A solid all-round PC security suite with antivirus, a firewall, phishing and web protection and more. It’s a smart choice for Windows users, but if you’ve Macs, mobiles or tablets to protect, Bitdefender’s multi-platform Total Security suite could be better value.
Accurate and reliable antivirus
Parental controls covers iOS, Android and Mac as well as Windows
Stacks of features
Parental controls don’t work well on some platforms
Main security tools protect Windows devices only
VPN limited to 200MB/ day
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Antivirus is essential for every PC, but Bitdefender Internet Security goes far beyond its malware-hunting mandate with a lengthy list of protective extras.
Video and audio protection prevents malware hijacking your webcam or microphone, for instance. A spam filter shields your Outlook inbox. An intelligent firewall makes smart decisions about which apps can go online and which can’t, and parental controls monitor your kids on all their hardware (that’s Android, iOS and Mac devices, as well as Windows.)
Bitdefender Internet Security also gets you the free version of Bitdefender VPN. It's very limited - you're restricted to 200MB data a day and can't choose a location - but, surprisingly, even that's better than some competitors. (Avira's free VPN also doesn't support choosing a location, and only gives you 100MB data a day).
Bitdefender Internet Security: Plans and pricing
Bitdefender Internet Security is fairly priced at $29.99 in year one to cover three devices, though leaps to $89.99 on renewal.
If you’re happy with the core antivirus and web protection features, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is a little cheaper at $23.99 to cover three devices for the first year, $59.99 on renewal.
Bitdefender Total Security adds Mac, Android and iOS protection, and throws in a Device Optimizer to improve performance. It’s only a few dollars more - $34.99 in year one, $94.99 on renewal - but covers up to five devices, making Total Security a better deal overall.
These are decent prices, but there are some competitive deals elsewhere. Norton 360 Standard offers excellent security, includes a full VPN and covers up to 3 PCs, Macs, tablets or phones for $39.99 in the first year, $89.99 on renewal. And Avast One Individual is a quality suite with an unlimited VPN, and covers up to 5 devices for $39.96 in the first year, then $99.99.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Getting started
Hand over your cash, create a Bitdefender account and you're directed to Bitdefender Central, the company's web dashboard. This is where you can view your subscriptions, download the apps you need, and monitor all your devices once they’re properly set up. It's all very straightforward, and we had Internet Security up and running within minutes.
Bitdefender's straightforward interface clearly presents its various features using large icons, with text captions, and simple descriptions to help you understand what to expect from each function. Even security newcomers should quickly find whatever they need.
The interface is surprisingly configurable, too. The main dashboard has a Vulnerability Scan button, for instance, but if you never use this, it's easy to change. Just a couple of clicks and you can replace it with a launcher for the Safepay secure browser, the File Shredder, or something else you're more likely to use.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Antivirus
Bitdefender Internet Security is absolutely stuffed with antivirus features, but as they’re identical with the rest of its range - and there’s much, much more to talk about - we’ll only summarize them here. Read our Bitdefender Antivirus Plus review for a more detailed look.
Bitdefender automatically scans downloads and apps for malware, and allows you to configure and schedule scans, or check files, folders or drives on demand.
Scans can be slow, at least initially. But Bitdefender only scans new and changed files, which ensures they become much faster from the second run.
Bitdefender products are regularly assessed by all the big independent antivirus testing labs. Some recent results show Bitdefender’s rankings dropping just a little, but it’s a mixed picture, and the company still performs well above average overall.
Bitdefender ranks equal 6th out of 17 in AV-Comparatives’ Real-World Protection test, but the positions are based on tiny differences. It actually blocked 624 out of 626 test threats, a pretty decent result, but this time Avast and G Data happened to block 626, earning them first place.
Other results have better news, with AV-Test’s Windows Home User, SE Labs Home User Endpoint Security, and MRG Effitas last 360° Assessment report all detailing 100% protection in at least one of their antivirus tests.
There’s one notable exception, with AV-Comparatives and PassMark finding that Bitdefender had more impact on system speed than average. We didn’t see this on our test PC, but it could be an issue if you’ll be running the app on underpowered hardware.
