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Best internet security software: Protect your family's data

Best internet security software

Protecting your family and personal information with the best internet security is increasingly important. As technology advances we are moving more and more of our information online. We are communicating online more, using our PC's, tablets and phones to talk banks, share information on social media and providing personal information to official service to verify our identity. It is important that we trust that our details aren't tracked or shared with people who'd use it to harm us. 

Premium security: Bitdefender Total Security 2019

In partnership with Bitdefender

Bitdefender Total Security 2019 has all the tools in Bitdefender’s basic internet security suite, including a password manager and parental controls, plus it includes secure online storage for important files.VIEW DEAL ON Bitdefender

Many people see the problem of internet security escalating with the transition into a 5G network, with many technology companies like HTC manufacturing blockchain phones to bolster their phone's security. So if you want to protect your data, internet security software is going to be increasingly important. 

If our information is stolen, we could be facing loss of privacy, issues with access to our own user accounts and even financial trouble. The best internet security software will help protect your data from fraudsters and your devices from harm. 

To find the best internet security suite we tested 14  programs to see how well each one detects and blocks malware. We also considered whether the software slowed our computer and evaluated the quantity and quality of its advanced security tools. 

Based on what we found, Norton Security Deluxe is the best security software. It does a good job protecting against malware, plus it has an impressive toolset. Add in its minimum of three user licenses, mobile compatibility and 100-percent virus protection guarantee and Norton becomes a great value pick, too. 

More guides for staying safe online:

1. Norton Security Suite Deluxe: Best overall

Norton Security Deluxe - Best internet security

Norton Security Deluxe

Powerful and versatile, Norton's Deluxe package gets our top prize.

100% guarantee to protect against malware
Includes a password manager
Compatible with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices
Missed threats
No designated social media tools
Costs extra for parental controls

Norton Security Deluxe goes beyond basic antivirus protection by including several advanced tools that keep you and your family safe online.

Overall, the program earned high scores for malware detection and protection. During our tests, it blocked sites with phishing schemes and stopped Trojans, rootkits and other malicious downloads.

A few viruses snuck by, even when Norton claimed to have stopped them, which was disappointing. However, the program successfully found and removed these threats during deep virus scans. Norton also displayed warning messages when we attempted to visit websites with known malware links and downloads on them and marked search results when we used search engines, such as Google, to let us know if a site was safe to click through to.

Norton Security Deluxe includes a personal firewall and can run vulnerability scans to prevent hackers from entering your system through your internet connection or outdated software. It also includes a password manager and safe banking tools.

This internet security program comes with a minimum of three user licenses and is compatible with Windows and Mac computers as well as Android and iOS phones and tablets. As such, you can protect multiple devices with one purchase of the program.

2. McAfee LiveSafe: Best Value

McAfee LiveSafe - Best internet security software suite

McAfee LiveSafe

Good virus defender that doesn't break the bank, McAfee offers very good value

Virus protection guarantee
Unlimited user licenses
Perfect in-house malware protection score
Causes some computer slowdown
Doesn’t include webcam protection
Doesn’t check for outdated software

Overall, McAfee LiveSafe is a good program for protecting your computer against threats like Trojans, viruses and ransomware.

It’s also a good value because it comes with unlimited user licenses and a virus protection guarantee.

McAfee found and blocked every threat we used during our in-house testing, and other security testing labs have reported an uptick in McAfee’s detection rates. When a threat starts to download, the program stops it before it gets too far into the process and either quarantines it or immediately removes it from your system. A detailed report of the threat displays the moment it is blocked, or you can view it from the McAfee dashboard later. This report tells you the type of threat the program blocked, how dangerous it was, and webpages and server IP addresses where the same threat has been found so you can avoid visiting them.

When you use a search engine, such as Google or Bing, McAfee places an icon next to each search result to let you know if the site is safe to visit. McAfee LiveSafe also includes parental controls and a password manager.

3. Bitdefender Total Security: Best premium security

Bitdefender Total Security 2019 - The best internet security software

Bitdefender Total Security 2019

For that little bit extra, you get a great security suite from Bitdefender

Great malware detection 
Securely removes all threats
Includes a VPN
Some tools don’t work on mobile devices
Live chat support not available
Doesn’t work well with Microsoft Edge

On top of providing excellent protection against both Mac and Windows malware, Bitdefender Total Security 2019 has a personal firewall to monitor what comes in and goes out through your internet connection.

It also includes parental controls, so you can keep tabs on what your kids see online and set when they can access the internet.

