All an antivirus product really has to do is wipe out any malicious software that’s present on your computer and prevent future infestation by viruses, Trojans, ransomware, and other types of malware.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2017 goes way beyond these basic functions.
Among its many features are a simple password manager, a secure browser for financial transactions, a secure file shredder, and new active ransomware protection.
It’s almost a suite, and it performs its core antivirus tasks very well.
A one-year subscription to Bitdefender costs $39.99, which is a very popular price point.
Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and F-Secure, among others, cost almost exactly the same.
For $59.99, you can install Bitdefender on three devices, which is a good deal. Of course, that same price gets you unlimited installations of McAfee AntiVirus Plus.
Installation and AppearanceLike Trend Micro and Check Point ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2017, Bitdefender’s installer downloads the very latest program and virus definition files.
The installer scans for active malware that could derail the installation. You can either activate your installation with a license key or select a fully functional 30-day free trial.
And you must create or log in to your account at Bitdefender Central online, to connect this installation to the account. Note that you can only associate one level of Bitdefender protection with a single account.
If you want to have the straight antivirus on some systems and the security suite on others, you must create two accounts.
Over the last several years, each new Bitdefender version changed its appearance a little bit. With the 2017 edition, the main window went through some more radical changes.
It does still use a background in shades of gray, but they’re substantially darker.
And it does break down the window into rectangular panels that offer access to security stats and features.
A circled green checkmark still represents safety, though the circles now animate when you open the window.
The big change is a new left-rail icon menu with eight selections: Protection, Privacy, Upgrade, Activity, Notifications, Account, Settings, and Help. Protection includes antivirus, Web protection, and vulnerability scan. On the Privacy tab, you manage the Safepay secure browser, the file shredder, and the password manager.
Each of these offers a Modules view that gives you finer control.
I like the changes.
It’s easier to find any given feature now.
As always, Bitdefender comes preconfigured to use Autopilot mode.
In this mode, it takes care of business without hassling you.
Are you being targeted by a malware attack? Bitdefender handles it silently.
This is great for most users, but for testing purposes I frequently had to turn it off.
If you reach into the settings and start making changes, perhaps turning on Paranoid Mode, you’ll get a notification that you’ve turned Autopilot off.
Bitdefender has the option, turned off by default, to automatically change its configuration depending on what you’re doing. You can also manually select any of the five configuration profiles: Work, Movie, Game, Public Wi-Fi, and Battery Mode. My stripped-down test systems aren’t really conducive to testing the automatic mode selection, but I like the idea.
Lovely Lab ResultsBitdefender doesn’t pay for certification by ICSA Labs or West Coast Labs, but four of the five testing labs I follow include it in their testing.
In Virus Bulletin’s RAP (Reactive and Proactive) test, it scored 81.08 percent, a bit of a drop from last year’s score of 93.64 percent.
This current score is a hair below the average score for products I follow, 81.76 percent.
TrustPort Antivirus holds the best score at present, with 88.43 percent.
The researchers at AV-Comparatives perform a broad array of tests on antivirus utilities and other security products.
I follow five of these closely.
A product that passes one of these tests earns Standard certification.
Those that do more than the minimum, or much more, earn Advanced or Advanced+ certification.
Bitdefender took Advanced+ in all five of these tests, as did Kaspersky.
AV-Test Institute reports on three aspects of antivirus utilities, protection against malware, low performance impact, and low false positives.
A product can earn six points in each aspect, for a maximum of 18 points.
Bit defender lost a half-point in protection and another half-point for false positives.
Its total score of 17 points is impressive, but Kaspersky managed a perfect 18.
AVG, Norton, and Trend Micro came close, with 17.5 points.
This year I added a pair of tests by MRG-Effitas to my collection. One focuses specifically on financial malware, while the other attempts to cover the whole range.
A product can earn full or partial credit in the financial test; few receive full credit.
The full-range test offers level 1 certification for products that completely prevent infection by every sample, and level 2 certification for those that initially let some samples past but remediate the damage before the next reboot.
It’s all or nothing, and most products fail.
My contacts at several vendors, Trend Micro in particular, urged me to treat this pass-fail test differently.
Starting with this review, I’ve done so, giving the MRG test significantly less weight. With the new calculation, Trend Micro’s aggregate score rose to 8.5, which I’m sure they’ll like.
The same calculation gives 9.2 points to Bitdefender. Kaspersky, previously burdened by one second-rate score from this lab, now has a perfect 10 points for its aggregate score.
Very Good Malware BlockingA full scan of my standard clean test system took 58 minutes, a good bit longer than the average time for recent products, which is 44 minutes.
A second scan completed in half the time, which is good. However, a number of other products avoid rescanning unchanged files, making a repeat scan ridiculously fast.