To make sense of all these results, we created a system which combined them into a single overall score between zero and ten. Bitdefender achieved 9.94 in our own rankings, a decent 6th place out of 15. That’s fractionally behind G Data (9.98), Kaspersky (9.98), McAfee (9.96), Norton (9.96) and Avast (9.95), though ahead of names like Avira (9.93), ESET (9.90) and Trend Micro (9.68).
Bitdefender Internet Security: Limited VPN
All Bitdefender security tools from Antivirus Plus up include the company's VPN, and the website is keen to spell out the advantages: 'With Bitdefender VPN, you can stop worrying about privacy on the web. It protects your online presence by encrypting all Internet traffic.'
This is sort-of true, but there's a very big catch: you only get the limited version of the VPN, which doesn't allow you to choose a location (it automatically connects to the faster server only), and protects only 200MB of traffic a day.
We turned on the VPN and browsed eBay, Amazon and a few news sites to get a feel for how long this might last, and the meter ran out after around 30 minutes. This could still be enough to cover the bare essentials, maybe checking your email or accessing work resources a few times a day over public Wi-Fi, but not much else.
Still, if you can live within the tight data limits, Bitdefender VPN isn't a bad service. It's easy to use, with a decent set of features on Windows (ad and tracker blocking, split tunneling, more.) Our testing found the kill switch does a reliable job of protecting your privacy, stepping in to block your internet if the VPN connection drops.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Web protection
Bitdefender's Web Protection blocks access to phishing and other malicious sites, reducing the chance that you'll be caught out by dangerous links in your inbox or social feeds.
It's a very effective system. We put together a list of 1,033 brand-new phishing links, and Web Protection blocked 88% of them. Avast also has quality anti-phishing, but it couldn't quite match Bitdefender, only blocking 83%.
AV-Comparatives' 2022 Anti-Phishing tests found broadly similar results: Bitdefender came equal first with Avira, each blocking 96% of threats, while Avast followed just a little behind with 93%.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Safepay
Bitdefender Safepay is a secure browser which aims to protect your online banking, shopping and other activities from snoopers. We’re not just talking about external attacks: it also tries to prevent malicious apps running on your own system from monitoring your web usage.
Safepay doesn't support third-party extensions as they'd be a security risk, but it integrates with Bitdefender's password manager, handy for avoiding the need to remember your banking and e-store credentials. A built-in pop-up blocker keeps some browsing dangers at bay. There's also a simple virtual keyboard where you can enter text using your mouse rather than typing, helping to protect you from even hardware keyloggers.
Our tests showed Safepay works very well. Screen capture tools couldn't 'see' Safepay's screen. Our custom keylogger wasn't able to record Safekey keypresses via the device or virtual keyboard. It even prevents leaks via the clipboard: whatever you paste into the clipboard from Safepay, it can't be viewed from any other process.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Password Manager
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Internet Security include Wallets, the same password manager it’s had for years. This has a fair number of features, including capture and autofill for logins, credit card details, identity information and more, but it can’t match the best of the competition. It’s only available as a browser extension, for instance, and you can’t use it to sync your passwords with mobile devices.
The new Bitdefender Password Manager is more powerful, with stand-alone Android and iOS apps along with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge. But unfortunately, it’s not included in Bitdefender Internet Security. After an initial three months free, it costs $1.67 a month in year one, $2.50 on renewal.
Your other option is to upgrade to Bitdefender Premium Security. This includes everything you get in Internet Security, and adds the password manager, the unlimited VPN, parental controls and more. It also protects any mix of up to 10 Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Firewall
Bitdefender's intelligent firewall automatically protects you from port scans and incoming network attacks, and makes smart decisions about which apps are safe to allow online, and which really, really aren't.
The firewall stealthed our device ports without any hassle, leaving us effectively invisible to port scans, a common tool used by many attackers.
To test its app assessments, we dug out three obscure Windows tools which most likely hadn't been used anywhere else in more than ten years, and allowed them to try to connect to the internet. Windows 10 alone allowed all three to get online; Bitdefender blocked two by default. They weren't malware, so arguably that's over-cautious, but on balance we prefer Bitdefender's safety-first approach (and apps can be unblocked in seconds, if Bitdefender raises a false alarm.)
Experts with very specific needs can take full low-level control over the system, creating custom firewall rules with their preferred settings for protocols, ports, IP addresses and more.
