This review appears in the November 06 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents.

BitDefender provides a full suit of armour to protect your PC when it's online, whether you're browsing the internet or connected via always-on broadband. It does so with the help of a suite of tools: antivirus, spam protection, parental controls, firewall and antispyware. This selection of weapons more than matches those offered by other internet security suites, including Symantec and McAfee.

The modular design and the fact that every aspect of BitDefender has been coded directly by the manufacturer, Softwin, means the code is more concise. It takes up a fraction of the space consumed by many of BitDefender's bloated rivals.

Virtual virus testing

BitDefender's background is in corporate security products – and it shows in the complex documentation and the less-than-friendly interface. It's not always clear what you should be doing. We found that setting up required some technical knowledge.

With each module you can use a slider to set the level of protection – from paranoid to laid-back. Alternatively, advanced users can set a custom level, selecting exactly what the software will allow or block.

Antivirus protection is on two levels. It scans your system in real time, and you can schedule full system scans. This version of the software offers improved proactive detection. B-HAVE (behavioural heuristic analyser in virtual environments), allows unknown software to be tested in a virtual computer environment. This means that bugs can be stopped before they reach the OS (operating system), even if they have not been officially flagged up as malicious code.

Fiery firewall

At its default setting, the firewall did seem to throw up lots of hard-to-interpret warning messages, but you can train it as you work by setting up rules to always allow or block access. Version 10.0 includes an updated list of trusted applications, so it can advise on whether to allow access to the internet. And the firewall includes port scan detection and will block any attempt to connect to ports to identify vulnerabilities.

The antispam feature has been updated to include a phishing detector. It features improved adaptive filtering to block unwanted mail, which develops filtering criteria based on past decisions.

Spyware is on the increase and, as with most internet security suites, BitDefender protects against it. It will monitor and prevent spyware in real-time and includes a copy of Uncover to detect rootkits before installation.

The parental controls module allows you to block access to inappropriate websites or emails or to stop access to the internet entirely. You can even set different profiles dependent on the age of the user. BitDefender's aftersales support is commendable. Hourly updates are available and 24-hour support is included. Home users are entitled to use two copies of the software.

Keep up your guard

There are five main areas in which your PC is vulnerable and these need to be patched up with security software. The main threats are hackers, malware, viruses, spam and spyware.

Vulnerabilities are flaws in software applications that could allow unauthorised access to your PC. To avoid these, ensure your security patches are up-to-date. Malware covers many sins, including viruses, Trojans and worms. To protect against these you need an up-to-date antivirus package, but you should be wary of suspicious messages and links, too. Delete anything you aren't sure about.

Spam is junk email, which can be filtered using antispam software. You should still be on the lookout for messages from unknown senders. And never reply to, or open links in unwanted emails. Spyware is software that installs on your PC to monitor what you are doing, either for commercial or malicious reasons – antispyware software can clean this.

Finally, phishing cons you into sharing personal information, such as bank account details. Never send out sensitive information in an email or online. A genuine organisation would never ask.

BitDefender Internet Security 10.0: Specs

  • 350MHz Intel Pentium II or AMD Athlon
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 SP4 or higher/XP SP1 or higher
  • 128MB RAM (256MB recommended)
  • 60MB hard disk space for installation
  • IE 5.5 or higher
  • 350MHz Intel Pentium II or AMD Athlon
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 SP4 or higher/XP SP1 or higher
  • 128MB RAM (256MB recommended)
  • 60MB hard disk space for installation
  • IE 5.5 or higher

OUR VERDICT

BitDefender 10.0 provides comprehensive protection from all of its tools. However, it doesn't come close to its rivals in terms of user-friendliness. The interface is not intuitive and documentation is overly complex.

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