McAfee All Access 2013 review

A single subscription to McAfee All Access 2013 gets you security protection for all of your devices, or for all of your household's devices. From its online management console, you can easily extend protection to any of your PCs, Macs, smartphones, or tablets. If you've got a houseful of connected devices, this is the security solution for you.
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Home computer security used to be simple. Mom or Dad installed a security suite and possibly parental control on a single PC, and the whole family took turns using it. That quaint model isn’t remotely compatible with a modern household teeming with PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets. Sure, you could select and install protection separately for each device, but a subscription to McAfee All Access 2013 lets you protect them all and manage your installations from a central dashboard.

For $99 per year you can protect every single device you own; $149 per year protects all devices in your household. That’s quite a deal! The 2013 edition of McAfee All Access makes installing security on your devices even easier, and it adds a brand-new password management component.

Online Management
When you first install McAfee All Access, you’ll set up your McAfee account online and install appropriate protection for the Mac or PC on which you’re installing it. During installation you can choose to install security on just the device you’re using or on that device plus a smartphone. Once installation is finished, you can extend McAfee’s protective umbrella to all the rest of your devices.

The online McAfee dashboard is your control center for security. You can log into it from any Mac or PC and install the appropriate security utility on that device, or send an email to a different Mac or PC with a link to installation. In a similar fashion, you can download McAfee’s mobile security app to your computer for installation on a smartphone or tablet, or send a link to the device in email or SMS. The process is slick and simple.

The dashboard offers an overview of security status for all of your devices with McAfee security installed. Clicking a particular device gets you details about what security components are installed, and what additional components could be installed. If you’ve installed the McAfee Family Protection parental control system, the dashboard offers a summary of recent activities. You can also access your backups using the Web restore console.

Selecting a mobile device in the dashboard brings up an additional set of options. A map shows the device’s most recent location, with buttons to check its current location, lock the device to protect privacy, or totally wipe a stolen device.

From the online dashboard you can also invoke McAfee’s enhanced free support. There’s a link to view FAQs, to initiate an online chat support session, or to call McAfee tech support. If you’ve hit a wall during installation due to belligerent malware (as I did in testing), your chat session can easily become a remote-control assistance session.

PC Protection
The default protection for a PC is McAfee Total Protection 2013, but if you prefer you can install McAfee Internet Security 2013 instead. For a netbook or other low-resource device you can even choose McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2013.

Giving you a choice of what protection to install isn’t a common feature. Bitdefender Sphere protects all devices in your household for $99.99 per year, but it specifically installs Bitdefender’s full security suite on all PCs. Norton One, which protects up to five devices for $149.95 per year, always installsNorton 360 on PCs.

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security Premium Edition comes with 50GB of shared online backup. Norton One offers 25GB, also shared. McAfee All Access offers 2GB of Mozy-powered online backup for each installation of McAfee Total Protection, up to a total of 15 installations (30 for a household license). That’s more total storage than the other two, but backed-up files don’t sync between devices with McAfee.

Mac Protection
Those using Kaspersky ONE Universal Security can install Kaspersky’s standalone antivirus for Mac. Bitdefender Sphere and Trend Micro Premium also offer just antivirus protection for Macs. Norton One users can install Norton Internet Security for Mac, but not the standalone Mac antivirus. Only McAfee gives users a choice. It lets you install either McAfee Internet Security for Mac 2013 or McAfee VirusScan for Mac.

With McAfee VirusScan, you can launch a full scan for viruses, Trojans, and other types of malware on demand or on a schedule. It also scans on access, so new malware attacks can’t get a foothold, and it scans attachments on incoming Apple Mail messages. Where some Mac security products strictly work by quarantining threats, McAfee will disinfect valid files that have been compromised.

McAfee Internet Security for Mac adds two-way firewall protection. On the one hand, it monitors network activity to protect against outside attack. On the other hand, it takes full control over which programs are and aren’t allowed to access your network. McAfee’s SiteAdvisor, installed along with the suite, helps users avoid malicious and fraudulent websites.

Mobile Protection
Security requirements for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices aren’t quite the same as for PCs and Macs. Yes, you want protection against Android-based Trojans and other malware, and McAfee Mobile Security 2013 (for Android) definitely gives you that. But it also offers app-related security and features to help locate and secure a lost or stolen phone.

You manage anti-theft features through the McAfee All Access dashboard. Just select a mobile device and you’ll get a map showing its most recent location. There’s an option to monitor the device’s location continuously for one hour or six hours, with a warning that doing so can increase battery drain. You can click a button to update the location, or to lock down a phone that may be lost or stolen. If the phone is definitely not recoverable, another button will wipe it completely.

