websites, launching software programs and installing software.
Detection & Removal
In a product category where every program provides antimalware, antiphishing, email protection, safe browsing, antispam and antispyware, we consider additional features a must for a program to be counted among the best premium internet security software. One important feature we looked for was the ability to identify and block ransomware. This new malware threat is unique in that it holds your computer hostage, so you are unable to access anything on it until you pay a fee to the attacker. Often the creator takes the money and still leaves your computer locked and very difficult to fix. We were surprised to learn that not all premium internet security program recognize ransomware. Avira is one of the programs that does.
Another important feature we looked for is a firewall. While your Windows operating system comes with basic internet security that includes a firewall, research has shown it isn't very effective at protecting your system. A third-party firewall, such as the one included with BullGuard Premium Protection, seals any holes in your basic firewall and adds another layer of protection, making it more difficult for malware to break into your computer.
A less common but important feature included in the best premium security suites is a virtual keyboard. This feature lets you enter your password into online fields for email, bank and credit card access without using your actual computer keyboard. This makes it more difficult for internet hackers to swipe your password and use it to access financial, email and other sensitive information to steal your identity. F-Secure is one of the four products in our comparison that include a virtual keyboard.
Some software programs include the same features with both their basic internet and premium internet suites. The biggest difference between the two programs is the number of licenses included with the purchase price. Both Kaspersky's and Trend Micro's internet security programs come with three licenses, while their premium suites come with five. McAfee, however, regardless of the internet protection program you purchase, comes with unlimited licenses so you can protect all your devices, including cell phones and tablets, for the length of your subscription.
Parental controls are another important inclusion for premium security protection. These tools allow you to monitor your children's online activity. You can block their access to specific content or websites, which is important for protecting your children not only from viewing inappropriate content, but from accessing legitimate-looking websites that have malware embedded in their links, making your computer more susceptible to these threats. Parental controls, such as those in Norton Security, also allow you to place time restraints so you children can only access the internet during allowed time frames and for the length of time you designate.
Help & Support
Because your computer is always vulnerable to threats, it is important to look for a premium security suite that offers extended support hours, preferably 24/7 tech support, so you can connect with support personnel whenever you experience a problem. Most of the services we reviewed have 24/7 access and even live chat support, so you can connect with a live person for assistance rather than wait for an email response to come.
Our Recommendations for Premium Security Suites
For protecting your Windows computer or laptop, premium security suites offer more protection and features than basic antivirus or internet security software. Most of the suites in our review scored average or higher for recognizing and protecting against both known and unknown malware threats. Additional features, such as a firewall, parental controls and ransomware protection, are all important for premium protection. We found that Bitdefender, Kaspersky Labs and Norton Security have the most security features available, include protection for multiple devices, and scored perfectly in both protection and usability, making them our top picks for the best premium security suites.