Bitdefender has an enviable reputation for its AV engine and markets it in several different 2013 versions. The core AV product is available as Antivirus Plus, but Bitdefender Total Security adds in several other useful tools and protections. You can pick the number of machines you want to protect and the length of the licence, from three to ten PCs and one to three years.
Installation is straightforward and, as usual with AV products, Bitdefender scans your system before installing. If you’re running Windows Vista or 7, it installs a widget, as well as its main control panel.
The widget gives quick access to several status displays, with security events in the top quadrant, progress of scans and updates in the two side ones and a link to the Bitdefender Web site at the bottom. The central section shows current status and active scans. As a final goody, you can drag any file onto the widget for a quick instant scan, to check its safety.
The main display shows a bar at the top with details of current issues, plus a switch for the Autopilot function and a button for settings. Autopilot is Bitdefender’s automated system, where it decides what to do about settings and threat handling, so avoiding pop-ups asking for individual decisions.
The main area of the display is taken up by four panels which by default show Antivirus, Antispam, Privacy and Firewall status with buttons and slide switches to do things like start a scan or switch the firewall off; only temporarily of course.
There are five more panels, which can be moved through, including Tune-Up, Safebox, Update, Safego and File Encryption. The settings button displays all nine panels at reduced size, leading through to separate controls for each element of the suite.
To highlight a few of the extras available in Total Security 2013, Tune-Up offers a monitor of all running applications, so you can see at a glance how much memory, CPU and system resources each is using. Safebox is an online backup facility, with 2GB available to share between your licences. Safego checks links from Facebook and Twitter, so you don't inadvertently go to infected sites, while File Encryption provides a vault for encrypted files you want to keep more securely.
One other utility, which is started separately from the desktop, is Safepay. This opens a secure browser to handle online banking transactions. It can hold a set of personal bookmarks for your bank, PayPal or other accounts, so they don’t have to be fed through your regular, possibly less-secure browser and also offers a virtual keyboard to guard against keyloggers.
Usability test results
We scanned our 30GB of mixed files using Bitdefender Total Security 2013 and it took 20 minutes 10 seconds to inspect 50,844 files, which gives it a throughput of just over 42 files per second. This is the lowest speed we’ve seen, but because of the low file count, it finishes comparatively quickly.
We continue to be surprised by the variations in file counts between different AV applications. Some products have examined over 270,000 files on this selective scan, while this one marks less than one fifth of this number. It depends, of course, on the algorithms used to assess which files are potential malware hosts and which, because of their type, are never going to be a risk. Our results suggest BitDefender is particularly good at picking between the two.
The performance footprint of the software is also pretty low. Comparing the copy times for our 2GB file copy with and without an AV scan running shows only an 11 per cent increase, the lowest we've seen.
Although there are no results yet available for the 2013 product, those produced by AV-Test for the 2012 engine are pretty remarkable. The low system load we saw is reflected in AV-Test’s Usability category, where the average slowdown for BitDefender was scored at 7, well below an industry average of 10. Adding in the number of false positives and false negatives, where there was only one in all of the testing, gave the software 5.5/6.0.
The Protection category, which looks at the level of security achieved with zero-day malware attacks, i.e. for new threats not previously protected against via malware signatures, scored the software at 5.5/6.0, too, but this hides the fact that it scored 98 per cent and 96 per cent in the two months of testing, where the industry average was just 88 per cent.
The final category, Repair, which looks at the detection of widespread malware, including rootkits, scored 100 per cent and only dropped two per cent in the removal of malicious components once the malware had been detected. Overall, this section scored a full 6.0/6.0, so the overall score for the product was an outstanding 17/18.
What you're looking for in a total security product is a solid core of anti-virus, antispam and web protection, coupled with useful extra facilities to help protect your PC against all-comers. This is pretty much what Bitdefender Total Security 2013 does, with some of the best results we've ever seen from AV-Test and very good results in our own performance and usability tests. The extra features, such as Safepay, which helps protect your online transactions and Safego, which prevents spoofed links from social networks, are valuable and easy to use. It’s not the cheapest IS product you can buy, but it does combine technical power with a no-nonsense interface.
Test restults courtesy of AV-Test.org.