BullGuard chose to license protection technologies from other security companies, improve upon them and create their own security suite. The result is BullGuard Internet Security 12 which brings together the antivirus engine from BitDefender and the firewall from Agnitum. But is this enough to transform it into a great product, that works well for all users? Let’s find out in this review.
Downloading the 60 days trial version of BullGuard Internet Security 12 requires you to create an account on BullGuard’s website. Without it, you won’t be able to download the suite nor use it. First you download an installer file that, in turn, downloads the actual suite from BullGuard’s servers. The download of the suite, without any updates, has approximately 26 MB in size, which is pretty small for a security suite.
Personally, I would have preferred a download process with fewer steps but at least your account is fully usable and gives you access to the file backup features included with BullGuard Internet Security 12.
The install process doesn’t take you through many steps, even when you choose to customize it. Once all updates are done, you get the latest version of the suite installed on your computer, with the most recent malware signatures. However, in order for the suite to be fully functional, you must restart your computer.
Once that is done, you can fully use BullGuard Internet Security 12. When launching the suite, you see a big white window, with very few buttons and a notification.
At that moment it was obvious to me that BullGuard decided to change the interface for this new version. I was curious to learn if the change was for the better or not.
Integration with Windows
I found it strange that, during the installation of BullGuard Internet Security 12 disabled Windows Defender but did not disable the Windows Firewall.
I find this unproductive for users. Having two firewalls running at the same time doesn’t lead to better performance nor to less issues. I honestly recommend all BullGuard users manually disable the Windows Firewall. I continued this review with the Windows Firewall disabled, to make sure it did not interfere with my evaluation.
The integration with Windows 7 networking features worked well, including the Homegroup. I was able to share files and devices with ease.
The suite added 4 seconds to my system’s boot timings which is very little when compared to many other security suites. To protect your system, BullGuard Internet Security 12 runs quite a few processes which need up to 110 MB of RAM to function. This is a bit more than what most other suites need but then again, it is not a lot for modern systems with lots of GB of RAM installed.
What I found strange is that BullGuard Internet Security 12 doesn’t protect its processes, as older versions did. Therefore killing its running processes is done with ease. Also, when you manually launch the suite, it is not able to recover the terminated services and your only chance is to restart your system, so that your system is protected again. What is even stranger is the fact that, in the list of General settings, there is a checkbox for allowing BullGuard to protect its components against termination. Why this option is not checked by default is really beyond me, considering that this protection was in place in older versions.
I checked this option and BullGuard protected all its services successfully. I wasn’t able to terminate any of them, nor could the viruses I used for testing its effectiveness, later on. I strongly recommend all BullGuard users enable this setting as well.
When it comes to integration with the major Internet browsers, things are looking good. BullGuard Internet Security 12 protects you when browsing the web, even though for some browsers like Google Chrome, it doesn’t install any special security add-ons, like it does for Firefox, for example.
Ease of Use & Configuration
In our review of the previous version - BullGuard Internet Security 10 - we applauded the friendliness of the user interface.
Once I noticed that the interface has been dramatically changed, I was very curious to learn if this meant an improvement and even more "user-friendliness". Unfortunately this is not the case. After using the new version I can’t help wonder why they changed a perfectly working interface. It’s like they changed it only for the sake of change and not for the sake of improving the experience.
If you look at the main window, you see three very visible buttons: Run which allows you to run different types of scans, Help and Support which gives you access all the support options available and the Control Panel. Then, hidden on the bottom-left, there is the Settings button.
Both the Control Panel and Settings take you to different configuration windows. Which configuration options to expect where is really not intuitive. You can configure all modules from both places, but there are different options made available in each. Both novices and geeks will feel confused until they learn the differences.
Then, finding things like the Quarantine or Logs is not intuitive. Why would I think of accessing the Quarantine from Control Panel, I really don’t know. It was the last place I expected it to be.
Then, there are usability quirks such as the fact that launching a Full System Scan, starts the scan and also the wizards for PC Tune Up and the Vulnerability Scanner. They are launched but they do not run. Two additional windows taking up lots of screen space. Why is that? Beats me!
