If you’re looking for an antivirus download that goes above and beyond simply protecting your computer from malware, then full-on internet security suites may be a better choice.
They offer a comprehensive range of protection for your online devices. While essential virus protection is always the base feature, others that these packages might offer include ransomware protection, a VPN, and even a password manager. These are all-singing, all-dancing online security downloads for those wanting the best possible protection.
And it’s not just desktops and laptops that can benefit from internet security suites as there are also versions for Android and iPhone smartphones. Because they cover multiple devices (usually five or more), you can protect all the gadgets of you and your family on one easy plan – Windows and Macs both included.
Some providers also offer a rescue disk feature to roll back any existing attack, and encryption software for added security protection is commonly included. Many now also come with additional privacy features and a firewall as standard.
While internet security suites and antivirus packages are commonly aimed at domestic consumers, also note services that are specifically aimed at businesses, such as cloud antivirus and endpoint protection, to offer business-grade protection. There are also online cybersecurity courses available to help improve staff awareness.
Whichever internet security suite you’re looking for, and for whatever device, you’ll end up with more than just essential software with our selection of the best. Here are the ones we think are currently best on the market.
Why is internet security important?
Internet security is essential because of the massive amount of valuable data most users keep online and the increasing number of hackers targeting unprotected online accounts.
There’s a growing number of hackers on the internet, and most of them are using increasingly sophisticated malware and social engineering tactics to get access to financial information, online logins, and browsing data.
Without proper internet security protection, you could fall victim to one of these hacks, leaking banking info and credit card numbers, compromising social media accounts, and ultimately becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud.
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What’s the difference between antivirus and Internet Security?
Whereas antivirus software provides a basic level of protection for your system, complete 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 programs 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. Still, it is perfectly possible to create your 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 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 managed from a single interface. What’s more, they might cover several different types of devices and offer different tiers of protection.
If you do want to build out your suite, then you can pick the best individual components in the following advice guides:
- rescue disk
- encryption software
- cloud antivirus
- endpoint protection
- online cybersecurity courses
The best internet security suites and software
Bitdefender Total Security
Bitdefender Total Security is the well-respected security firm’s top-of-the-range package and tops the lot when it comes to all-singing, all-dancing internet security suites.
Total Security comes positively bristling with features. You get – deep breath – standard antivirus tools plus impressively capable ransomware protection, a firewall, Wi-Fi security advisor, a secure browser (Safepay) for online banking, file shredder, vulnerability scanner (which has been improved for 2021), password manager, email spam filter, parental controls, webcam and microphone defences, and more besides including a superb web protection module for blocking malicious URLs.
As well as security features, Total Security provides various PC maintenance and optimisation tools. These are somewhat useful in themselves for cleaning out extra files and streamlining boot times – but more importantly, Bitdefender’s flagship package also covers more than just Windows devices, providing apps for Macs, along with Android and iOS mobiles.
As it’s only a bit more expensive than Bitdefender Internet Security – the firm’s mid-tier security suite – it’s undoubtedly worthwhile upgrading to Total Security if you have multiple devices across various platforms to protect.
There is further good news that Bitdefender has a minimal impact on system performance, going by independent and our testing (some rivals do a touch better in this department, but it’s not a difference you’ll ever notice in real-world use).
Finally, it’s worth noting that there’s a 30-day trial of this suite, with no payment details needed; you have to supply an email address. That means you can try out Bitdefender for a whole month before committing to buying.
Norton 360 Deluxe
When we evaluated all of NortonLifeLock’s security suite options, we picked out Norton 360 Deluxe as the best value all-around choice for anyone looking to protect more than a single device – which is likely the majority of folks.
Norton delivers good antivirus protection – although some of the independent test lab results have been a little mixed – alongside a wealth of features, including webcam protection and dark web monitoring, an impressively intelligent firewall, plus a system of parental controls.
The parental controls are top-notch, by the way, including in-depth monitoring systems to keep an eye on what your kids are doing online and even GPS tracking for their mobile devices. Norton’s very strong in this department.
There are some genuinely worthwhile extras included here, too, like a fully integrated VPN (which could be a big money-saver in itself) and 50GB of online backup storage (ditto).
As for negative points, a flaw worth bearing in mind is that Norton 360 Deluxe has more of a drag on system performance than most security suites – though it’s not too far removed from average performers, and you likely won’t even notice in everyday usage.
