Best Internet Security Software Android Central 2021
Internet Security programs have real-time protection, which stops malware before it attacks your computer. They can also include additional security tools like firewalls, vulnerability scanners, and parental controls to give you more overall protection against more types of threats, including more layers of ransomware security. Bitdefender Internet Security is this year's leading program. It received high scores for malware blocking in my own test and from other third-party labs and includes tools like a VPN and password manager.
- Best Overall: Bitdefender Internet Security
- Runner-Up: Kaspersky Internet Security
- Mac Internet Security: Intego Mac Premium Bundle
- Best with Identity Theft Monitoring: Norton 360 Deluxe
- Best for Gamers: Avast Premium Security
- Best Multi-Device Protection: McAfee Total Security
- Best Web Reputation Technology: Trend Micro Internet Security
- Best for Older Computers: F-Secure SAFE
Best Overall: Bitdefender Internet Security
Bitdefender Internet Security has all the tools I look for in a computer protection program. This includes safe browsing features, high malware detection and blocking scores, and a two-way personal firewall. This internet security software program also has a vulnerability scanner that helps find weak spots in your system where ransomware is likely to break through and gives you ways to strengthen them.
Because it is more than a basic antivirus program, Bitdefender Internet Security also includes webcam and microphone monitoring, password managers, and safe banking tools. It also gives you access to its VPN and 200MB of daily encrypted traffic. This isn't a lot compared to other internet security programs, but it's still impressive it is included.
Bitdefender Internet Security comes with parental controls that let you keep track of where your kids have been while online, block inappropriate content, and set time limits. Social media protections keep you safe from malicious links and downloads shared on popular sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
During my tests of internet security programs, Bitdefender stopped malware files before they had a chance to download, and most threats were easily recognized as malware and instantly scrubbed from my computers with no part left to possibly reinfect my system. Bitdefender has both quick and deep virus scans just in case something does get through, though these scans take a very long time compared to other programs. However, because Bitdefender Internet Security doesn't take up a lot of resources, you can still browse the web, work on projects, conduct online meetings, play games or watch videos without experiencing lag.
- Good malware detection and protection
- Includes a VPN
- Comes with a firewall
- Doesn't cause slowdown
- Parental controls
- Very long scan times
- Less VPN access compared to other programs
Runner-Up: Kaspersky Internet Security
Kaspersky is my personal favorite internet security program. It has the lightest digital foot of all the programs on my list and is one of the easiest to use. Kaspersky Internet Security is compatible with multiple operating systems and devices, so I can use the same program on both my smartphone and computer without worrying about lag or buffering. It also comes with multiple user licenses at a decent price, so it doesn't break the bank to protect all my devices, either.
This internet security program includes 300MB of encrypted traffic each day with the included VPN. This includes hiding your IP address and device location and keeping trackers from tapping into your online browser and search histories. Kaspersky Internet Security also has a two-way firewall to protect your internet connection from hackers, especially when connected to public hotspots. And it has webcam protections so it can't be accessed by anyone or anything without your explicit permission.
Kaspersky is one of the best when it comes to online protection. Its safe browsing tools tag search results as safe or dangerous, and it comes out on top for recognizing and blocking phishing schemes. Using real-time antivirus, Kaspersky stops malicious files before they start to download. And it has a virtual keyboard to hide everything you type from keyloggers, even in documents and programs stored locally and used offline.
The only real black eye Kaspersky has is its past accusations of using its programs to collect sensitive information from U.S. government agencies and official devices and sending it to the Russian government. The U.S. has since banned using Kaspersky on its devices and asks its workers to do the same on their government-issued and personal devices. However, the government hasn't banned its use for consumers, and Kaspersky has moved its base of operations into other countries where it is consistently scrutinized and subject to third-party inspections.
- Good value
- Excellent online protections
- Virtual keyboard
- Low use of resources
- Compatible on multiple platforms
- Included VPN
- Banned from government use
Mac Internet Security: Intego Mac Premium Bundle
While any of the programs on this lineup work with Mac devices, Intego is specifically designed to work seamlessly with them. The Intego Mac Premium Bundle is a collection of security programs in one software package. You get to decide which programs to download and which you don't need.
Intego's VirusBarrier is very good at stopping Mac malware as it attempts to download and infect computers. In my tests, it recognized and stopped 97% of the over 130 threats used in my sample. These included Trojans, worms, and ransomware. There were a handful of threats that made it onto my test computer, but Intego's virus scan was able to find and quarantine them before they had a chance to do any harm. I did need to initiate the scan manually since Intego didn't automatically scan for these threats.
Along with virus protection, Intego's internet security program comes with NetBarrier, which is a personal firewall. While Mac operating systems include a firewall, I've found that using NetBarrier helps catch more threats coming in through Wi-Fi connections, especially when connected to public hotspots. You also have the option to download WashingMachine to clean junk and corrupted files from your computer so it runs faster, and ContentBarrier, which are Intego's parental controls.
