BitDefender’s new Total Security 2008 arrived with a cheeky request that we test it directly against A-List incumbent Kaspersky. Bold words, but we were impressed by how well the software measured up.
By security suite standards, it’s low key. It puts gimmicky file and network activity monitors on your desktop, but you can easily hide them. After that it restricts itself to a single icon in the System Tray.
The standard settings balance unobtrusiveness nicely against protection. The firewall defaults to a whitelist of known processes, but you can make it stricter if you wish. Gaming mode can be activated directly from the System Tray icon – a thoughtful touch.
|As well as malware detection, BitDefender includes parental controls and a backup facility|
The front-end tries to be clear and simple, but we found its five rows of controls too busy, and its shiny aesthetics slightly too loud. The advanced settings view is better, offering plenty of controls to tinker with. A few cryptic icons would have benefited from text labels, though, and the English is sometimes a bit broken: for example, the Privacy Controls settings explain that ‘Outgoing emails which contain your private information from being sent’.
Niggles aside, the real issue is whether Total Security keeps you safe. Thankfully, when pitched against a challenging selection of 24 in-the-wild threats, the package scored an 87.5% hit rate. That may seem low, but Kaspersky only equalled that score this month, indicating that BitDefender is a capable malware detector. Its weak suit is infected files within archives: it found several, but it couldn’t fix them, and wouldn’t quarantine the archive. It gave up with an unsatisfactory warning that ‘your system is still infected’.
Worse, one of the items BitDefender missed was the intrusive RightOnAdz malware. This has been around since November, so with a current signature set it should have been caught (it was by Kaspersky). BitDefender happily assured us it was clean and recommended we let it connect to the internet.
Since this is ‘total’ security, the feature set goes beyond mere malware detection. There’s a spam filter with some sensible functions, like blocking email in foreign character sets, automatic whitelisting and various options for training its recognition module. The toolbar it inserted into Windows Mail was a little intrusive and annoying, but we’ve seen worse approaches.
There’s also a privacy control module, to prevent your personal details from being distributed online, plus parental controls, including access to BitDefender’s own database of child-unfriendly web pages. The obligatory system tune-up tools are there too, plus (unlike Kaspersky) a backup module. This supports network and FTP locations, but there’s no remote storage included.
Add features such as a network activity monitor and a startup process manager, and you’ve got a serious package. It can’t quite match Kaspersky’s malware removal abilities, but overall it’s a strong contender deserving serious consideration – especially since the annual RRP for three PCs is $20 less than Kaspersky’s.