Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) review

Bitdefender Internet Security does everything a suite should, and does it without bombarding the user with queries and alerts. It's a big package, but its performance impact is no more than average. It's definitely a good choice.
Photo of Bitdefender Internet Security (2014)

Everybody needs an antivirus, or better yet, a security suite, but not everybody wants to deal with the day-to-day minutiae of managing that suite. For hassle-free protection, Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) offers Autopilot mode. With the Autopilot on, the suite takes care of just about every security event on its own, without asking you what to do or even popping up a notification. You’re free to look at recent events at your own convenience; a small number shows how many unread events are pending. Best of all, this near-silent protection proved to be very effective in PCMag’s tests and independent lab tests.

The suite’s main window looks almost exactly like that of Bitdefender’s standalone antivirus. Both reflect overall security status using a green, yellow, or red banner across the top, both signal events pending review with a small numeric indicator, and both display four panels at a time representing significant security components. The antivirus has six panels: Antivirus, ID Theft Protection, Privacy Control, Safego, Update, and Wallet. To these, the suite adds Firewall, Antispam, and Parental Control. You can re-order the panels so that your favorite four are the ones that appear at startup.

Like the antivirus, Bitdefender Internet Security comes with an optional desktop widget that’s compatible with Windows XP through Windows 8. The widget reflects overall security status, flags any pending notification events, and graphically reflects firewall and antivirus activity.

Shared Antivirus Protection
The suite’s antivirus protection is exactly the same as what you get from Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (2014). For full details, please read that review. I’ll summarize here.

Installation troubles on three malware-infested test systems were solved by a full scan using Bitdefender’s Rescue CD. The install-time scan on a fourth system damaged critical Windows files, rendering the system unbootable. The Rescue CD offers a full-scale operating environment; I used it to gather information requested by tech support and to run fix-up scripts that they supplied in return. With the test system repaired, I proceeded to finish installation.

Bitdefender detected 83 percent of the malware samples and scored 6.6 points, the best score among products tested using my current set of malware samples. Tested using my previous collection, Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus 2013, Norton Internet Security (2013), and Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 all also earned 6.6 points. For a full explanation of this test, see How We Test Malware Removal.

Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) malware removal chart

Challenged to protect a clean test system, Bitdefender blocked access to the download URLs for an impressive 91 percent of my samples. When I tried to install already-downloaded copies, it detected 92 percent of them and scored 9.0 points. TrustPort Internet Security 2013 and G Data InternetSecurity 2014 also scored 9.0 points. With 9.4 points, Ad-Aware Pro Security 10.5 outscored all products tested against this same set of samples. To understand just how I perform this test, please see How We Test Malware Blocking.

Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) malware blocking chart

Bitdefender’s technology gets top marks from all of the independent testing labs that I follow. Its aggregate score is the best of all current security products. The chart below summarizes the latest test results. See the article How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests for a more detailed explanation.

Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) lab tests chart

Shared Privacy Protection
Phishing websites try to steal your login credentials by masquerading as financial sites or other sensitive sites. Many security products attempt to detect and block such sites; few are effective. In testing, Bitdefender’s detection rate beat that of consistent antiphishing champ Norton by three percentage points. Only McAfee Internet Security 2013 has done better in recent tests. For an explanation of how I obtain the freshest phishing sites and score this test, see How We Test Antiphishing.

Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) antiphishing chart

Like the standalone antivirus, Bitdefender’s suite can prevent transmission of user-specified personal information via Web forms or email. Probably the best use of this feature is to enter your home address, phone number, and other too-personal information, and then set it to block transmission by Limited or Standard account. That will keep the kids from over-sharing.

A very basic form of credit monitoring comes with your Bitdefender subscription; a $14.99/month Premium subscription is also available.

Other Shared Features
The new Bitdefender Wallet feature offers very basic password manageme7nt. It will capture login credentials for sites that use a simple, normal login format, and it will fill in those credentials when you revisit the site. You can view and edit saved credentials, but you can’t organize them into categories, sort the list of websites, or search for specific information.

Wallet will also store an eclectic collection of important data: contact information, email account configuration details, credit cards, and more. You can view this information, if you have the master password, but Bitdefender won’t use it to fill Web forms, nor will it sync between multiple installations.

When you visit a financial site, Bitdefender’s Safepay will offer to open it in a hardened snoop-proof browser. You can also open any arbitrary site in the Safepay browser. Wallet is accessible within Safepay, in case you need to copy out stored bank or credit card data.