Norton 360 Deluxe covers up to five devices (which means you can use the VPN with those five bits of hardware as well), either Windows or Mac PCs, plus there are mobile apps for Android and iOS. Pricing is highly competitive compared to rivals, so you should consider this Norton package (compare it to its other offerings with our guide to choosing your Norton plan) – particularly for family usage given the extensive parental controls.
Kaspersky Total Security
Kaspersky Total Security is another veteran of the security world. As you might expect, it delivers top-quality antivirus defences plus a very light touch in terms of using hardly any system resources. New for 2021 is performance options to minimise any battery drain for laptop users as well.
One of the issues with the entry-level Kaspersky Anti-Virus package is that it’s relatively thin on extra features, sticking mainly to the core basics – and what it does deliver in terms of additional bits and pieces is pretty weak.
This is why it makes good sense to go for Kaspersky Total Security, mainly because it provides far more functionality and doesn’t cost all that much more than Kaspersky Anti-Virus (at least not if you want to protect multiple devices – and sometimes with Kaspersky’s deals, both these products can be pitched at around the same price, anyway).
You get plenty more with Total Security, including an intelligent firewall (it doesn’t plague you with pop-up messages asking what to do), a secure web browser, protection from webcam hijacking, and a software updater (which is more valuable than most such efforts), and a file backup tool, along with a solid password manager, plus the full version of Kaspersky’s Safe Kids module.
The latter is an excellent parental controls system with some innovative social media monitoring tools. While not all the features are up to this standard – some extras, like the troubleshooting wizards and spam filter, are wobbly around the edges – overall, you’re getting a lot for your money here.
Trend Micro Maximum Security
There’s a lot to like about Trend Micro’s flagship security suite – Trend Micro Maximum Security – not the least of which is its polished and user-friendly interface, backed up by superb virus protection. Trend Micro is highly ranked by the independent testing labs, and it offers sterling multi-layered anti-ransomware defences, too.
The package also gives you first-class URL filtering for safer web browsing, and this system is smartly configurable. That said, one little weak point with Trend Micro’s offering is that there isn’t a massive amount of low-level control – such as virus scan options – so more demanding users may find it lacking here.
Maximum Security provides parental controls, social network protection, and PC maintenance tools, although the latter isn’t a strong suit. It also boasts data theft prevention countermeasures, a secure vault for storing sensitive files, and a decent integrated password manager.
More minor tech-savvy types will appreciate the ease of use here for the capable mobile apps. There’s a 30-day trial as well, so you can thoroughly check all this out for yourself before buying.
Avast is best known for its excellent free antivirus product, but the firm also provides an impressive all-around security solution in the form of Avast Ultimate. This is another offering that bundles a full VPN, giving you far more protection online than a typical antivirus suite and making Avast Ultimate a value-packed buy for those who are also thinking of picking up a cheap VPN.
Avast’s SecureLine VPN may not compete with the best providers out there, but it delivers a solid enough – and significantly speedy enough – service. Avast Ultimate also sports a decent password manager, a secure browser, and excellent network protection measures.
This suite has plenty of options for experts to play with in terms of configuration. It has good enough antivirus defences, backed up by a commendable Ransomware Shield for extra protection on that front.
There are some minor irritations here, notably some of Avast’s unwelcome attempts to flog its other products in a paid-for suite, and we observed a slight system slowdown in our review. But these niggles aside, if you need a VPN as well as antivirus, Avast Ultimate is a great choice.
Webroot Internet Security Plus
Webroot majors in being incredibly lightweight and fast-performing. Indeed, it has a minuscule memory footprint and takes up next to no space on your system drive, as the product’s virus definitions are all stored in the cloud.
Yet despite this minimal impact on your machine, Webroot Internet Security Plus comes with plenty of features. There’s online banking and identity theft protection, ransomware defences, an accurate anti-phishing system, an intelligent firewall, plus a password manager (you get a LastPass subscription bundled, so that’s excellent news in terms of the quality on offer here).
Downsides? Well, you might get lightning-quick malware scans, but Webroot’s antivirus engine hasn’t been evaluated by the big-name independent testing labs in recent times. That’s not necessarily bad, but from what we’ve seen ourselves – and what ratings are out there – there’s something of a mixed picture of its antivirus accuracy. Also, remember that the iOS app doesn’t offer malware scanning – it consists of a secure browser, backup facility, and password manager.
Still, Internet Security Plus is a well-rounded package, and a 70-day ‘no questions asked’ money-back guarantee shows Webroot’s confidence in its suite.
ESET Smart Security Premium
ESET Smart Security Premium packs in a lot of features. That includes parental controls, webcam protection, network monitoring, additional network protection, and an anti-theft feature for Windows devices (allowing for location tracking and more) is an exciting bonus. Furthermore, Linux systems are covered here, as well as Windows and Mac computers.
However, while ESET delivers lots of features, their quality can be variable. For example, the system of parental controls is very barebones, but the password manager is well fleshed out. ESET also offers plenty of configuration options, which will please experts, although computing novices may find it tricky to get to grips with in some respects.
ESET’s core antivirus protection seems solid, albeit with some mixed evaluations from independent testing labs. Smart Security Premium does provide some exciting extras, including the password, as mentioned earlier, and a secure file vault to protect any sensitive data on your PC, which some folks will doubtless find beneficial additions.
That said, unless you want this additional functionality, it’s not the best value for money suit out there.
McAfee Total Protection Multi-Device
As the name suggests, McAfee’s baseline product, Total Protection Individual, only covers one individual device. And if you’re thinking of buying that, and you own more than just a Windows PC, then you’re almost certainly better off purchasing McAfee Total Protection Multi-Device.
For not much more money – or indeed Multi-Device is sometimes even cheaper, with the deals McAfee offers periodically – you get a sound security suite that protects up to five Windows or Mac computers and Android or iOS devices. customers also benefit from a useful additional extra in the form of identity theft protection.
McAfee’s interface is streamlined and straightforward, which keeps things easy for beginners, although it’ll likely be too sparse for more experienced users. The UI also suffers from some annoying quirks, but nothing too frustrating.
Independent test lab reports suggest McAfee Total Protection offers solid enough antivirus defences, if not class-leading. Indeed, some evaluations of McAfee’s antivirus engine are more scathing than others.
Overall, McAfee’s suite represents reasonable value and is a decent choice in the Multi-Device package, with some nifty extras for boosting web browsing and app performance, plus an integrated (but very basic) free VPN.
Bullguard Premium Protection
Another security suite worth considering is BullGuard, which offers multi-layered defences backed by advanced machine learning to stop current and future malware threats.
Additionally, there’s a built-in firewall, vulnerability scanner, and a home network scanner for ensuring your Wi-Fi connection is safe and secure. BullGuard Premium Protection also gives gamers a treat with its Game Booster optimisation feature, designed to improve performance while gaming (and it works well enough, by all accounts).
BullGuard provides a good quality antivirus engine, or at least it’s rated highly by AV-Test, the one independent test lab which covers the security firm. Furthermore, BullGuard Premium Protection represents a solid value proposition for those looking to cover many devices. If you need to protect 10+ devices, it works out cheaper than BullGuard’s Internet Security Suite, which has fewer features – an odd situation, but not one we’ll argue with!
This is an interesting one in that Avira’s top-level package is missing some of the core security features you might find in other internet security suites. Still, it more than makes up for this in different ways, which might be tempting depending on your own needs and use case.
So, while a firewall and parental controls might be missing Prime – and any kind of backup facility for that matter – you do get some nifty stuff instead. That includes a decent VPN – with full unrestricted access – and some seriously high-quality PC maintenance tools.
If you want those speed-up tools and have been considering getting a VPN as well as a new security suite, then Prime could be a perfect fit. In fact, in the latter case, Avira Prime works out as a storming value for money, providing a solid antivirus engine to keep you safe and that Avira VPN on top to keep you safer still online. Others, however, may miss the core mentioned above suite features like parental controls, of course.
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How to choose the best internet security suite for you
So do you need all this extra stuff with your antivirus software? Well, it’s hard to argue against using a password manager. Beyond that, you have to consider your circumstances.
If you’ve got young kids or teenagers at home, you might want parental-control software to keep track of what your children are doing online — or to track the location of their phones.
If you’re of comfortable means, investing in identity-theft protection might be wise. If you travel a lot, you’ll want to use a VPN while in hotel rooms and airport lounges.
To get a better idea of the stand-alone services these premium security suites are competing with, please visit our buying guides for the best identity theft protection, best cloud backup services, best parental-control apps and best password managers.
Internet security suites may seem expensive, but they’re still far cheaper than purchasing all those extra services a la carte. You have to decide which ones you need.
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