McAfee LiveSafe review

One license for McAfee LiveSafe lets you install McAfee security on every PC, Mac, and mobile device in your household. On top of that, it offers anti-theft, password management, and a unique facial- and voice-recognition system for storing sensitive data.
Photo of McAfee LiveSafe

One big reason to choose a security suite rather than a collection of separate security products is consistency. You don’t have to learn the logic of a different security company for each component; you can concentrate on mastering that one all-encompassing suite. McAfee LiveSafe extends this concept across multiple platforms and devices. One subscription lets you apply consistent protection to all of your PC, Mac, and mobile devices.

A subscription for McAfee All Access, the previous incarnation of LiveSafe, used to cost $99.99 per year to protect all of one individual’s devices. The price to protect all devices in a household was $149.99. I was surprised to find that the current price is $79.99 per year, and that it covers a whole household. In addition, a $19.99 first-year offer is available to those purchasing a qualified PC or tablet. That’s some deal!

There are some differences between LiveSafe and All Access. McAfee Family Protection (a licensed version of the Safe Eyes 6.0 parental control system) was included in All Access, but it’s not in LiveSafe. You used to have the option to install McAfee Total Protection, McAfee Internet Security, or McAfee AntiVirus Plus on each PC. Now you specifically install a LiveSafe edition of McAfee Internet Security, which doesn’t include Mozy-powered online backup.

On the other hand, LiveSafe offers some interesting additions. The anti-theft feature, previously for mobile devices only, can now be enabled for some PCs. SafeKey password management handles passwords and fills forms on all of your devices. And the brand new Personal Locker protects your most sensitive documents with voice and facial recognition.

Web-Based Installation
You activate your LiveSafe subscription by creating or logging into your McAfee account online and entering the product key. From here, you can install protection on the device you’re using at the moment, or send a link to protect one of your other devices.

This online dashboard offers an overview of all your protected devices. Clicking on any device shows you what security components are installed, and what additional components are available. This is also the spot where you can track mobile devices and activate anti-theft features.

As with Bitdefender Sphere, there’s no limit to the number of devices you can protect. That’s quite impressive, given that most cross-platform security bundles come with a predefined number of licenses. A three-license pack of Kaspersky Internet Security – Multi-Device (formerly Kaspersky ONE Universal Security) costs the same as LiveSafe; a five-license pack runs $99.95. For $99, you can install Norton 360 – Multi-Device (formerly Norton 360 Everywhere) on five devices.

It’s worth noting that Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete (2014) almost belongs in this category. A $79.99 subscription gets you five licenses that you can use on PCs, Macs, or Android devices, and you can manage those licenses online, just as you do with LiveSafe.

Protection for All Devices
For basic security protection, PC users will install McAfee LiveSafe – Internet Security. This product is effectively the same as McAfee Internet Security 2014, but without the Mozy-powered online backup. Do read that review for full details. In a similar fashion, Mac users will install McAfee LiveSafe – Internet Security for Mac. As with the PC edition, this is almost exactly the same as McAfee Internet Security for Mac 2014.

As noted, the earlier McAfee All Access product used to let users choose which level of protection to install on both PCs and Macs, perhaps to limit impact on low-resource devices. It was the only one of the major cross-platform multi-device security suites to do so. Kaspersky, Norton, and Bitdefender all install the corresponding PC security suite.

McAfee Antivirus & Security 3.1 Premium (for Android) is a powerful security suite that offers protection against malware, anti-theft tracking and control, and more. The LiveSafe equivalent is McAfee LiveSafe – Mobile Security. Besides scanning for existing malware, it checks new apps and warns about any that may be demanding unreasonable permissions, offers anti-theft protection, and more.

Android is definitely king when it comes to McAfee’s mobile security offerings. You can install the security suite, password management, and Personal Locker on any Android phone or tablet. Your iOS devices can have SafeKey and Personal Locker, but not mobile security. Kindle Fire devices get mobile security and SafeKey. BlackBerry users get mobile security, but that’s all. 

SafeKey Password Management
One thing you don’t get in the basic McAfee suite is password management. LiveSave comes with McAfee’s SafeKey password manager. You do need to create a SafeKey account, separate from the main LiveSafe administrator account, and install SafeKey on each device. You can use your SafeKey account on any of your devices, but you can’t have separate accounts for different users in a household.

If you’re familiar with LastPass 2.0 you know how to use SafeKey, because SafeKey is precisely a licensed version of LastPass. Webroot’s password management is also powered by LastPass. In both cases, the licensed version omits some high-end LastPass features, features most likely to be used only by experts.

