Bitdefender Total Security 2019 review

Is this the ultimate security suite?

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Our Verdict

This security suite is accurate, reliable, and stuffed with valuable features. Give it a try.

For

  • Accurate malware blocking
  • Intelligent firewall
  • Reliable spam filter
  • Effective multi-layered anti-ransomware

Against

  • Some bonus tools are a little basic
  • Minor ransomware cleanup issues

Bitdefender Total Security 2019 is a top-of-the-range security suite which includes just about everything you need to protect Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices.

NOTE: Bitdefender is currently running a massive 60% discount on Antivirus Plus. That means the price comes down to just $35.99 (around £27) for the year for up to five devices. 

Installing the Windows build, for instance, gets you antivirus, a firewall, spam filter, malicious website blocking, online banking protection, parental controls, a password manager, file encryption, secure file deletion, PC cleanup and optimization, and more.

Other platforms aren't as powerful, but still deliver all the functionality you might expect. For example, the Android app filters dangerous websites, locks apps, includes privacy tools and anti-theft features, and usage can be monitored and secured remotely via Bitdefender's Parental Controls.

Total Security 2019 also comes with the Hotspot Shield-powered 'Bitdefender VPN'. The free edition only gives you 200MB of data per device per day, making it useless for anything beyond email and very light browsing. Upgrading is good value, though, with the unlimited Premium VPN costing from £29.99 ($39) to cover up to five devices. Buying a one-year Elite license direct from Hotspot Shield costs £71.58 ($94).

New features in this release include Ransomware Remediation, a clever protective layer which detects ransomware activities and backs up targeted files until the malicious processes can be closed. This should avoid the problem you'll sometimes have with other antivirus software, where the ransomware attack might be blocked, but because this took a few seconds, it still managed to encrypt a few hundred files.

Network Threat Prevention is a new technology which aims to prevent malware exploiting vulnerabilities on your device to launch attacks.

Bitdefender's Autopilot system has got smarter, now offering intelligent recommendations on how to optimize protection to match the way you use your device.

A new-look dashboard completes the list of changes, simplifying operations and ensuring the suite is easier to use than ever.

Bitdefender Total Security 2019 is priced to cover multiple devices, and you can get a one-year, five device license for £34.99 ($45) in year one, £69.99 ($91) on renewal.

Adding further devices and years improves the value factor even further, so for example a three-year, 10 device license costs £134.99 ($175) for year one, £179.99 ($234), or £6 ($7.80) per device-year, on renewal.

If you're feeling tempted, then we've good news: Bitdefender Total Security 2019 is available in a 30-day no-strings free trial build.

Setup

Bitdefender asks you to sign up for a free account before you can download the trial of Total Security 2019. This only requires handing over your email address, though, and the account does provide some additional benefits, in the ability to view your device security status from Bitdefender's web console.

We created an account in moments, downloaded Total Security and kicked off the installation process. This involves a lot happening in the background – Total Security scanned our computer during setup to ensure it was clean, then installed the necessary browser extensions – but it all ran very smoothly and with no issues at all.

Launch Total Security for the first time and a simple tour highlights key areas of the interface and explains what they do. Experienced users would probably figure this out on their own, but it's good to have this guidance available for those who need it.

Total Security's nicely designed console gives you speedy access to the functions you'll need most often, with Quick Scans and the VPN just one click away.

A left-hand sidebar organizes Total Security's other tools into Protection, Privacy and Utilities areas, and tapping any of these lists the various functions they contain. Most of these are sensibly named, and if you've ever used another antivirus you'll quickly find your way around, but tooltips are on hand if you need a hint.

If you find a function you like and use regularly – say, maybe the Wi-Fi Security scanner to check the security of your current network – you're able to add this as a shortcut to Total Security's console. You can also replace some of the buttons included by default, so for instance if you're not interested in the VPN, you could swap it with System Scan, or whatever else works for you.

Overall, Total Security offers a polished and professional interface which delivers in just about every area. It's easy and comfortable to use for beginners, but also offers the configurability and control that experts need.

Features

Bitdefender Total Security 2019 supports several scan modes. Quick Scan checks the most commonly infected areas; System Scan examines everything; File Explorer integration enables scanning objects from Explorer's right-click menu, and there's a bootable rescue environment to assist in cleaning the most stubborn threats.

A Manage Scans tool enables creating new scan types to check specific files and folders, as well as configuring how the scan works, and setting it up to run on a schedule, or on-demand only. This doesn't match the expert-level configurability of Avast, but we suspect there's enough power here for most users.

Scanning speeds are decent, with Quick Scans taking around 15-30 seconds on our test computer. Full scans started slowly at 135 minutes to check 335GB of files, but this fell to 43 minutes by the second scan, 30 minutes for the third, and we would expect it to drop further over time.

Total Security comes with a capable spam filter, which automatically added a tab to our Outlook setup. This has only a bare minimum of features, little more than Outlook's own junk filter (blacklists and whitelists, Is Spam and Not Spam options to mark misidentified emails, simple blocking of messages with Asian or Cyrillic characters).

Our brief tests suggested the filter was a little slow at identifying spam, with our email taking three or four seconds longer to arrive (in total, not per message) and be displayed. This probably won't matter a great deal to most people, though, and the filter's accuracy could make it worth the wait.

Of 157 sample emails in our test, 74 of the 77 junk mails (96%) were blocked, while only 1 of the 80 legitimate mails was falsely flagged as spam. This was only a small test, but from what we can see, Bitdefender's spam filter matches the best of the specialist competition.