There are a few tools Intego Mac Premium Bundle doesn't include that most other internet security software have. This includes safe browsing features, safe banking tools, and a password manager. Intego also isn't compatible with mobile devices. Another important note about Intego is while it does a good job stopping Mac threats, it doesn't recognize Windows threats. These won't affect your system but can be easily shared through email and instant messages to Windows users.
- Designed specifically for Mac computers
- Includes a personal firewall
- Comes with parental controls
- Bundle comes with multiple programs
- Missing some important tools
- Doesn't recognize Windows threats
- Tools are downloaded individually
Best with Identity Theft Monitoring: Norton 360 Deluxe
Norton's internet security program is 360 Deluxe. It comes with five user licenses to secure multiple devices, and it's compatible with both PCs and Macs, and Android and iOS mobile devices. Norton includes a firewall, password manager, and parental controls for both monitoring content your children are accessing and for setting time limits.
One great feature of Norton 360 Deluxe is the 50GB of secured, online storage space. This is more space than you get with a free Google Drive subscription and is a good place to back up important files or keep them away from possible ransomware attacks. You can access this information from any computer or device through your online Norton account and can set to have specific files and folders automatically backed up.
I've evaluated many identity theft programs, and have used several myself. LifeLock is easily the best service out there. Coupled with Norton Deluxe, LifeLock monitors the dark web to ensure both your physical and digital identity isn't being sold or compromised. It scours criminal and medical records to make sure your identity isn't being used as an alias or to secure medical care and pass along the bill to you.
Norton does a good job of recognizing and stopping most malware threats during the download process. It blocks malicious websites and most phishing schemes. It gives you detailed information about the threats it stops and is one of the only programs I've tested that detects automatic downloads that are still active on discontinued sites and blocks them. But it is painfully slow on all devices. I've installed and attempted to use Norton on both desktops and mobile devices, and while I'm impressed with the level of protection it gives, it takes a long, long time for programs to open, attachments to upload and even my cursor to follow through on movements while Norton is running.
- Identity theft protection
- 50GB cloud storage
- Blocks phishing schemes
- Includes a firewall
- Comes with five user licenses
- Create noticeable slowdown on all devices
Best for Gamers: Avast Premium Security
Avast tops the list for the best free antivirus software, but you get so much more, on top of already great virus protection, with Avast Premium Security. This computer protection program doesn't bother you with popup ads but still comes with plenty of impressive tools that aren't found in most other internet security programs. For example, its Wi-Fi Inspector works like a personal firewall that monitors internet communications coming from and entering into your computer. Avast's protections extend to other devices including your internet router, game consoles, and smart TVs.
I've installed Avast on most of my children's computers, especially the gamers, because of Avast's automatic gamer mode. This function recognizes when you are on a legitimate gaming website and will automatically direct more resources to your game so you don't experience any lag or buffering while playing. You also won't be bothered by any non-essential notices and scheduled scans will be suspended until you leave your game. Avast still keeps a close eye on any potential threats, especially any downloads that may have malware attached to it.
Other security tools that come with Avast Premium Security are a VPN and webcam monitoring. It also has a vulnerability scanner that looks for weak points and helps you secure them against hackers and ransomware. It also helps optimize your entire system so your device runs faster and more efficiently. The only tool really missing from this internet security program is parental controls.
Avast Premium Security is an expensive program, especially for a single user. For multiple devices, the price is more comparable to other internet security programs. Avast has been in the news lately for admitting to selling user information to its partners, including Google and Home Depot. All internet security programs have data collection agreements, but like Avast, you do have the option to opt-out either during the initial installation or under settings on its dashboard.
- Gamer mode
- Wi-Fi Inspector
- Webcam monitoring
- Data collecting
- No parental controls
Best Multi-Device Protection: McAfee Total Security
McAfee's advanced security program is specially designed for busy families with multiple devices to keep track of and protect. It comes with parental controls that work very well on both desktops and mobile devices and let you set time limits and restrict websites, apps and content your children can access. It's webcam monitoring and home network security tools are also important for protecting children even when they're offline.
McAfee Total Security is one program that scores near the top for malware detection and protection. It easily stops most threats from downloading and infecting your computer, and those that do make it through McAfee finds and quarantines with its deep virus scan. This internet security program also includes a password manager, system and vulnerability scans and safe browsing features.
One function I particularly like about McAfee is how quickly it identifies online threats and warns you in great detail about what is lurking on websites and why you shouldn't visit them. It also does a really good job of recognizing and blocking phishing schemes, especially those designed to look like login pages for popular social media, financial services, and online retailers.
McAfee does have a VPN available with unlimited access to encrypted traffic. However, it is only available if you agree to enroll in its automatic renewal program. Also, while the initial cost for first-time users is really impressive, and comes with multiple user licenses, after the first year the cost increases substantially.
