Despite a bulldog featuring firmly in its advertising, BullGuard is a Danish Internet Security company that initially tied up a series of bundling deals with new PCs and has since gone on to be a well-known supplier of Internet Security (IS) software. It's 2013 offering comes in two flavours, BullGuard Antivirus 2013 and the more comprehensive product, reviewed here, BullGuard Internet Security 2013.
BullGuard Internet Security 2013 takes the core components of antivirus, firewall and a spam filter and adds in online backup, safe browsing, parental control, PC tune up, a vulnerability scanner and a game mode. The last two might need a little explaining. The vulnerability scanner checks for outdated software versions, which are more vulnerable to attack than the latest iterations, and the game mode removes any alerts, updates and pop-ups while you're playing.
The main improvements BullGuard claims for the 2013 product are in the provision of parental control, tune-up, online backup, and in a revamp to the behavioural analysis of applications on your PC, looking for suspicious actions. The interface has also been updated, designed to make it very easy to get at the key tasks you're likely to want to perform. The suite is also now compatible with Windows 8.
BullGuard has simplified the home panel (see picture above), possibly a little too far, down to just three buttons. They're labelled Status, Scan and Backup and show some slightly eccentric design choices. Status shows how much time is left on your licence and offers a reminder to use the online backup, neither of which seem like level one status information to us.
Backup can be used to set up and manage a backup of selected files to external drive, CD/DVD or online drive. You can choose by category – like documents, music or videos – and set up a schedule to do it automatically.
The Scan button doesn't offer a custom scan, which is a bit odd, as it's quite common to want to check a given folder or set of files for infection. You have to set up a named profile for a custom scan, stipulating the files and folders to be included, before you can run it. The only way to get a cheap and cheerful examination of selected files is to select them in a Windows File Manager screen, right click and select BullGuard scan.
Of more use is the Dashboard screen, which has buttons to access all the main modules, including Parental Control. Here, you can set up different profiles to restrict the sites and time available to different users of the same PC.
Running a scan on our 30GB basket of files produced two interesting results. Firstly, it took one hour three minutes to complete, which is a long time compared with most of the IS suites we've examined, though less than half the time of Kaspersky IS 2013. Secondly, BullGuard IS 2013 looked at 893,677 files, 59 per cent more than Kaspersky and a lot more than other packages.
Overall, the scan rate is 234 files/s, which sits well up the field. Further, on rerunning the same scan, it took 40mins 43s and examined 535,981 files. The faster time and lower file count shows that files are fingerprinted – marked so they don't have to be rescanned unless they've changed. BullGuard doesn't fingerprint as widely as Kaspersky, but this will depend on the algorithms used to check file eligibility.
We also looked at the system hit of the software, by copying 2GB of files with and without a scan running in the background. Without the scan, the copy took 1min 27s and with it running, the time went up to 1min 40s. This represents an increase of 14 per cent, which is low in comparison with the other suites we've tested. You should be able to continue work quite effectively with a scan running in the background.
The testing organisation AV-Test has yet to complete analysis of BullGuard's 2013 AV engine, but we would expect it to be easily as effective as the 2012 product. That scored 14.0/18.0, a good result, but not in the top tier.
When it's broken down, the highlight is its handing of zero-day malware in the Protection category, new viruses which have been released in the last 2-3 months. Here the software managed a full 6.0/6.0 and only missed one item in a full two months of testing.
It was pretty good on Usability, too, scoring 5.0/6.0. It only gave a couple of false warnings of legitimate software and was close to average on system slow-down. This reflects our results, where the program appeared to be light on the resources it uses.
Where it dropped right off was in Repair, the ability to rectify changes made by malware during an attack. It was below average in its ability to remove components of root kits and stealth malware and only just above average in rectifying critical system modifications. It scored just 3.0/6.0.
BullGuard Internet Security 2013 is a good, well-balanced suite with most of the elements you could want. It includes parental control, online back-up and PC tune-up in its app set, as well as the traditional core elements. Technically, it's good at finding malware, but not always as good at repairing damaged files. System impact is low, but some of the choices in simplifying the interface are questionable. The suite is available off-the-shelf and as a download, in one and three-year subscriptions for three or five computers, and with from 5GB to 100GB of online storage.
Test results courtesy of AV-Test.org.