Bitdefender’s Autopilot mode is designed to take care of all security issues without popups, alerts, or other user notifications. Just so you know it’s actually working, it now issues a detailed Security Report once a week, with inline links to fix any reported problems.

Among the other useful security features shared by the suite and the standalone antivirus are: Safego, which secures your Facebook account; a vulnerability scanner that reports problems like missing Windows patches and weak passwords; Yahoo Instant Messenger encryption (with other Bitdefender users); and a secure deletion File Shredder.

Tough Firewall
In Autopilot mode, you won’t see any popups from Bitdefender’s firewall. It does track what programs are using your Internet connection, and it monitors unknowns to make sure they’re not abusing that connection. But even if you turn off Autopilot it handles almost every security decision on its own. If you actively want the opportunity to allow or block access for new programs, you’ll have to dig into the settings and turn on Paranoid Mode.

Bitdefender didn’t bother to block my leak test programs from accessing the Internet, since they don’t have any malicious payload. When I enabled Paranoid Mode it did detect a couple of them. It did correctly put all ports in stealth mode, making them invisible from the outside, and it fended off all of my port scans and other Web-based tests.

By default, Bitdefender’s Intrusion Detection System runs in Permissive mode. I cranked it past Normal to Aggressive mode, which among other things blocks “Internet Explorer leaks.” In this mode it caught all but one of the leak tests. Given that this protection is available, I’d recommend the Aggressive setting.

Malware isn’t going to get past Bitdefender’s defenses by disabling the firewall, as it’s fully armored. I couldn’t terminate its processes, disable its services, or make any changes to its Registry settings. In every case, I got “Access Denied.”

I attacked the test system using about 30 exploits generated by the Core IMPACT penetration tool. For this test I left Paranoid mode turned on, and set the Intrusion Detection System to the Aggressive level. It turned out that I didn’t need to do that. Bitdefender blocks a bit over half of the exploits, and in almost every case the same malicious URL blocker that handles phishing sites blocked access to the exploit URL. In a couple cases the antivirus kicked in to wipe out a file dropped by the exploit.

Bitdefender managed exploits better than many. However, when I tested Norton in the same way it blocked every single exploit.

Accurate Antispam
Bitdefender’s antispam module needs next to no configuration. It can block messages written using Asian character sets (on by default) or Cyrillic character sets (off by default). If you don’t speak a language that uses these character sets you’ll eliminate a lot of spam by turning on both of these filters.

Bitdefender filters incoming POP3 email and integrates with Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Thunderbird. For supported email clients, it automatically moves spam messages to a special Spam folder. Those using another email client can take advantage of the fact that it marks spam messages both in the subject line and in the header to create a message rule.

Within a supported email client you can use Bitdefender’s antispam toolbar to mark any message that was misfiled as spam, or mark spam messages that got through into the Inbox. You can also add a message’s sender to a whitelist or blacklist. For testing purposes, I didn’t use these features.

I tested the spam filter with about 5,000 messages from a real-world spam-infested email account. It let just 2.6 percent of undeniable spam into the Inbox, better than any other recent suite. Only dedicated antispam programs have done better in this test. While Bitdefender did toss 1 percent of valid personal mail into the Spam folder, I noticed a pattern. All of the rejected valid messages involved discussions of making email and phone calls anonymous, or of the stopwatching.us initiative that seeks to limit government spying. Interesting!

The chart below shows how thoroughly Bitdefender beat out competing suites in my antispam test. For full details on how I perform this test, please read How We Test Antispam.

Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) antispam chart

Web-Based Parental Control
You manage parental control for all of your Bitdefender installations, including Android installations, via the My Bitdefender online console. For each child, you start by entering the name, age, and gender; the age you enter will be used to pre-configure which website categories the content filter will block.

Bitdefender lists each user account on each device you’ve registered, so you can identify which ones are used by this child. It’s smart enough to omit user accounts like Administrator and ASP.net, and also omits any account that’s been assigned to a different child profile.

The parental control system will block access to websites matching 44 distinct categories, up from 30 in the previous edition. You can accept the age-related presets or make your own selection. In addition to a database categorizing known sites, Bitdefender performs real-time analysis to fine-tune the categorization process. Parents can also blacklist specific sites or block sites that contain specific keywords.

New in this edition, the parental control system can block secure (HTTPS) websites, so a clever teen can’t evade parental control using a secure anonymizing proxy site. It also filters HTTPS traffic. I demonstrated this by turning off blocking of the Web Proxy category and attempting to visit illicit sites through a secure anonymizing proxy. Bitdefender blocked the naughty sites regardless.