As expected, SafeKey captures your credentials when you log in to secure sites and offers to replay them when you revisit the site. At capture time you can tweak the site name for clarity and optionally assign the site to a group. Your groups become submenus in a site list that’s accessible from the SafeKey browser button.

You can create one or more form-fill profiles, complete with contact information, a credit card, a bank account, and custom fields. SafeKey can optionally offer to capture this information after you’ve filled in a Web form. Once your profile is complete, SafeKey will fill all the fields it can match in any Web form.

Your saved passwords and form-fill profiles are stored securely online, so you can access them from any of your devices. Like virtually all security vendors, McAfee doesn’t attempt antivirus protection for iOS devices, but you can install McAfee SafeKey on your iPhones or iPads.

Anti-Theft, Two Ways
Android malware definitely exists, but loss or theft may be an even bigger danger to your Android device. McAfee’s mobile protection includes all of the expected anti-theft actions (lock, wipe, locate, scream, and so on) and also backs up your data. You can define one or more “buddies” who will receive a notification if a thief replaces the device’s SIM card.

Some mobile anti-theft products let you send commands via a Web portal, while others have you send coded commands via text message. McAfee includes both—take your pick! Do see our review of McAfee Antivirus & Security 3.1 Premium (for Android) for full details.

New in LiveSafe is an option to extend anti-theft protection to your PCs and laptops, as long as they’re modern enough to have Intel Anti-Theft technology inside. To start, go to the McAfee online console and install the Anti-Theft component on the device. During setup you’ll configure an eight-digit unlock passcode and enter your email address. That’s all you need to do.

If your laptop is lost or stolen, you can log in to the McAfee console and check its location history. Doing so might reveal that you left it at a friend’s house, or it might show where a laptop thief is hanging out. You can choose to stay stealthy and track the laptop’s movements or lock it down right away (and thereby lose the ability to continue tracking it).

The locked PC displays a message at attempted bootup, so you can add your contact info there in case a good Samaritan finds it. There’s also a nifty option to automatically lock down the computer if it doesn’t connect with the Internet for a certain number of days, to foil a thief who disables connectivity so the PC can’t receive anti-theft messages. This isn’t the full-scale anti-theft and recovery system offered by Editors’ Choice LoJack for Laptops by Absolute Software, but it’s a good start.

Personal Locker
There’s no getting around it; McAfee’s Personal Locker technology is cool. I felt like James Bond, logging in to view my protected documents using both facial recognition and voice recognition, as well as a PIN. One of my McAfee contacts keeps images of his passport and credit cards in Personal Locker. You can store anything you want, up to 1GB of data.

Of course, Personal Locker only works on devices that include a camera and microphone. That includes most mobile devices and laptops, certainly, but quite a few desktops may not qualify.

To start, you define a six-digit PIN. (You can flag less-sensitive items to unlock using just this PIN, but where’s the fun in that?) Next you need to capture a photo of your face against a neutral background—no eyeglasses, no hats, and no smiling! The final phase of setup requires you to record a specific statement about security three times, for voice recognition.

To load your Personal Locker, you can upload files, capture photos directly, or enter simple notes. By default, each item gets stored with high security, meaning facial and voice recognition are required.

When you want to access an item in the locker, you go through a four-step authentication process. Step one is the PIN; that’s simple. Next, you authenticate by letting the app snap your picture. I found this sometimes needed more than one try. After facial recognition, you speak a specified phrase aloud.

It’s conceivable (though barely) that someone might get past these first two steps with a really good image of your face and a super high-definition recording of your voice. To ensure that doesn’t happen, there’s a second voice-recognition phase, one that uses a different sentence every time. That would be tough to fake.

As I said at the start, this technology is cool. But is it useful? We’ll see how many LifeSafe users are willing to go through the multi-step authentication process each time they want to access those protected items.

Cross-Platform and More
The value proposition is really, really simple. Buy McAfee LiveSafe and you can protect every PC, Mac, and Android device in your household, plus partial protection for iOS, BlackBerry, and Kindle Fire devices. It’s almost hard to believe!

But wait… there’s more. With LiveSafe you can manage all of your devices through a single Web-based console that includes anti-theft access for Android devices and certain PCs. McAfee SafeKey lets you securely share your Web passwords across all your devices. And using Personal Locker you can store sensitive items in secured cloud storage that can’t be opened unless the app recognizes your face and your voice.

There are other cross-platform multi-device security suites, but none of them offer McAfee’s combination of unlimited devices and highly useful additional components. McAfee LiveSafe is our Editors’ Choice in this hot category.

One license for McAfee LiveSafe lets you install McAfee security on every PC, Mac, and mobile device in your household. On top of that, it offers anti-theft, password management, and a unique facial- and voice-recognition system for storing sensitive data.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc