The best internet security software of 2018
These days it's possible to get all sorts of protection for your PC, Mac and smartphone. But where to start? Our list of the best Internet Security software suites in 2018 can help.
The threat landscape has never been so varied and attackers have never been so sophisticated. This means that although our PCs are more secure than they have ever been, it's important to have the right security tools.
It’s hard to buy bad virus protection (especially if you chose them from our list of best antivirus) but many vendors offer packages of the basics plus other tools - such as firewalls and specific protections - that cover PCs, Macs and mobile devices.
But with wildly differing features and pricing it can sometimes be tough to pick the best one.
So if you're looking for some additional protection in the form of Internet Security, then you've come to the right place. Here are our picks
- This is our best antivirus buying guide
An excellent security solution
Bitdefender is a regular visitor to the top of the security charts, and with good reason – it’s lightning fast, exceptionally accurate and boasts a range of tools including secure browsing, a password manager and a very effective spam filter.
In its Total Security guise, it also delivers password management, secure browsing, battery management, VPN (with 6GB monthly allowance), Wi-Fi protection, ransomware protection, system optimisation, file encryption and shredding, and a licence for five PCs, Macs or Android devices (and up to 10) plus an option to get it installed and setup for you, presumably remotely.
The most recent version of the suite is Bit Defender Total Security 2019, which adds Ransomware Remediation, Network Threat Prevention, a new look dashboard and a more intelligent AutoPilot system.
Bitdefender is currently offering a a 50 percent discount which means you can protect up to five devices for £35 a year.
Note these discounts only apply to the first payment, but Bitdefender’s secret is simple: it’s very, very good at what it does.
It even includes a VPN service
Kaspersky is another name you’ll hear mentioned when talking about the top security players, and with good reason. If you look beyond the headlines, the company offers a seriously good protection package
Its Total Security product starts at £27.99 for one device, rising to £42 ($50) per year for five devices, with support for 10 devices and up to three-year subscription.
With Kaspersky Total Security 2019, smarter navigation makes it easier to understand the additional tools beyond the core functionality.
Total Security protects PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices, with very solid security scanning supplemented with file backup and encryption, password management, parental controls and child safety measures, along with privacy protection, including a VPN for trace-free browsing.
A tried-and-trusted household name
At £89.99 or $94.99 per year, the Intel-owned LiveSafe isn’t the cheapest product out there, but it’s particularly user-friendly. There are parental controls and anti-spam, password management and identity protection, website scanning and a guaranteed 100% virus removal or your money back. The licence covers unlimited PCs, Macs, phones and tablets, although as with any such suite the PC gets all the toys while Macs and mobile get a subset of the main package.
A well-known name that's sticking around
Norton Security Premium is usually £79.99 (around $110, AU$150) per year for up to 10 PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices, but at the time of writing it’s just £39.99 (around $55, AU$75) – making it less than half the price of other premium suites.
Once again we have parental controls, identity protection and excellent malware scanning, and there’s also a useful Android feature that warns of dodgy apps – the biggest current source of Android malware. There’s a 100% virus removal guarantee, 25GB of cloud backup and a network firewall, but you don’t get a password manager or any system optimisation tools.
A good security package
Here’s another security suite with big discounts: BullGuard is usually £69.95 (around $100, AU$130) per year for 10 devices but is always available for cheaper. Once again the basic protection is enhanced – you get parental controls, anti-spam, identity protection, 25GB of online backup and automatic upgrades, and BullGuard also offers to warn you about inappropriate content on your children’s social media. There’s no password manager or support for mobile devices, but BullGuard is a solid offering for protecting PCs.
A multitude of tools available
Oh look! Trend Micro is on sale! We’re starting to detect a trend here, and that trend would make us very wary of signing up for any security suite that isn’t currently offering a big discount on the RRP. You don’t want to be the only person who paid full price for a sofa, after all.
Trend Micro’s Maximum Security protects up to 10 PCs, Macs or mobiles for $59.95 or £29.95 per year (it’s usually $99.95 or £69.95), and the suite includes ransomware protection, identity protection, parental controls and a password manager. It also offers PC optimisation tools to speed up sluggish computers.