Bitdefender exposes this functionality carefully, though, so newbies aren't hit with all the gory details immediately. A smartly designed interface begins by enabling users to block or allow network access for individual apps, for instance, with a simple on/ off switch. The Rule Editor enables setting custom local and remote IP addresses, port and more, but again, you're not hit with all that complexity unless you go looking for it, and on balance it's relatively easy to use.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Webcam and microphone hijacking
A Webcam Protection module gives you control over which applications can access your webcam. A host of useful options include options to block access to all but your chosen applications, block browsers only, or disable the webcam for everything. We tested this with a custom command line capture tool, and Internet Security correctly notified us that it was trying to access the webcam, and blocked it when requested.
The Microphone Monitor takes a more basic approach, raising alerts for apps which access the microphone, but not allowing you to block them, or set up rules to block all future microphone access.
This clearly isn't as useful as it could be, but it's vastly better than most competitors, who typically have no microphone-related features at all.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Spam filter
Bitdefender Internet Security includes a simple spam filter to keep your inbox junk-free. Sounds like a good idea, but the reality is more complicated.
The filter doesn't support web-based email services such as Gmail or Outlook.com, for instance. It only works with the stand-alone Outlook and Thunderbird clients. And even then, it only supports POP3 connections: if you've set up an Outlook account to use IMAP, say, you'll be out of luck.
The spam filter is at least easy to use. Installing Bitdefender extended our Outlook with a custom add-on, which automatically began moving junk mails into its Deleted folder. There's nothing else to do: it just works.
We put the filter through a very quick test, to see how it protected a single email account over 24 hours. The account received 43 emails, seven of which were spam; Bitdefender detected and blocked all seven, but incorrectly flagged four of our legitimate emails as spam.
These four false alarms were all mailing list-type emails, so this wasn't any great surprise; we've seen similar issues with many anti-spam tools. And although the filter has barely any settings, you can mark falsely flagged email addresses as 'friends', ensuring their messages won't be blocked in future.
Overall, as spam filters go, this isn't bad, and if you've an old POP3 account to protect then maybe it'll help a little. But it won't do anything at all for most users or email accounts, and it doesn't add much value to the suite.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Parental Controls
Bitdefender's Parental Controls offer a handful of simple tools to help you monitor and control your child's digital activities. You can block web content by category or URL; set daily screen time limits; see the apps they're using, and block anything unsuitable; check any new phone contacts, or view their location on a map.
(Not all features are available on every platform. In particular, you can't monitor app use, block website types or set screen time limits on iOS devices: you can see your child's iPhone location and contacts list only.)
Setup is much like other parental control systems. Create a profile for your child; install the app on their devices; set up the necessary permissions on your phone (run Bitdefender's Android app as a Device Administrator, say), and you're done: an alert on your own devices tells you that your child is now protected.
Although the app can't easily be uninstalled by your child, we noticed that it was possible on Android to remove some of the permissions, such as Location. That could allow older or more technically-aware kids to bypass some controls.
We pressed on anyway, and headed off to Bitdefender's web dashboard, central.bitdefender.com, where a straightforward console offers easy access to the various parental control features.
Screen time controls allow you to define an overall limit for device usage, with multiple time ranges when devices can't be used at all (bedtime, mealtimes, whenever you like.) This is reasonably flexible, allowing you to set different time limits for every day of the week in ten minute blocks. It also takes account of all your child's devices where Bitdefender is installed (it'll add the time they spent on their phone and the time on their tablet, say.)
These rules are very absolute, though. There's no in-app option to ask parents for an extra 30 minutes to finish homework, for instance, as we see with some competitors. That could be annoying, as although '7:30pm' might seem a good general bedtime for your kids, it might not work out exactly that way 100% of the time, and you might wish for more flexibility.
We were able to launch Task Manager on our Windows device, too, which gave us some opportunities to close parental control components and escape the time limits. But it’s not easy, and if your child is technical and determined enough to make that happen, you’d face similar issues with most parental controls apps.
Bitdefender's app management is a little weak. We weren't able to view the full list of apps on our test Android device, for instance: Parental Controls can only list apps your child has used recently.
Even that won't necessarily work, in our experience. We installed Proton VPN on our test device, played around with other apps, but our parent’s view only ever reported that we'd run Google Play.
