Security For Everyone - Reviewing Bitdefender Total Security 2015
This summer Bitdefender launched their 2015 version of security products. We were curious to test it and learn what's new, how well it works and, most of all if Bitdefender remains one of the top security products on the market. We received a license of Bitdefender Total Security 2015 a week ago and since then we have been using it on a regular basis. Here's what we have learned:
When you want to download Bitdefender Total Security 2015 you are asked to provide your e-mail address. You will receive an email with the direct download link. If you want to skip this step, you can also download it from Softpedia. First, you download a setup file that has only 8MB in size. When you run it, you can start a quick installation or select Custom and be allowed to change the installation folder or configure your proxy settings. Unfortunately you cannot select which modules get installed. You can enable or disable the different protection modules only after the product is installed.
In order to install Bitdefender Total Security, this small setup file downloads 420 MB of files, so arm yourself with some patience. As always with Bitdefender products, the setup file performs a quick security scan of your system while the whole suite is downloaded. This step is a nice touch. The only trouble with this downloader is that it can be terminated by nasty viruses so you can't use it to download Bitdefender and disinfect a system that's already filled with malware. In this scenario you need to create a rescue disc on another computer and use it to disinfect your system.
After the product is downloaded and installed, you are asked to register your product and log in with a Bitdefender account, so that you can use features like Parental Controls, Anti-Theft or Safego.
Users are not asked to reboot their computers but this doesn't mean a reboot is not required. Also, Bitdefender waits quite a lot of time before it starts updating itself to the latest version. If you want to make sure that you use the latest version, with the latest definitions, as soon as possible, you have to press the Update now button and then restart your computer, so that the update is applied.
Bitdefender Total Security 2015 packs lots of features and tools, so it is quite large. You will download approximately 428 MB of data so arm yourself with some patience. The installation is easy to go through and it requires users to create a Bitdefender account if they want to fully utilize the product.
Integration with Windows 8.1 & Modern Apps
First of all, you will notice that the user interface has been simplified in comparison with previous versions and it is now easy to use also on devices with touch. You shouldn't have any issues using it on a tablet or a hybrid device with Windows 8.1.
Bitdefender also features a widget that's displayed on the Desktop. This widget informs the user about Bitdefender's status. It will change its color and icon depending on what is going on. For example, when an update is performed, you will see a visual indicator that's specific for this process. If security issues are discovered, the widget changes its color and icon, so that it warn users of what is going on.
At first, the widget looked interesting so we decided to use it. However, after a couple of days we started to find it annoying. It was always in the way, when working on the Desktop, so we chose to disable it. Some users might feel the same as us. In terms of integration with Windows 8.1 and its security and networking features, everything is good, just as you would expect from a top security product. Bitdefender disabled both the Windows Firewall and Windows Defender in order to avoid conflicts and performance issues. We were able to correctly use the Homegroup and other network features. Installing and updating apps from the Windows Store worked well and we were also able to play online games without any special configuration. In terms of integration with web browsers, Bitdefender does a good job at automatically scanning all your HTTP traffic. You are protected no matter which browser you are using. It also installs a Wallet extension for Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox. Unfortunately this feature is not available for Opera users, even though it uses the same rendering engine as Google Chrome. In terms of performance impact, we first measured how fast our test system booted, using Bootracer. We are happy to report that Bitdefender has lowered its impact on boot timings from a 27% increase in the 2014 version to a 20% increase in the 2015 version. Bitdefender Total Security 2015 added 5 seconds to our test system's original 25 seconds startup. One interesting change since the previous version is that Bitdefender now uses more RAM in order to function in the background. On our test system this suite used approximately 228 MB of RAM. However, its protection processes are well protected and they cannot be killed with ease by malware or other users. We also used PCMark Vantage and 3DMark Vantage to evaluate if Bitdefender had impacted the system performance when working on our test computer or when playing games. PCMark Vantage has not measured any performance decrease after installing Bitdefender while 3DMark Vantage has reported only a 1% decrease in performance when gaming. This is a great result and it looks like Bitdefender has improved its performance footprint since the 2014 version.
Bitdefender Total Security 2015 is well integrated with Windows 8.1 and its security and networking features. It scans your HTTP traffic meaning that it works well with all web browsers. Also, its performance footprint has been improved since the 2014 version and your computer's performance will be better than when using the previous version.
Ease of Use & Configuration
The user interface feels very snappy and responsive from the moment you start the installation process. Everything looks and runs very smoothly. On the main screen you have three big buttons: Protection, Privacy, and Tools. Pressing on them reveals different shortcuts and settings. The smaller buttons on the right (Scan, Update, Safepay and Optimize) start actions (a quick scan or an update) or tools (like Safepay). On the top-right you can access a menu with options for accessing your Bitdefender account, general settings, a log with all the events, the security report, the help documentation and the wizard for getting in touch with Bitdefender's support service.
As you can see, the interface is even simpler than in the past which is great, especially for beginners and casual users. Advanced users can still access detailed configuration settings but they will need to go through more hops than in the past. They will still be able to set detailed rules, create their own custom scans, set all kinds of exclusions, etc. Another important change in the 2015 version of Bitdefender products is the fact that all the different tools and features are more tightly integrated than ever. In the previous version, some Bitdefender features and tools required users to start them using different shortcuts. They couldn't be launched from the main interface of the product. One example is the Safepay browser which had a separate shortcut on the Desktop. Now everything is integrated into the main product and all the available tools and features can be started from the main interface. This integration will simplify the user experience. In the 2015 version, users should gain a better understanding of all the features they have at their disposal and working them will be easier than in the past. Another step towards improving the user experience is the introduction of profiles: Standard, Work, Game and Movie. The user can set the active profile manually, depending on what he or she is doing and Bitdefender can also proactively switch between profiles, depending on what it sees the user do.
If Bitdefender detects that the user is playing a game, the Game profile is activated, which postpones scheduled scans, changes the automatic product update from once every hour to once every 12 hours, disable pop-ups and product notifications and it temporarily deactivates certain features that get in the way when gaming (e.g. Safebox auto synchronization). Each profile has its own set of settings, that's appropriate for each type of activity. At least in theory, these profiles should make Bitdefender the least annoying security product ever made. We were pleased with the way they worked. When configuring how Bitdefender Total Security 2015 works, we appreciated the simple language used for most of the available settings. Users should have no issues understanding what each setting is about. And when they do, there's plenty of documentation that explains almost everything.
We also liked that the suite includes the Bitdefender Support Tool which allows users to contact Bitdefender's support service directly from the product. Follow the steps involved, input the required data and you will contact the support service in no time.
In terms of alerts, Bitdefender is very silent when the Autopilot is turned on. You should not receive any firewall prompts (we did not see any in our testing) and encounter only malware related warnings when threats are detected. When it comes to reports, Bitdefender offers detailed logs of everything that it does as well as a visual weekly security report.
Bitdefender has worked a lot on further simplifying the user interface and on integrating all the available features and modules. As a result, the 2015 version offers a simpler user experience that will be enjoyed a lot by users that want a install & forget kind of security product. However, advanced users will need a bit of time for accommodation, until they understand where all the advanced configuration options are now found.
The Bitdefender firewall remains the quietest security module in the whole suite and it also does a good job at blocking network attacks. We have ran several scans Nessus and it wasn't able to identify any open ports, both when using the Home/Office and the Public profiles. It identified only the MAC address which doesn't represent a security threat. A small yet important change is that now the Bitdefender firewall actively monitors the network profile you set in Windows and it automatically adjusts its settings, to protect you in a more efficient manner and give you access to networking features, when you need to use them. To give you a better understanding, when you set a network as Private in Windows 8.1, Bitdefender sets the network type as Home/Office. When you set the network as Public in Windows 8.1, Bitdefender also sets it as Public and it adjusts the way it protects you. To learn more about network locations in Windows and how they work, we recommend you to read this tutorial: What are Network Locations in Windows 7 & Windows 8?.
The only downside was that we did not understand the purpose of the Trusted and Untrusted network types, since they don't seem to be used automatically and it's not clear how they are different from the other network types. Also, the Generic setting for a network adapter is not well documented and we could not understand its impact on how it protects a device.
The Bitdefender firewall is well integrated with Windows and its networking features. As a result, it delivers quiet and effective protection from most threats, without annoying its users with prompts and warnings.
Antivirus and Antispyware
The Bitdefender antivirus engine has received lots of recognition in the past and for good reason: it has some of the best detection and removal rates in the industry. In our testing, the anti-malware protection was as effective as always. Bitdefender Total Security 2015 promptly blocked all the malicious websites that we tried to access, in all the browsers we have used, including the touch version of Internet Explorer and Opera.
Removable media like external hard disks, USB memory sticks or DVDs is automatically scanned for malware. Bitdefender was able to successfully neutralize all the malware we tried to introduce using such media.