An app need not be Trojanized to be a threat to your security. Quite often, Android apps ask for (and receive) more permissions than their function merits. McAfee will scan your system and warn you of any apps that have privacy issues, with a one-click uninstall feature for apps whose privacy risks outweigh their value.

McAfee can backup your contacts, photos, and call history, and restore to the same device or a new device. You can also configure it to block calls and texts from specific phone numbers.

App Locker is a brand-new feature, released just in time for this review. Its purpose is to protect sensitive applications like your email or Facebook account. Once you choose to protect an app using App Locker, that app won’t launch unless you enter your six-digit McAfee PIN. I like this feature, as it can protect private data even before you realize your device has gone missing.

Also brand-new, McAfee Mobile Security has a new visual design that McAfee says makes it “simple to scan and take action.” The update is a smaller download and should have less impact on battery life.

Family Protection
For any PCs that your kids use, McAfee All Access can install McAfee Family Protection, which is a McAfee-branded version of Safe Eyes 6.0, acquired by McAfee a couple of years ago. McAfee Family Protection goes quite a bit beyond the expected content filtering and Internet time-scheduling. It can filter music and videos based on ratings, block email or instant messaging, and detect profanity or private information in social media posts.

In addition to monitoring all websites visited or blocked for each child, McAfee will monitor and report on programs launched, IM conversations, and search terms. A threshold-based notification system can send parents a warning via email, SMS, or phone if the kids are going ape online. Once warned, parents can log in to the remote configuration dashboard (separate from the main McAfee All Access dashboard) and take any necessary action.

In the past, the Mac edition of Family Protection lagged behind the PC edition in features. It’s still not 100 percent on par, but it does now filter online TV, YouTube videos, and iTunes based on ratings, and it can force search filtering so offensive results won’t show up. McAfee also touts its new “easy setup wizard.”

McAfee Family Protection Android Edition isn’t yet compatible with Android Jelly Bean, so I couldn’t see it in action. The Android edition hooks the standard browser to filter out inappropriate websites. Parents can choose an age-range profile or pick and choose among 35 categories. To keep the kids from sneaking around this protection, it prevents download of other browsers and protects itself against uninstallation.

SafeKey Password Management
New in the 2013 edition, McAfee All Access includes the SafeKey password manager for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS. If you’re familiar with LastPass 2.0 you’ll know exactly how to use SafeKey, as it’s a licensed edition of LastPass.

SafeKey captures security credentials when you log in to a secure site and offers to play them back when you return. You can categorize sites as you save them or organize them into folders later. Folders become submenus in the browser-button menu; choosing a site both navigates to the site and logs in. SafeKey also handles filling Web forms using personal data stored in one or more form fill profiles.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2013 also relies on LastPass technology for password management. Both McAfee and Webroot omit some of LastPass’s more advanced features. For example, neither offers authentication via fingerprint, Google Authenticator support, sharing of credentials with other users, or a full-scale report on the strength of all your passwords. For most users, SafeKey’s excellent handling of essential password management and form filling tasks will be more than sufficient.

Flexibility Is All
McAfee All Access was one of the first cross-platform, multi-device security bundles. The key factor in this type of product is flexibility. You should be able to install protection on all your devices, at the level of protection you want, with easy management from a central console.

McAfee and Bitdefender Sphere both protect any number of devices, but Bitdefender lacks an online management console. Norton One is more flexible feature-wise than many, and it includes concierge-level tech support for any computer problems you may encounter. In addition, Norton routinely outscores McAfee in PCMag reviews and independent lab tests. However, it would cost almost $300 to protect ten devices with Norton One.

A ten-license Kaspersky ONE pack costs $149.95, but like Bitdefender, Kaspersky doesn’t offer an online management console. In its initial release, Trend Micro bundled support for three PCs, three Macs, and three mobile devices. The current edition protects five devices of any type, so protecting ten would cost about $150. And once again, Trend has no online management console.

No question, McAfee All Access is the most flexible of the lot. For the high-tech hotshot with dozens of devices, it’s a hands-down winner. However, if you feel like the tech in your household is expanding beyond your abilities, you may want to consider Norton One. You’ll pay a bit more, but the top-tier tech support means you won’t have to work as hard at managing your protection. Both Norton One and McAfee All Access are Editors’ Choice products in the cross-platform, multi-device security suite category.

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Tech Support Covers all devices owned by an individual
$149.99 for household.
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7
Type Personal

A single subscription to McAfee All Access 2013 gets you security protection for all of your devices, or for all of your household's devices. From its online management console, you can easily extend protection to any of your PCs, Macs, smartphones, or tablets. If you've got a houseful of connected devices, this is the security solution for you.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc