ALTHOUGH THEY MIGHT seem like a relic, having a security suite installed is more important than ever. The protections built into your operating systems — be they Windows, Mac, iOS or Android — just aren’t enough to comprehensively protect you and your family from the many and varied internet threats.
Although this might seem like a tax on owning a computer (and a hassle to boot), there is some good news.
First, suites do more than they ever have before, and include conveniences like built-in password managers, parental controls, software version checkers, VPNs and backup systems — so their utility extends well beyond protecting you from hackers and malware.
Second, it’s absolutely possible to get a free suite now, although as you might expect, it won’t be as good as a paid solution. Below, we’ve looked at our favourite suites in three different categories: best overall, best for families and best free. The best overall is the suite that we think offers the best feature set, as well as provides excellent protection from malware. The best family suite is the one we think will work best for you if you have to manage the security of other people (especially kids and seniors), as well as yourself. And the best free suite is what it says on the tin: the most value you can get without paying a cent.
Each of the suites reviewed here has been comprehensively tested by independent antiviral analysis company AV-Test (www.av-test.org). We’ve published the latest results available at the time of writing, from December 2017, below. We’ve included results for most of the major products tested by AV-Test, not just the standouts we’ve reviewed.
Note that the results are not, in all cases, from the specific products we’ve reviewed. For example, we may have reviewed the full suite where AV-Test may have only tested the standalone antivirus application, or we may have a product that has been updated since the tests were performed. That doesn’t change the validity of the results, though, since the same antivirus engine is in use.
Let’s break down what the numbers mean:
* Protection against 0-day malware attacks is a measure of the suite’s ability to detect new viruses based on their behaviour. It’s perhaps the most important number here.
* Detection of widespread and prevalent malware shows the detection percentage of known viruses released in the four weeks before the test.
* The performance impact ratings give percentages by which the suite slows down a mid-range PC when performing common tasks.
* False warnings is the number of instances where the suite flagged legitimate software and websites as a threat and either blocked it or produced a warning popup.
For convenience, AV-Test also provides three overall scores, rating each suite’s protection, performance impact and usability out of six, to give a total score out of 18. (Usability, in this instance, is not a reference to ease-of-use, but is based on the number of times the program produced false popups and blocked legitimate software).
We should note that AV-Test’s aggregate scores are based on combined Nov-Dec performance, while we’ve only printed December results for space reasons.