Bitdefender's firewall works exactly as you would hope, intelligently deciding which apps are safe to allow online, and which really, really aren't. Most people can leave the firewall to do its work, and never have to worry about tweaking a single setting.

But if you're more experienced in the ways of networks, you can take plenty of low-level control, drilling down to the rule level and tweaking settings for protocols, ports, IP addresses and more.

Wallet is Bitdefender's password manager. Along with regular website logins, it's able to store credit card details, wireless network passwords, application logins and license keys, email server credentials and details (server names, ports and so on), and personal details for yourself and anyone else you like (name, date of birth, address, email, phone number(s), and more). Wallet is able to create multiple password databases and sync them across all your Bitdefender-equipped devices.

Total Security automatically installs the Wallet extension on your local browsers (Chrome, Firefox, IE). We found this wasn't as easy to use as top competitors like Dashlane (it didn't add icons to text fields, didn't always capture username and password fields as we entered them, sometimes failed to fill in forms correctly, and couldn't automatically submit forms), but it just about handled the basics, and is a worthwhile addition to the package.

Safepay is another Bitdefender highlight, a secure and isolated browser which protects online banking and other transactions from snoopers – maybe even malware which has somehow installed itself on your system. This worked as advertised for us, preventing screen grabbers and keyloggers from capturing what we were doing, and not leaving any trace of our activities once it was closed.

A Vulnerability Scan checks your system for application updates and critical Windows patches, as well as weak Windows account passwords and simple Wi-Fi network issues. This is a basic tool and couldn't pick anything up on our system beyond a 'weak Wi-Fi security password', but it may be worth running occasionally.

The Vulnerability section also includes a Wi-Fi Security Advisor, but this did little more than list our connected network and tell us more about it (encryption type, authentication type, password strength). Most users won't care about this, and it can't match the network scanning abilities of competitors such as Avast.

A Webcam Protection module gives you control over which applications can access your webcam. This has more options than usual, with settings to block access to all but your chosen applications, block browsers only, or disable the webcam for everything. We tested this with our custom command line capture tool, and Total Security correctly notified us that it was trying to access the webcam, and blocked it when requested.

Bitdefender's Parental Controls feature does a reasonable job of monitoring and controlling your child's digital activities. You're able to block websites by content, restrict application use, block device usage for specified periods (like bedtime) or set a daily limit of screen time which includes both mobile and desktop devices. Android apps enable monitoring who your child contacts by calls and messages, and you can optionally block calls without caller ID.

The parental controls module isn't a substitute for a specialist parental controls application – there's no direct social media monitoring, for instance – but it's better than the usual security suite offering, and covers the basics very well.

Elsewhere, a Utilities section includes a familiar set of PC maintenance tools, including modules to highlight large files, remove disk-hogging junk and optimize the boot process.

Total Security's cleanup options are basic, with CCleaner finding almost twice as much junk on our test PC. The Startup Optimizer is better, with options to enable, disable or delay when individual apps boot, but it's still not a match for the best of breed freeware.

Total Security doesn't have quite as many low-level options and settings as some of the competition, but there are a few welcome touches which are more accessible to the average user.

Bitdefender's Profile system is the best example, where the system can automatically customize its behavior to match what you're doing, perhaps limiting background activity when you're running on battery power, or boosting protection settings when you connect to an unsafe public Wi-Fi network. That works well out of the box, but you can also customize each profile. The power-saving Battery Mode normally kicks in when battery life is lower than 30%, for instance, but you could increase this to 50% or more to gain extra usage time if you wish.

Protection

Bitdefender has a great name for protection, with its products regularly topping the charts with most of the big testing labs.

AV-Comparatives' February to June 2018 Real-World Protection report summarized the results of five individual tests, and as usual, Bitdefender performed very well. The engine blocked 99.8% of threats (that's 1078 out of 1080, to put it in perspective), placing it third out of 18 for overall protection rate, just behind Trend Micro and F-Secure.

AV-Test's Windows 10 tests for April 2018 gave even better detection results, with Bitdefender blocking 100% of test threats.

Our own checks on Bitdefender's malicious website filtering were also very positive, with the company blocking 84% of our test URLs. This is a difficult area to assess reliably, but Bitdefender is certainly better than most.

We completed our review by examining how Total Security would handle a couple of ransomware threats.

The first, a real-world ransomware specimen, was eliminated almost immediately, with Bitdefender Total Security killing the process before it could cause any harm at all.

The second was a custom ransomware simulator of our own. It's about as simple a malware example as you could get, but it's also something Bitdefender would never have seen before, allowing us to see how Total Security would perform when presented with brand new threats.

We ran our test software, and held our breath as it ran for several seconds. We were beginning to think we had defeated Bitdefender's technology, but no – quite suddenly, Bitdefender's engine cut in, and not only killed the test process, but also successfully restored every single file our software had managed to encrypt.

There were some small cleanup issues. The ransomware executable was blocked, but not deleted, and the encrypted versions of our files were left alongside the restored originals (if you started with Important.PDF, you would be left with Important.PDF and Important.Trashed). That's a minor hassle, but not difficult to fix, and on balance we think Total Security 2019 provides capable and effective all-round ransomware protection.

Final verdict

Bitdefender has produced a powerhouse security suite which uses multiple layers of protection to keep you safe from just about anything. If you're looking for a new antivirus, check out the trial build and see for yourself.