The program’s VPN keeps your search and browser histories hidden so they can’t be logged or tracked. As such, adware can’t create targeted advertisements based on the sites you visit. Bitdefender Total Security also has social networking tools that check links posted online and let you know if they lead to a malicious site.

When Bitdefender finds a threat, it immediately scrubs it from your computer so the malware can’t revive and reinfect your system. The software also provides the most comprehensive protection for all your computers, laptops and mobile devices. The biggest difference between this premium program and Bitdefender’s Internet Security suite is the premium version includes 2GB of online secure storage you can share between all your protected devices.

4. Kaspersky Internet Security: Best mobile protection

Kaspersky Internet Security - The best internet security software

Kaspersky Internet Security

Kaspersky offers a good option for on-the-go security

Compatible with Windows and Mac as well as iOS and Android mobile devices
No online backup storage space

Kaspersky Internet Security is compatible with both Android and iOS cell phones and tablets.

Further, all the program’s tools that work on computers also work on these mobile devices, including its antitheft alerts, password manager and parental controls.

Kaspersky’s parental controls are some of its best features. You can use them to block inappropriate websites by selecting filter categories, such as pornography, drugs or suicide, as well as set when you child can be online and for how long.
The program also earned high scores for malware protection and is simple to install and use. 

The basic Internet Security package comes with a single user license and is comparable with other security suites. Kaspersky offers decent discounts if you purchase multiple licenses at once, which makes the software more cost effective. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include online backup storage, though this feature is available with Kaspersky’s premium program, Total Security.

5. Avast Internet Security: Best gaming protection

Avast Internet Security - The best internet security software

Avast Internet Security

Avast offers good security for gamers

Gamer mode enables automatically
Webcam monitoring costs extra

We are very impressed by Avast Internet Security’s gaming tools, especially its gamer mode, which automatically enables.

When you begin playing a game, Avast Internet Security senses it and suspends some functions so more of your computer’s resources can be used while playing. It also doesn’t interrupt you with pop-up messages, reminders or alerts. However, it continues to work in the background so your computer is protected.

You don’t need to add your gaming sites to a whitelist because Avast automatically does it for you. Each subsequent visit triggers the gamer mode to enable faster so you can quickly start your games.

Avast does a good job of protecting against malware, earning a near-perfect score in our in-house tests. It also uses DNS technology to make sure you land on legitimate webpages instead of fake ones that are designed to look real to trick you into providing sensitive login credentials. Avast offers webcam monitoring and protection, which are helpful features if you’re an avid gamer and spend a lot of time online interacting with other players. However, these features aren’t standard and costs extra.

Once you've picked the best internet security software, there are other things you can do as well to make sure you and your family stay safe online. We've rounded up the best web browsers as a good starting point, while you might also want to take a look at our best internet filter software buying guide. 

Why trust us on internet security software?

We have been researching and testing internet security programs for 15 years. In addition to testing the software ourselves, we monitor the test results from independent labs. We also subscribe to security and IT news outlets and blogs, which means we receive quick alerts about any security breaches or newly discovered malware. Further, our team attends trade shows and conventions specific to computer protection to stay on top of what’s evolving in the industry

Before we started testing internet protection programs, we spoke to several industry experts to learn how most computers are infected with malware. These experts have combined professional experience that spans several decades. Using the information we gathered from these software developers and IT personnel and a professional hacker, we developed our in-house tests to accurately mimic real-life scenarios. We know exactly how each anti-malware program keeps your system clean.

How we tested the best internet security software

We are continually testing all kinds of internet security programs, from antivirus solutions to premium security software and their Mac versions. Recently, we tested these program over a five-month period using 352 live malware samples. We attempted to download threats and visit malicious websites using our internet browsers. These tests simulated real-world attacks and showed us how well each program stops threats from infecting your computer in the first place. Each test was performed a minimum of 12 times on multiple computers using the three most common internet browsers: Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

More than half of the programs we tested earned a malware protection score of 98 percent or higher. In general, the applications had the most trouble with completely blocking malicious sites. For example, some programs recognized and blocked a webpage with a virus download or phishing scheme on it but still allowed us to access other pages on the site. The best programs blocked the whole site, even the unaffected pages, so there was no chance of accidental infection.

After we gathered our results, we compared them to results from several third-party testing labs, including AV-Comparatives and AV-Test, to calculate average scores for virus protection and loss of computer resources. Our results usually mirrored those of other testing facilities.

What is the difference between antivirus software and an internet security suite?

