Review: Bitdefender Total Security 2015

Image copyright Bitdefender

Image copyright Bitdefender

A good solid tool which is  worth buying.

Bitdefender is certainly one of the better known anti-virus solutions out there and the Total Security package brings together a whole range of features including:

  • Virus scanning and removal.
  • Firewall.
  • Safepay.
  • Website screening

Current retail price: €69.95

From: www.bitdefender.com

Installing

I tried installing Bitdefender twice, first on a system which was infected  and secondly on a clean machine. To put it bluntly only install this software on a clean machine (i.e. no malware etc) otherwise whatever was on there before will simply block Bitdefender from working effectively and your computer will become incredibly slow and unusable.

Effectiveness – Viruses and Malware

You can select a number of different scanning options, including a quick scan which does at it says on the tin. You can also set up scanning for particular folders or do a full system scan. The latter can take a while though! You can also set the level of aggression that Bitdefender has against threats although this will increase the risk of false positives. This along with setting folder and programme exclusions can be done easily.

If the computer becomes infected overall performance is similar to  my old tool Panda Cloud anti-virus, however what was strange was that it failed to detect a number of issues until a full scan was run (again like Panda). Also I tried downloading the Eicar test virus and only when this was in its original form (i.e. not zipped or double zipped) was it detected. Again though detection only occurred when I specifically scanned the system. This led me to question the effectiveness of the real-time scanning features but other more scientific reviews have rated the product highly in this regard.

In general I found that Bitdefender is good at detecting more obvious threats however, it still falls short of detecting as many bits of malware as say Malwarebytes.  It’s main weakness seems to be real-time scanning which could be better.

Although not strictly for viruses and malware the useful vulnerability scan lets you check your system to make sure everything is up to date and not open to attack.  It also checks for weak passwords which is useful. Given the number of issues with out of date software and passwords these are good features.

Good for Online Banking Websites

Bitdefender protects you when you visit your bank or credit card company website as it can be set to only show that particular webpage  – all other software and even the Windows environment are hidden. Additionally it gets round problems with keys being logged while visiting these websites by encouraging you to type in the details via an onscreen keyboard. This feature is very good but can be very slow on low end machines.

Website Screening

This is the biggest problem area; especially on low spec hardware. While I am sure it works it slows down web surfing so much that you end up turning it off. Also such anti-fishing and anti-fraud systems mean that in theory Bitdefender (or any other company which offers something similar) can easily collect information on your browsing habits.

Firewall 

I ended up using the firewall in mainly permissive mode which is probably not a good thing, however on higher settings it can get infuriating with it ending up blocking too many things. That said altering the settings is quick and simple so I have increased the settings again. You can also set up exclusions for particular applications, use this with caution as saying yes could invite in some nasty software.

Long-Term Use

It’s easy to review something over an afternoon but really virus scanners are a long-term tool which should just sit in the background and work. I have now been running this for about six months and with the exception of the issues noted it has been stable, reliable and reasonably effective. Certainly on a par with and often more effective than Panda Anti-virus.

So far I have had no viruses which can perhaps speak of me either being security aware or just lucky. However, some Malware and unwanted programmes got through. As usual the Ask toolbar managed to install itself – neither Malwarebytes or Bitdefender spotted this until the files had made their way onto the computer. To be fair though I suspect a recent Java installation was responsible for this as Oracle are/were bundling the dreaded Ask toolbar. I probably pressed agree by mistake during some late night work session. That said though I would expect Bitdefender to atleast alert me to the fact that this rubbish is running on the computer.

Summary

This is overall a good piece of software and ignoring the website scanning functionality it has minimal overhead when run on a comparatively low-spec system. Like nearly all virus scanners I have used on it’s own it is not 100% effective and it is best partnered with Malwarebytes if you really want to clean up your system after an infection.

Good points

  • Lots of good protection features.
  • Range of scanning options.
  • Minimal system overhead for standard real-time scanning.
  • Easy to use.
  • Has good detection reputation.

Bad Points

  • The website protection feature is slow on low end hardware.
  • Malware protection and removal not always the best.
  • Let the Ask toolbar slip through.

Overall I would give this product a try its reputation and so far my experience has been positive.

Note: Panda Cloud anti-virus has now been discontinued and replaced with another product. Also the author while offered a free review copy of Bitdefender refused to accept it as he had already purchased a full licence.

About Rod McCall

Rod McCall is a researcher in the field of human-computer interaction in areas such as augmented reality, mobile gaming in-car systems and virtual environments. He has a passing interest in economics after not being entirely convinced by the rubbish presented as fact during lectures on that particular subject while at uni.
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