Maybe we were unlucky. If you have more success, then the ability to view new apps will be useful, and you can block any you don't approve of. Or, if you want to lock down the phone even more, you can even block Google Play (even our not-fully-working app could do that.) This has some value, but the best parental controls go much further.
Kaspersky's Safe Kids allows you to block access to apps by category (violence, gambling etc), for instance, so you can prevent them installing some of the most harmful. And as well as viewing the full app list, you're also able to limit use by time ('these games can only be used for an hour before bedtime'), or only allow them to be run with your permission, a far more flexible system than anything Bitdefender can offer.
The Bitdefender Central dashboard includes a Locate feature which displays your child's phone location on a Google map. This worked as advertised, and although you can't maximize the map window for a closer look, having access to Google Map's various location details (road names, the names of nearby locations and businesses) is a plus.
Geofencing support enables defining safe areas (school, family and friend's homes) and restricted areas where your child really shouldn't be. This isn't as flexible as we'd like - the areas can only be a circle, the minimum radius is 100 meters - but you can at least use a 'Safe Check-in' feature to get an alert when children enter or leave one of these areas.
At least, that's the idea. We set up a home and restricted area, then walked from one to the other, and back, using our device along the way, but the parent's view didn't display any location alerts at all. It was able to locate our device when we manually requested it, so its Location permission appeared to be set correctly, but it didn't recognize when we moved between areas.
Web content filtering
Bitdefender's Parental Controls supports filtering web content by a larger-than-many 43 categories. The default settings for our test eight-year-old's profile were a little strange, with the app blocking travel and sports sites along with the more obvious porn, drugs and violence, but you can customize these as you like with just a few clicks.
That's the theory, anyway: as with the app controls, web content filtering didn't always work for us. Our Windows system was blocked whatever we did (and we tried multiple browsers, even connecting via a VPN), but on Android, Bitdefender's web dashboard only ever told us 'no website activity recorded' for our test device.
Our test was relatively quick, so it could be that we would have had more success with other devices. But a glance at the app stores suggests there are real problems here. The ratings are absolutely terrible (1.7/5 on the App Store, 2.2/5 on Google Play), and although we're cautious about taking reviews at face value, many repeat that 'it doesn't work.'
Perhaps worse, there's no sign of any effort being made to improve the situation. The iOS app was last updated in May 2021, for instance, and the last new feature named in the Version History arrived way back in December 2019. Looks to us like it's time for the entire module to be replaced with something brand new and more capable.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Bonus features
If you're thinking we've discussed plenty of Bitdefender Internet Security features so far, you'd be right- but browse the menus and there's even more to be discovered.
Anti-tracking support aims to reduce your online tracking when using Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Internet Explorer. It's a decent idea, but the feature isn't enabled by default, and we suspect many users will never realize it's available. Support for Opera, Brave and other smaller browsers would be welcome, too, although if you use the VPN then that also has decent anti-tracking (it blocked 83% of a sample list of trackers in our tests.)
A File Shredder securely wipes confidential files to ensure they can't be undeleted. You can choose individual files from the Bitdefender dashboard, or right-click a file, folder or drive in Explorer and select Bitdefender, Shred. This works, but it's missing some useful features from more advanced shredders. You can't change the shredding algorithm to improve speeds or make the feature even more secure, for instance, and there's no 'shred unused disk space' option to effectively wipe all deleted files..
Windows security apps have a reputation for slowing down your system, but Bitdefender's Profile system aims to help. This automatically monitors what you're doing and changes system and Bitdefender settings to deliver better results. It'll improve performance when you're playing a game, for instance; cut background activity when you're watching movies; automatically apply energy-saving tricks when you're running on battery, or ramp up app settings if you're connected to public Wi-Fi. It's hard to measure the effectiveness of these tweaks, but there are some useful options here, and we're glad to see them included in the suite.
Bitdefender Internet Security: Final verdict
Bitdefender Internet Security’s strong malware protection and stack of valuable security extras could make it a good choice for Windows users. But if you might need to protect other platforms, Bitdefender Total Security adds Mac, Android and iOS protection for only a little more.
Read more Bitdefender reviews:
Mike is a lead security reviewer at Future, where he stress-tests VPNs, antivirus and more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe, and which are best avoided. Mike began his career as a lead software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by big-name companies from Rolls Royce to British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. The early PC viruses caught Mike's attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware, and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.