Why don’t they start automatically if they are supposed to be part of the full-system scan? If they shouldn’t be part of it, then why are they shown to the user? BullGuard Internet Security 12 only forced me to make unnecessary clicks to close these wizards I did not want to use.
Another issue is with the Firewall prompts. They start as small notifications, announcing that some software was granted or blocked access to the Internet. If I click on More information, I get a slightly larger window (the one on the left) that now contains the title and version of the program. In order to get information about its executable, the type of connection being made, the connection details, etc I need to make another click on More information, to get to a third information window (the one on the right), which contains the information I want. The second window could have been easily removed as it doesn’t offer real information.
Another problem I identified is that BullGuard Internet Security 12 has no active scheduled scans. Therefore, your system will be protected only by its real-time protection service. There is no weekly or at least a monthly scan to double check your system. I strongly recommend that BullGuard users create their own custom scheduled scans, to make sure their system is scanned regularly. Luckily, they have plenty of options for setting up custom scan profiles and scheduling them to run based on different criteria.
When making scans, geeks won’t appreciate the fact that they cannot set specific files to be excluded. Exclusions can be set for entire file types but not based on filenames.
There are also positives to BullGuard, just not as many as the negatives, in terms of usability:
As always with BullGuard products, the support options are clearly highlighted and easily accessible. You can start a Live Chat in seconds and get help from a real person, without any additional cost. That’s really great and customers will love this.
The configuration options being presented are always easy to understand, even by novices. Just the firewall configuration can prove to be a bit trickier. Luckily, the help is pretty good and can help you understand the more complex options.
BullGuard Internet Security 12 is a bit more verbose than other suites but it can be made very silent when the "BullGuard should be as quiet as possible" setting is checked in General settings.
Unfortunately I wasn’t pleasantly impressed with the interface changes introduced by BullGuard Internet Security 12. I was really curious to learn if the effectiveness of its protection remained as good as in the previous versions.
I noticed that BullGuard Internet Security 12 uses for their firewall, the technology from Agnitum - the Russian manufacturers behind the Outpost Security Suite Pro. We tested their suite some time ago and we learned that their firewall is pretty effective. However, in BullGuard’s hands, the default configuration of the firewall is even better and more effective. In my tests with Nmap and Nessus, the firewall did leave any open ports and only the MAC address was identified. No information about my operating system was discovered, nothing that could compromise the system’s security. This impressive result was obtained both when the network I was connected to was marked as trusted and when it wasn’t.
The only downside I could find was that you need to manually set if a network connection is considered trusted or not. BullGuard Internet Security 12 does not monitor the choice you make when setting the network location in Windows 7, to adjust its settings.
Antivirus and Antispyware Features
BullGuard Internet Security 12 uses for their antivirus and antispyware components, the technology developed by BitDefender. BitDefender is famous for the effectiveness of their engine and I did not expect less than stellar results in my tests.
Luckily that was the case. I did not manage to get my system infected during no matter how I tried: BullGuard Internet Security 12 effectively scanned by web browsing activities and blocked access to malicious websites. When I inserted removable media, it automatically scanned it when it was accessed and removed all the identified malware. I also installed a virus prior to installing BullGuard Internet Security 12. Once the security suite was up and running, it had no troubles in removing it.
The scanning time is reasonably fast. It finished a full-system scan of a 30GB partition in about 8 minutes, which is faster than most suites.
My positive results are confirmed also by independent security organisations. AV Comparatives awarded BullGuard their top Advanced+ rating. Virus Bulletin awarded a 90%+ score for their Reactive Detection Rate and 80%+ for their Proactive Detection Rate. AV Test awarded BullGuard a great 6.0 out 6.0 for protection and a very average 3.0 score for repair, which is a bit surprising.
BullGuard Internet Security 12 continues to provide really good protection that combines some of the best security technologies on the market: BitDefender for the antivirus and Agnitum for the firewall. With this suite installed you will have a secure system.
However, the usability of the suite has decreased a lot with the new interface changes. What once was a very friendly and easy to use product, has transformed into a rather confusing experience. This, coupled with a less than ideal default configuration that doesn’t allow the suite to protect its components from termination and the lack of default scheduled scans, don’t allow me to recommend this product to everyone.
Only geeks will be able to take full advantage of this suite and improve some of its weaknesses.