Parents can define a weekly schedule of hours when Internet access is permitted for each child. Even if the child has the Administrator access needed to change the system time, Bitdefender won’t be fooled.

The parental control system monitors instant messaging traffic, as long as it goes through Yahoo Instant Messenger. Parents can blacklist specific contacts if necessary, and filter out specific keywords. Note, though, that as soon as you start blocking contacts your child can simply switch to another IM service, or use Yahoo’s web-only IM client.

From the online portal you can view all of the programs your child has used recently, and optionally block access to any program. I was surprised to find that simply making a copy of a blocked program allowed me to get around the ban; my notes show that this wasn’t possible in the previous edition of the program.

For Bitdefender installations on Android phones, parents get a list of the child’s texts and phone calls, with an option to blacklist any specific phone number. Unlike the IM blacklist, this blacklist has teeth; most children don’t have the option to just switch to another phone.

Enhanced Facebook Monitoring
Facebook monitoring in the current edition is significantly expanded, though it still requires installation of a Facebook app on the child’s account. Parents who hold their child’s Facebook login credentials can install the app directly; there’s also an option to email the child an installation link.

The Facebook report lists privacy problems such as making one’s email address or birthday visible to all. Parents can view a list of recent posts or comments that include questionable content, as well as a list of the child’s Facebook groups and likes. Bitdefender can display all friends or limit the list to those with suspicious characteristics like no picture or no friends in common. There’s also an option to view all of the child’s photos, arranged by album. If your child uninstalls the Bitdefender Facebook app, you’ll get an email notification.

With more website categories, control of HTTPS websites, and enhanced Facebook tracking, this edition’s parental control is an impressive upgrade.

Average Performance Impact
Bitdefender’s PhotON technology, introduced with the 2014 product line, “revolutionizes the way your computer gets scanned and monitored without bogging it down.” That may well be so, but in my simple performance tests the current edition averaged about the same as last year’s product.

As part of my performance statistics, I measure each suite’s size on disk by the simple expedient of noting the free disk space before and after the installation. Bitdefender set a new record for size, weighing in at 1.6 GB. That’s not a lot of space on a modern multi-terabyte drive, but it might be a concern if you intend to install on an old system with limited disk space.

Averaging 100 boot cycles with no suite and 100 with Bitdefender installed, I found that boot time increased by 27 percent with Bitdefender installed, a little above the current suite average of 23 percent. Given that you probably boot the system no more than once per day, that’s not much of a worry.

A script that fully loads 100 websites averaged 26 percent longer with Bitdefender watching out for Web-based trouble. That’s rather more than the current average of 18 percent, but still not necessarily anything you’d notice. Note, though, that Norton had no measurable impact on this test.

Moving or copying a file counts as a file access and hence triggers an on-access scan by Bitdefender. The new PhotON technology is supposed to cut down on unnecessary scans by learning which files are safe, and indeed Bitdefender only slowed my file move/copy script by 13 percent, well below the current average of 23 percent. Another script that zips and unzips the same large collection of files didn’t seem to get any boost from PhotON. It took 26 percent longer with Bitdefender installed.

Really, though, none of these results should cause you to worry. Bitdefender’s effect on system performance is just about average, and you probably won’t be able to detect it without engaging in measurements like mine. For details on how I test a suite’s impact on system performance, please read How We Test Security Suites for Performance.

Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) performance chart

A Good Choice
Bitdefender Internet Security (2014) does everything a suite should, and does it well. Its antiphishing and antispam components are especially effective, and its updated parental control systems is impressive. It’s a big package, but its effect on system performance was no more than the average suite. If you want full-scale security that stays in the background, it’s definitely a good choice.

Norton Internet Security (2013) offers even better protection in some areas; it’s one of our Editors’ Choice security suites. Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus 2013 and Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013 omit parental control and spam filtering but offer impressive security features; these, too, have earned Editors’ Choice.

Sub-ratings:
Firewall:
Virus removal:
Virus blocking:
Performance:
Antispam:
Privacy:
Parental Control:

Specifications
Tech Support 24/7 email, live chat, and phone support. Remote sessions as necessary.
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8
Type Business, Personal, Professional

Verdict
Bitdefender Internet Security does everything a suite should, and does it without bombarding the user with queries and alerts. It's a big package, but its performance impact is no more than average. It's definitely a good choice.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc