A full-featured product with heavyweight protection with a slashed price tag make 2019's offering a must.
- $44.99 (1 year)
Included in the reduced price tag for 5 devices (at time of writing it was £34.99/US$44.99 reduced from £69.99/US$89.99, but at time of publication it was even lower), you get all the usual protections, plus a password manager, a parental advisor, and a 200MB per day per device VPN, but this is just the start.
To help flatten out the learning curve of such a big product, there's the familiar “Auto Pilot” switch on the main interface. When on, which it is by default, Bitdefender uses sensible settings for all modules. The main interface itself has also had an overhaul, and feels a lot busier than last year.
Along with the usual file and system scans is the dedicated vulnerability scan, which checks your system for outdated software, weak network passwords, and critical Windows updates that need to be applied. There's also a dedicated WiFi scan that checks you're not using weak encryption or authentication protocols.
As with an increasing number of AV offerings, there's also a boot time scan, called the Rescue Environment, which runs at next boot up. This scans your system before Windows and any stealth malware has a chance to start up.
The new Oneclick Optimiser pops up soon after installation to tell you there's space to be freed up. The catch to this, though, is that along with temporary files, login cookies also disappear. Logging back into all your sites without a password manager, even in your browser, would be a painful exercise and one you should be warned about. What's more, the optimiser regularly pops up, and running it a second time logs you back out again.
Also pushed to the front is the concept of profiles. These kick in automatically when you're watching a movie, or playing a game, for example. The different modes prevent popups, or put off housekeeping events until the software detects that they're appropriate.
The anti-spam module allows you to explicitly whitelist friends and blacklist real spammers. You also have the option of automatically banning any spam written with Asian or Cyrillic character sets, and of submitting any unknown samples to the Bitdefender cloud for analysis before opening them.
Bitdefender has joined the growing group of domestic AV providers that incorporate so-called “next gen” application behaviour monitoring. If a piece of code does something suspicious, Advanced Threat Defense will block it. There's also a whitelist for programs that inadvertently trip this feature.
Allied to this is the Safe Files module, which protects nominated folders from any ransomware designed to run at boot time. Under Auto Pilot, this is deactivated by default, but should really be engaged if it doesn't impact your computer's boot up time.
Gone from the control panel is last year's Ransomware module and in comes a new ransomware remediation ability. This is disabled by default, but when engaged, it will automatically roll back any changes made by ransomware to your precious files.
For online security, Bitdefender includes its secure Safepay browser. This should be used when entering payment details on web sites, and will pop up to suggest its use as appropriate. You can also enter trusted bookmarks into Safepay, and use them instead of potentially fraudulent ones apparently sent via email from criminals posing as your bank.
Closely associated with Safepay is the VPN. Unlike standalone offerings, you don't get a choice of exit countries, so it's fairly useless for streaming geo-locked content, but it will hide your data from prying eyes while banking or when on holiday and using the hotel's WiFi.
There is a daily data limit, but this is set at a generous 200MB per device per day. The premium version has unlimited data, and allows you to select one of about 20 destination countries for £34.99 per year. Without testing, there's no way to say if you can unlock specific content with the paid version. For global streaming as opposed to personal security, it's probably better to shop around. You can see our pick of the best VPN services here.
General browsing is protected by the Online Threat Prevention module. This uses machine learning and a global web site reputation database to judge whether any site to which you surf should be considered malicious. Like the Safe Browsing service used in Chrome and other browsers, this is constantly updated, meaning that you're technically getting global real-time protection.
As usual, the bundled password manager allows you to set up multiple wallets, each protected by its own master password. Simply enter this master password to have Bitdefender securely log you into sites and services.
The File Vault module allows you to protect sensitive files with strong encryption. Vaults are mounted as virtual disc drives, with a drive letter you select. You simply drop your files and folders onto the drive, and no one can access them without the drive's password.
The Parental Advisor opens a web page at Bitdefender that allows you to silently install the tracking module on your children's mobile devices that are already protected by Bitdefender.
Along with tracking location, apps used, sites visited, and calls made, you can also block unknown numbers, and calls where the number is withheld. Usefully, you can impose a bedtime, and set up email alerts when your child attempts to access content you've banned or if they enter a restricted area.
Completing this rather comprehensive set of facilities is the almost obligatory file shredder, which securely deletes your data.
The mobile version is available on iOS and Android. The Android version looks sparse at first sight, but the small menu at the top left shows otherwise. Several useful features are included.
For example, Account Privacy allows you to enter an email address and have Bitdefender test it to see if the credentials have been harvested or otherwise leaked online.
Web Protection protects your browsing activities. Anti-Theft has all the usual features (remote locate, lock, wipe, and scream), and also allows you to automatically take a picture when someone fails to unlock the device.
You can also configure Bitdefender to send a text to a trusted number if your SIM is replaced. App Lock makes it necessary to enter a PIN before running selected apps. There's also the in-built VPN, with 200MB of free data per day.
Finally, and in keeping with the theme of privacy, you can't take a screenshot of the main interface, so attackers might not be able to see what modules you have engaged.