Going beyond the call of duty
Avast is well known for its excellent free product, and its paid-for Internet Security starts at $47.99 (around £35, AU$65) per year for one PC. In addition to the core antimalware product you get router security, browser clean-up, password management, sandboxed downloads, DNS hijacking protection, secure browsing and anti-spam. It’s a very good product but it can’t help but look awfully expensive when everybody else appears to be offering double-digit discounting.
Rebranded but with the same solid protection
Panda Security’s free tool has its supporters (it’s in our list of the best, for example), offering effective protection against threats but without offering too much in the way of added extras.
Panda Dome (re-branded from Panda Global Protection) alleviates that issue by providing all of the company’s security tools into a single suite. What you get included depends on whether you opt for the Essential, Advanced, Complete or Premium options.
All packages include AV capabilities, firewall and USB device protection, but if you’re willing to pay more you can get parental controls, password managers and even premium technical support. No matter which option you go for, PC, Mac and Android devices are all covered.
Prices range from £26.24 or $35.24 a year for Essential to £89.24 or $116.24 a year for Premium.
Great for a large number of devices
AVG has done well from the freemium model, offering a very good package for nothing in the hope that it’ll drive sales of its paid-for products.
At $79.99 or £69.99 per year for unlimited Windows, Mac and Android devices, AVG Ultimate is good value for money, especially if you’re a small business with lots of different devices.
The suite also boasts one of the fastest malware scanners around – although in independent testing that speed meant it was found to be missing some potential threats.
There’s no password manager, secure browser or parental controls, but it’s a good option for protecting multiple PCs, Macs and Android devices.
Everything including the kitchen sink
F-Secure’s flagship product has three pricing options, to cover three, five or seven devices at $89.99/£79.99, $109.99/£99.99 and $129.99/£119.99 per year respectively.
That’s at the higher-end of the market, but you do get a lot of tools for your money including a private VPN for encrypted connections to Wi-Fi hotspots and to evade geoblocking.
In actual fact, F-Secure Total is two products bolted together: the F-Secure SAFE security suite and F-Secure Freedome VPN. The suite covers Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices, although the Mac component is just virus protection.
What's the difference between antivirus and Internet Security?
Whereas antivirus (AV) software provides a basic level of protection for your system, Internet Security expands on capabilities such as scanning files and software, activity monitoring and vulnerability search with features tailored for Internet use.
Indeed, many Internet Security products are marketed as ‘suites’ because they contain several different programs that can be accessed by a single interface.
These might include a firewall, anti-spam controls, ad blockers, webcam protection, keylogger protection, parental controls and credit card safeguards. There might also be additional protection against web-specific types of malware such as spyware and adware.
However running so many different types of program might mean that Internet Security suites use more of your system resources than conventional AV.
Can I create my own free Internet Security suite?
There are many advantages to purchasing a premium Internet Security suite from a trusted vendor, but it is perfectly possible to create your own modular suite by picking the most suitable free products.
While this might mean you save money, it does mean you have to do much of the work yourself. You will have to identify the best components, whether its virus protection, firewall or backup software, and fix any problems yourself.
The more components you introduce will increase complexity and system resource use. You will also suffer from the pitfalls of using free services such as frequent adverts urging you to upgrade.
Using a premium Internet Security suite means the vendor integrates several services into a single package that can be managed from a single interface. What’s more, they might cover several different types of device and offer different tiers of protection.
What should I look for in an Internet Security suite?
All of the products on this list offer effective capabilities, so the difference is in additional capabilities. If there is a particular type of threat that concerns you, such as ransomware or phishing, check to see if there are specific protections included.
Banking safeguards, firewalls and parental controls are also areas you should consider – especially if there are multiple users on your computer. And of course, you should consider whether you need protection across multiple devices, such as smartphones.
The number of additional features and devices may impact cost though.
Finally, think about usability and the impact on system performance. Do you want a high level of customization or do you want an easy-to-use interface and do you want a program that is capable of fast scans or one that requires minimal system resources?