Computer Security

NetGuide Security Software Review

Security Suites rated by Netguide

BitDefender Internet Security 2008
RRP: $NZ79 for one year for up to three PCs
Pros: Fast and comprehensive scanning engine, neat extras.
Cons: Asks a lot of the user.

BitDefender is very effective (and fast) at detecting infestations and is highly configurable, but we found that it tended to need considerable manual intervention. BitDefender still asks too much of its users – especially when it comes to virus and spyware removal. On several occasions, we found that if BitDefender had trouble removing a virus it simply gave up and moved on, leaving the virus intact. That’s just not good enough.

But on the plus side, the parental controls, learning spam filter, the system protection, firewall, registry cleaner and automated backup are all nifty tools. The controls for these applications are simple enough that even beginners can get a grip on them.

Verdict: Advanced users will probably find the speed and configurability of BitDefender appealing, but beginners may struggle with some of its quirks.

Check Point ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7.1
RRP: $A69.95 for one user for one year; $99.95 for one user for two years; $99.90 for three users for one year
Pros: Excellent security, lots of options.
Cons: Too many pop-ups soon after installation.

ZoneAlarm is the power-user’s suite of choice. Built around the ZoneAlarm firewall – probably the best firewall in the business right now – the suite is extremely configurable, and even the finest details of the security systems can be tweaked. This, however, can present problems to those of us who just want to install it and then forget about it.

The suite covers all the bases: there’s anti-virus and anti-spyware, firewall and anti-spam, phishing protection, parental controls and privacy protection. We found all of the components well implemented. It removed viruses on our test system efficiently, detected most of the spam and generally did all the things we would have asked.

Verdict: Although it is more suitable for less-technical users than it has been in the past, ZoneAlarm remains a power-user’s suite at heart. Still, it provides excellent protection across the board.

McAfee Total Protection
$129.95 for one year for three users; $207 for two years for three users
Lots of well-implemented features, good documentation and help systems.
Cons: Can be complicated to manage, too many pop-ups.

We’ve yet to see another suite that has more features than McAfee’s Total Protection. You have all your basics, of course: firewall, anti-spam, anti-virus, anti-spyware – plus phishing and privacy protection, parental controls, email monitoring, identity theft filters and many more components. It even extends its protection to the entire home network as well, monitoring network traffic and file shares on the network.

The downside of having all these features, of course, is that the product is neither light nor unobtrusive, and it can be painful at times to manage. McAfee does an excellent job of documenting the different features of the suite and providing helpful guides to controlling the system, but inevitably managing the suite does require some work, especially early on.

Verdict: If cost and effort are not issues, then McAfee provides security that is rarely rivalled.

AVG Internet Security Home Edition 7.5
RRP: $NZ110 for two computers for one year; $116 for three computers for one year; $147 for two computers for two years
Pros: Good anti-virus engine, easy and fast installation.
Cons: Not much to recommend beyond the anti-virus and anti-spyware.

Though we heartily applaud GriSoft for making its anti-virus and anti-spam products available to home users for free (visit to get hold of them), we tend to wonder what the appeal the full suite holds when its major components can be had for nothing.

The firewall in the suite is over-zealous and too prone to pop-ups, and the anti-spam filter’s performance was patchy and won’t work with encrypted mail (such as that used by Gmail). There’s no Web phishing protection, no backup and the interface could use some work.

We are, however, fans of the AVG virus scanning and removal engine. It removed viruses and spyware on our test system with no fuss and without requiring user intervention. The anti-virus and anti-spyware both worked very well.

Verdict: If you can legally get the anti-virus and anti-spyware products for free (ie: you’re a home user), we see little reason to buy the full suite.

Kaspersky Internet Security 7.0
$A82.50 for one PC for one year; $132 for one PC for two years; $165 for three PCs for one year
Pros: Outstanding virus scanner, easy to control.
Cons: Weak anti-spam, parental controls and Web defences.

Built on Kaspersky’s outstanding virus scanner, most of the other components of this suite feel rather tacked on. The spam filter is especially awful, and the firewall is merely passable, as are the parental controls, Web defences and privacy controls.

In spite of these weaknesses, however, Kaspersky has done a good jog of keeping things simple for the user. Most features are managed by simple sliding bars that control the level of security.

As we’ve noted, the real highlight of the package is the anti-virus and anti-spyware scanner, which is quick, efficient and comprehensive. It monitors everything, from running programs to compressed archives to incoming and outgoing emails. The rest of the suite, however, leaves much to be desired.

Verdict: Easy to use, but really only worthwhile for its virus scanner (which can be bought separately).

Symantec Norton 360
RRP: $NZ130 per year, up to three PCs covered
Pros: Very effective, rarely annoys the user.
Cons: Weak anti-spam.

Of all the suites we looked at, this was the one least inclined to harass us and the most likely to remove undesirable software from our system. For the user with no knowledge of security issues, this makes it a near-perfect suite. Or should we say a service, which is how Symantec is pitching the product. You pay a flat rate per year of using the product, which makes it a rather expensive proposition for most users, and the product will cease to function once your licence expires. However, it does mean you’ll get any software updates as they come out – you’ll never have to buy a new version of the suite.

Norton 360 comes with a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware, system tuning, document backup, phishing protection and several optional downloads, like a (nearly useless) spam filter. Uniquely, Symantec also provides 2GB of secure online storage space for document backup as part of the service.

Verdict: An outstanding suite for people who want to “buy” security – it asks very little of the user, but will protect your system effectively.

Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security Pro 2008
RRP: $NZ100 for one year for three users; $150 for two years for three users
Pros: Very easy to use, lots of features.
Cons: Not highly configurable.

PC-cillin has always been a suite targeted at the non-technical user. It doesn’t ask too many questions of the PC’s owner, instead sitting discreetly in the background, removing threats with the usual level of harassment you see from many security suites.

This focus on the non-technical user extends right down into the interface. Many of the suite’s features are controlled by sliders and basic options. It’s not the most configurable of suites, but it is one of the easiest to set up.
For all its simplicity, PC-cillin Internet Security Pro is packed with features. You have your usual anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall and anti-spam. Then there’s phishing protection, identity theft protection, email monitoring, parental controls and performance tuning, as well as some unique features targeted at users of mobile computers. While we found the application a little unstable at times, all these features, combined with a very appealing interface, make it a top choice for the neophyte home user.
Verdict: Much like Norton 360, PC-cillin will really appeal to the non-technical user, with comprehensive security and an easy interface.

Best in Test
Symantec Norton 360. With its outstanding security and hassle-free operation, Norton 360 is the premium choice for both beginners and advanced users.


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