The biggest difference between basic antivirus software and an internet security suite is the number of extra protection tools included with the program. For example, Kaspersky Anti-Virus doesn’t include a personal firewall or parental controls, but the more expensive Kaspersky Internet Security does.

Typically, internet security programs build on the same engine used in the developer’s antivirus software, so the level of protection doesn’t change with the more expensive internet security program. But this isn’t always the case. During our in-house tests we learned that F-Secure Anti-Virus isn’t as capable at stopping internet threats from downloading and infecting our computers as its internet security solution, F-Secure Internet Security. This is because the basic antivirus program lacks secure browsing features that are included with the other program.

One other difference between basic antivirus software and internet security suites is the number of user licenses you get. Most antivirus solutions come with a single license to protect one computer. Internet security suites, however, usually come with at least three licenses, and are sometimes compatible with mobile phones and tablets so you can protect multiple web-enabled devices at once.

What should internet security software come with?

Because internet security programs are a step up from basic antivirus software, they should include several additional malware protection and privacy tools – typically a personal firewall, a password manager and a system vulnerability scanner. These tools give you added protection against hackers and identity thieves who try to sneak into your system by swiping passwords, piggybacking on your internet connection or exploiting out-of-date software.

We spoke with Mitch Stephens, a security consultant with Emagined Security. He suggests that keeping your system and program patches up to date is a good way to stay secure from online threats. Programs, such as ESET and Avast, use vulnerability detection scans to make sure the most recent software versions are installed on your computer, and if not, they provide you with a legitimate link to where you can download the latest updates. Without these patches, hackers and ransomware can take advantage of these weak points and use them to attack your computer.

Parental controls are also good to have. These tools allow you to limit the time your child is online as well as block inappropriate content. They are also good for blocking cyberbullies and predators. Kaspersky Internet Security includes internet filter categories that make it easy to quickly block harmful content, including vulgarity, profanity and violence.

The best internet security software comes with multiple licenses or a single license that can be used to protect multiple computers or mobile devices at once. Sometimes, the only difference between a top-rated security program and the best premium security suite is the number of licenses you get.

How much does an internet security program cost?

Internet security software costs about $80 for a year subscription and should include a minimum of three user licenses. These programs are a step up from basic antivirus software, which costs less but typically doesn’t include advanced tools like a firewall, safe banking features or a password manager. Premium-grade software typically goes one step further to include all the security tools a developer has to offer. For example, Trend Micro Internet Security doesn’t include a password manager, but Trend Micro Maximum Security does. Because premium security solutions have more tools than internet security software and include additional user licenses, they typically cost $20 more.

Full list of the best internet security suites

ProductPriceOverall RatingValueTest ResultsMalware ProtectionsPrivacy ToolsMinimum Licenses IncludedVirus Protection GuaranteeMobile CompatibleIn-House Malware Protection ScoreOverall Malware Protection ScoreEffect on SystemEase of UseRansomware DetectionAntiphishingSpam FiltersPersonal FirewallSecure BrowsingVulnerability ScansUSBGamer Mode EnabledSocial Network ProtectionPassword ManagerParent ControlsSecure DeleteSafe Banking ToolsWebcam ProtectonVPNWeekday Phone Support Hours (Eastern Time)Weekend Phone Support AvailableLive Chat
Norton Security DeluxeView Deal5/59.3101010397%99%100%90%Manual$$$$24/7
Bitdefender Internet Security 2019View Deal5/59109.310399%100%100%80%Manual24/7
McAfee Total Protection (LiveSafe)View Deal5/5109.89.37.3Unlimted100%100%85%80%$Manual24/7
Trend Micro Internet SecurityView Deal4.5/599.81083100%100%80%85%ManualX$5am - 8pm*
ESET Internet SecurityView Deal4.5/58.310108.8199%99%100%90%Automatic$- 5pm--
Kaspersky Internet SecurityView Deal4.5/58.510108198%99%85%90%Manual$5am - 11pm
Avast Internet SecurityView Deal4.5/58.59.8107.51X98%99%85%75%Automatic$$$24/7-
eScan Internet SecurityView Deal4.5/$$Manual24/7
Panda Dome AdvancedView Deal4.5/58.89.8981X97%99%75%65%$Manual$$9am - 5pm*$$
Webroot Internet Security PlusView Deal4.5/59108.37.8398%98%100%80%$24/7-
Avira Internet SecurityView Deal4.5/
BullGuard Internet SecurityView Deal4.5/58.59.5107.3185%92$75%80%Manual24/7
Comodo Internet Security ProView Deal4.5/
F-Secure Internet SecurityView Deal4.5/$$9am - 6pm-