In terms of scanning speed, Bitdefender remains a fast engine. It managed to scan a 38 GB partition with 26.8 GB of files in 8 minutes. That's faster than most security products can offer. The only downside we discovered is related to the default scans. If you press the Scan button from the main interface, a quick scan is performed. If you want to make another type of scan, your only option is to go for a System Scan which scans everything. This is accessible by going to "Protection -> Antivirus -> System Scan". Users that want to perform custom scans need to first create a new scan and then run it. Also, there are no scheduled scans available. We advise users to set their own schedule for regular scans.
Because Bitdefender Total Security 2015 was launched not long ago, other independent security organizations did not have the chance to review it yet. The ratings they published are for the 2014 edition and they are great, as you know from our review of the 2014 version.
In our testing, the malware protection offered by Bitdefender Internet Security 2015 was very effective and it blocked all the malicious websites we tried to visit and all the malware samples we tried to run.
As you would expect from a "Total Security" type of product, Bitdefender Total Security 2015 packs plenty of additional features:
- Tuneup Utilities - it includes a total of 7 tuning utilities: OneClick Optimizer, Startup Optimizer, PC Clean-up, Disk Defragmenter, Registry Cleaner, Registry Recovery and Duplicate Finder. Even though they work well at what they do, most of them replicate features that are already found in Windows. In our view, the most useful tool is Duplicate Finder which allows you to find and manage duplicate files on your computer.
- Anti-Theft - it helps you find your Windows and Android devices, in case they get stolen or lost.
- Safego - a good security product for Facebook, which we covered in detail in this article.
- Safebox - a cloud-base backup and synchronization tool for your files. By default. it offers only 2GB of free storage. If you want to purchase more space, you need to pay extra.
- Wallet - provides encrypted storage for sensitive information like your credit card details, passwords, emails and other personal information. It is well integrated with all the major Internet browsers except Opera, as well as the most important messaging clients like Skype or Yahoo! Messenger.
- Safepay - it is a secure browser that you should use when performing financial transactions online or when doing online banking, especially when you are connected to public networks. This browser protects you against tampering attempts, phishing, fraud, malware, keyloggers and session hijacking.
- Parental Control - this tool gives you complete reports about your child's computing activities and allows you to block access to different websites, applications or people. Its only downside is that the default blacklists are rather weak and they don't block too much stuff. We were able to access plenty of inappropriate websites using a test Child account. If you want to get good results, you should manually configure the blacklists used by this product and actively monitor the daily reports it has to offer.
- File Encryption - it allows you to create an encrypted vault where you add files that will be protected from other users unless they know the decryption password.
- Vulnerability Scanner - checks for outdated software, missing Windows security patches, as well as potentially unsafe system settings, and allows users to fix the vulnerabilities with one click.
- File Shredder - it is a simple tool that allows you to permanently delete files and folders so that they cannot be recovered with specialized tools.
Bitdefender Total Security 2015 packs plenty of additional features that may provide value to users. We recommend you test them all and use those that work best for you.
Default Settings You Might Want to Improve
While testing Bitdefender Total Security 2015, we noticed that it is mostly a well-configured product, with one exception: it lacks any scheduled scans, even though users can create as many scheduled tasks as they need. We recommend Bitdefender users to consider improving the following settings:
- Manage Scan Tasks - it is very unfortunate that Bitdefender doesn't have any default scheduled scans. I strongly recommend that you set Bitdefender to perform at least a regular quick scan after the system starts up or at a set interval and a system scan once every two to three weeks.
- Firewall Settings - you may want to enable the monitoring of Wi-Fi connections if you are using a laptop.
- Intrusion Detection System - you may want to increase its level from Permissive to Medium if you are using a device that gets connected to lots of networks and you download lots of programs and files from all over the Internet.
- Display Security Widget - if you don't like Bitdefender's widget on your Desktop, you may want to turn it off. This setting is found in the list with General Settings.
Except for the lack of scheduled scans, we did not find any major shortcomings in the way Bitdefender Total Security 2015 is configured by default.
Bitdefender Total Security 2015 is a solid security product that delivers effective protection in a friendly package. The user interface has been simplified in this new version, the performance footprint has been optimized, all the available tools and features are more tightly integrated than they used to be and new and interesting features were introduced. All these changes and improvements make for a better user experience and a product that's faster and more effective than it used to be. We highly recommend it to all our readers.