Internet security suites offer a comprehensive range of protection for your online devices. While antivirus is the always the base feature, others that these packages might offer include ransomware protection, a VPN, and even a password manager. These really 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 rollback any existing attack, and encryption software for added security protection is also 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 cyber security courses available to help improve staff awareness.
Which ever internet security suite you're looking for, and for whatever device, you'll end up with more than just basic software with our selection of the best. Here are the ones we think are currently best on the market.
- This is our best antivirus buying guide
Bitdefender Total Security is the well-respected security firm’s top-of-the-range package, and it comes positively bristling with features as a result.
You get – deep breath – antivirus plus impressively capable ransomware protection, a firewall, Wi-Fi security advisor, a secure browser (Safepay) for online banking, file shredder, vulnerability scanner, password manager, email spam filter, parental controls, webcam and microphone defenses, 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 optimization tools. These are somewhat useful in themselves, for cleaning out superfluous 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 marginally more expensive than Bitdefender Internet Security – the firm’s mid-tier security suite – it’s well worth the upgrade to Total Security if you have multiple devices across different platforms to protect.
About the only fly in the ointment is that Bitdefender Total Security may exact a bit more of a toll on the performance front than the best of the competition, although we found it to be around average in terms of any slowdown caused on our PC. Your mileage may vary, and indeed you may notice nothing at all.
Another plus point with Total Security is that there’s a 30-day trial, with no payment details needed; you just have to supply an email address. That means you can try out the security suite yourself for a full month, and see if there’s any performance impact on your own PC, before committing to buying.
Kaspersky Total Security is another veteran of the security world, and as you might expect, it delivers top-quality defenses with some impressively intelligent ‘adaptive protection’ capabilities (like warning you if a password you’ve just chosen is too weak).
One of the issues with the entry-level Kaspersky Anti-Virus package is that it’s rather flimsy when it comes to extra features, sticking to the core basics and not delivering much else. Which is why it makes good sense to go for Kaspersky Total Security, mainly because it provides far more functionality, and doesn’t cost much more than Kaspersky Anti-Virus (in fact, with the discounts on plans at the time of writing, it can be the same price – or even cheaper – to get Total Security, so you’d be foolish not to, really).
Total Security gives you all the basics, including fast, accurate and highly configurable virus scans. On top of that, you get an intelligent firewall (it doesn’t plague you with pop-up messages asking what to do), a secure web browser, protection from webcam hijacking, a software updater, file backup tool, along with a solid password manager, and Kaspersky’s Safe Kids module.
The latter is an excellent parental controls system with some smart 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 hell of a lot for your money here.
When we evaluated all of NortonLifeLock’s security suite options, we picked out Norton 360 Deluxe as the best value all-round choice for anyone who’s looking to protect more than a single device – which is likely the majority of folks.
There’s a wealth of features here, including excellent antivirus protection coupled with a very light touch when it comes to resource usage, bundled with webcam protection, and dark web monitoring (for US users only, mind), and 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 even stronger than Kaspersky in this department, and that’s saying something.
There are some truly 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).
Norton 360 Deluxe will cover up to five devices (and that 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 definitely consider this Norton package – particularly for family usage given the very thorough parental controls.
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 robust virus protection and multi-layered anti-ransomware defenses.
The package also gives you better-than-average URL filtering for safer web browsing, and this system is smartly configurable, too. That said, one slight weak point with Trend Micro’s offering is that there isn’t a huge amount of low-level control – such as virus scan options – so more demanding users may find it lacking here.
Maximum Security also 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 an impressive integrated password manager.
Less tech-savvy types will appreciate the ease of use here, which also goes 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-round security solution in the form of Avast Ultimate. This is another offering which 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 VPN.
Avast’s SecureLine VPN may not compete with the best VPN providers out there, but it delivers a solid enough – and importantly speedy enough – service. Avast Ultimate also sports a decent password manager, a secure browser, and some excellent network protection measures.
This suite has plenty of options for experts to play with in terms of configuration, and has solid enough antivirus defenses, backed up by a very 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 little 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 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, plus webcam protection, an accurate anti-phishing system, and a password manager (which is actually powered by LastPass – one of the most trusted names in password management, so you can be assured of the quality 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 bear in mind that the iOS app doesn’t offer malware scanning (it consists of a secure browser, backup, and password manager).
Still, Internet Security Plus is a well-rounded package, and a 70-day 100% money-back guarantee shows Webroot’s confidence in its suite.
ESET Smart Security Premium packs in a lot of features. This includes parental controls, network monitoring, additional network protection, webcam protection, secure file encryption, and an anti-theft feature for Windows devices (allowing for location tracking, and more) is an interesting bonus.
That said, the quality of some features can vary: for example, the system of parental controls is pretty barebones, but the password manager is very 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.
Bear in mind that ESET Smart Security Premium isn’t a great value proposition for longer-term subscriptions either, but it’s fine for a one-year plan, and a decent shout for an all-round solid security suite (plus it covers Linux, too).
As the name suggests, McAfee’s baseline product, Total Protection Individual, only covers one individual device. And if you’re thinking of buying it, 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, you get a sound security suite which protects up to five Windows or Mac computers, and Android or iOS devices. US customers also get a useful additional extra in the form of identity theft protection.
McAfee’s interface is simple and streamlined, 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.
Independent test lab reports suggest McAfee Total Protection offers solid enough antivirus defenses, if not class-leading. Overall, McAfee’s suite represents reasonable value and a decent choice in the Multi-Device package, with some nifty extras for boosting web browsing and app performance.
Another internet security suite worth considering is one from BullGuard, which offers a triple-layer of security backed by advanced machine learning to stop currently and future malware threats.
Additionally there is a built-in firewall, vulnerability scanner, and a home network scanner for ensuring your Wi-Fi connection is safe and secured. While Bullguard is missing some features that others provide, it does uniquely include parental controls for protecting children in the household from accessing malware websites.
There is also the option to protect multiple devices, and this works out cheaper than a lot of rival providers overall. In which case, this option would suit those looking for a more basic internet security suite without all the additional tools others bundle in that you might not use anyway.
Panda Dome Advanced has quite a proposition for those who own a lot of bits of hardware they need to protect – it covers an unlimited number of devices (subject to ‘reasonable home use’ as a caveat).
For not much more money, you get the same core protection as Panda Dome Essential (which is solid enough – although Panda’s malware defenses are inconsistently rated by the independent testing labs). On top of that, Panda Dome Advanced provides identity protection, parental controls, and advanced threat protection (including anti-ransomware).
This is a decently well-featured and lightweight suite that’s definitely worth a look for, say, larger families who might have a lot of devices to protect.
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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, full 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 types of program 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, but it is perfectly possible to create your own 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 its 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 that can be managed from a single interface. What’s more, they might cover several different types of device and offer different tiers of protection.
If you do want to build out your own suite, then you can pick the best of individual components in the following advice guides:
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What should I look for in an internet security suite?
All of the products on this list offer effective capabilities, so the difference is in additional capabilities. If there is a particular type of threat that concerns you, such as ransomware or phishing, check to see if there are specific protections included.
Banking safeguards, firewalls and parental controls are also areas you should consider – especially if there are multiple users on your computer. And of course, you should consider whether you need protection across multiple devices, such as smartphones.
The number of additional features and devices may impact cost though.
Finally, think about usability and the impact on system performance. Do you want a high level of customization or do you want an easy-to-use interface and do you want a program that is capable of fast scans or one that requires minimal system resources?