- Compatible with computers and mobile devices
- Parental controls
- Home network security
- Blocks phishing schemes
- Slow down on some devices
- VPN only available with auto-renewal program
Best Web Reputation Technology: Trend Micro Internet Security
Trend Micro Internet Security isn't too different than its basic antivirus program. It has the same excellent protection scoring more consistent perfect scores for malware blocking than any antivirus software I've tested over the years. Trend Micro scans emails for spam messages and malicious links and attachments. It's also very good at detecting and warning against phishing schemes.
All Trend Micro computer protection programs have AI learning and use it to recognize and stop zero-day threats, or malware that is so new it hasn't been included in malware databases. Trend Micro also has web reputation technology that recognizes when a URL link is attempting to redirect you to a malicious website designed to look like a legitimate page.
Pay Guard is Trend Micro's safe banking program. It creates a secure browser with added protections to shield personal and financial information as you bank and shop online. Logging into online accounts is protected so your information isn't captured by keyloggers or tracked by internet snoops. You also get parental controls, social media protections and an optimization scanner with this internet security program.
Trend Micro has always had a heavy feeling while I've used it. It does create some slow down on devices, though it is worse during virus and system scans. I wouldn't recommend Trend Micro if you do a lot of gaming or watching videos online because it is known to create some lag that may affect your experience. Trend Micro is also one of the more tricky programs to figure out how to navigate and find all the tools and settings you need. But overall it's protection capabilities outrank just about everyone else.
- Excellent malware protection
- False website recognition
- AI learning
- Email monitoring
- Creates some slowdown
- A bit of a learning curve
Best for Older Computers: F-Secure SAFE
F-Secure is one program where I don't recommend the basic antivirus software, but I have no problem recommending its internet security solution. This is because its antivirus program doesn't have safe browsing or real-time threat monitoring, so it only rounds up malware after it has landed on your device. However, F-Secure SAFE is a very secure program that does stop malicious downloads, hackers, and ransomware before they attack, and is compatible with all your family's devices. It comes with a minimum of three user licenses.
This internet security program works really well on older computers running Windows 7 or High Sierra operating systems. It works on both iPhones and Android devices, though I've found there is a little bit of slowdown when installed on mobile. On all platforms, SAFE monitors for common threats and especially keeps a sharp lookout for ransomware. While browsing online, F-Secure marks search results as trusted or dangerous sites to visit and blocks most phishing schemes you attempt to access. You get safe banking tools and some parental controls that let you decide when and where your child can go online.
From the F-Secure website, you can take advantage of several free cybersecurity tools without having to purchase antivirus software, first. These include a router checker to see how safe your internet connection is and a browser test to see how often you accidentally visit dangerous websites or provide sensitive information. You can also use the Online Scanner. This looks for existing viruses and malware hiding on your computer and helps you clean them off. This is one of the best tools of its kind, though it isn't as effective as using antivirus software to prevent an infection in the first place.
While SAFE is a really good internet security program, it doesn't have the same impressive list of advanced security tools that other programs include. For example, F-Secure SAFE doesn't have a VPN or protections against internet trackers, including adware. It also doesn't have Wi-Fi protections that monitor your connection to all your devices to ensure nothing is attempting to hack into your computer or personal files. These are included with F-Secure TOTAL, its premium computer protection program, but it costs a lot more than the internet security package.
- Compatible with old operating systems
- Free security tools on its website
- Safe banking tools
- Parental controls
- Missing important advanced security tools
- Slowdown on mobile
- Doesn't stop web trackers
Why invest in an internet security program, and why Bitdefender is the best
Antivirus is often used as a blanket term to mean any software program designed to protect computers or cell phones from malware, including viruses, ransomware, Trojans, and rootkits. Within the industry itself, antivirus is the basic software program that doesn't do much more than stop malware attacks, and, depending on the developer, may not stop malware in real-time, but rather wait until it is on your system before rounding it up.
Bitdefender Internet Security stops malware files before they start downloading and scrubs them clean so there isn't any part remaining to still infect your computer. It consistently earns perfect, or near-perfect scores for malware blocking year after year. This internet security program includes extra protections for your entire system including a personal firewall, VPN and a vulnerability scanner to strengthen your computer against ransomware and hackers. Bitdefender monitors social media posts in case, someone, accidentally, or purposely, shares a link or file that is actually a threat. Plus it comes with parental controls to let you block inappropriate content and set time limits for children. Overall it's a good deal with the cost of purchasing multiple user licenses being comparable to a single license for some basic antivirus software.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Nicole Johnston writes for multiple Future Publishing brands, including Android Central, covering primarily internet security and privacy programs. She has over 13 years of research and writing experience in both the public and private sector, including seven years of testing and reviewing consumer products and five evaluating antivirus software, parental controls, VPNs and identity theft services.
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