F-Secure Anti-Virus 2016 took two minutes for a repeat scan, and AVG did it in under a minute. Of course, once you’ve performed that initial scan, most of your antivirus tool’s job involves preventing infestation, not removing it.
Bitdefender’s score in my own hands-on malware blocking test was good, but not on par with the scores it earned from the labs. When there’s a discrepancy, I give significantly more weight to the lab results. My hands-on test still gives me needed experience with the product.
This test starts when I open the folder containing my samples.
In most cases, the minuscule access that occurs when Windows Explorer reads the file’s name, size, and so on is enough to trigger an on-access scan.
At first, I thought Bitdefender must be one of those that waits for a more significant access, like trying to launch the file.
I didn’t see any notification that it caught malware.
But then I realized—it’s on Autopilot! Looking closely, I saw that it wiped out just over 60 percent of the samples immediately.
Before continuing to the next phase, launching the surviving samples, I turned off Autopilot so I’d get notification of the antivirus’s activities.
Bitdefender caught most of the survivors at launch, or shortly after launch.
Its detection rate of 90 percent and overall score of 8.7 are both good, but others have done better. Norton and Trend Micro both earned 9.7 points, and Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus managed a perfect 10 of 10.
It takes ages for me to collect and analyze a new set of malware samples, so I use the same set for a whole season. My malicious URL blocking test, by contrast, uses URLs discovered by MRG-Effitas no more than one day earlier.
I launch each URL and record whether the antivirus blocked the browser’s access to the dangerous URL, wiped out the malicious executable during download, or sat around like a lump doing nothing.
Bitdefender passed this test with flying colors, blocking 90 percent of the samples, almost all of them at the URL level.
Few products have done better, though Avira Antivirus Pro 2016 displayed a 99 percent protection rate and Norton managed 98 percent.
Antiphishing ExcellencePhishing websites don’t need fancy scripts or drive-by downloads.
They simply imitate PayPal, Facebook, Yahoo mail, your bank…just about any kind of secure site.
If you take the bait and enter your password, you’re totally hosed.
The fraudsters have full access to your account.
My antiphishing test uses freshly reported frauds, URLs too new to have been analyzed and put on the blacklist.
That’s important, because phishing websites are ephemeral, lasting only a few days, or even a few hours.
By the time they get blacklisted, the fraudsters have pulled out and set up a new site.
I launch each URL in five browsers.
Three of them just use the protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. One relies on Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic, which for years has displayed excellent protection against phishing.
And of course one uses the product currently under test.
Because the samples are different every time, I report the difference in protection rate between the product and the other four browsers rather than the raw score.
Very few antiphishing tools outscore Norton. More than half of recent products couldn’t even beat two or more of the browser built-ins.
As for Bitdefender, it has scored close to or better than Norton for a number of tests in a row.
This time it zoomed to the top, beating Norton’s detection rate by a full five percentage points, and thoroughly trouncing all three browsers.
That puts it ahead of Kaspersky Anti-Virus and Webroot, the only other recent products to catch more phish than Norton, and of ZoneAlarm, which tied Norton.
Fraud DetectionBitdefender’s protection against fraudulent websites doesn’t stop with antiphishing. Like Norton, Trend Micro, and many others, it marks up links in popular search and social media sites.
But where this feature typically just identifies sites as safe, iffy, or dangerous, Bitdefender goes into great details.
Most links will get the green all-clear icon, but there are more than a dozen other icons detailing very specific dangers.
It very specifically calls out such things as escrow scams, online dating scams, pay-per-click websites, and piracy sites, along with malware-hosting sites and phishing sites.
Don’t worry; you don’t have to memorize all of the icons. Just click the icon for a popup explanation, and click the popup for a page explaining all of the icons.
Vulnerability ScanYou read about security breaches at major companies every week, and quite often these breaches take place because somebody, somewhere failed to install a security patch. We recommend setting Windows Update to always install critical updates, but you also need to keep your browsers and other sensitive applications up to date.
Bitdefender’s vulnerability scan looks for missing Windows updates and for outdated browsers and other tools such as Java.
It also flags weak Windows account passwords and, if the system supports Wi-Fi, insecure Wi-Fi networks. On my test system, it found updates for Firefox and Java, and suggested I change all of the Windows account passwords.
See How We Test Security Software
Ransomware ProtectionLike Panda Internet Security 2016’s Data Shield component, Ransomware protection in Bitdefender lets you define one or more folders whose contents should be protected against unauthorized modification.
It’s preconfigured to protect the Documents and Pictures folders for each user account, and you can add more folders for protection.
Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security has a similar feature, but it protects just one folder (and its subfolders).
With Trend Micro, turning off the real-time antivirus also turns off ransomware protection, so I couldn’t test with real ransomware.
Bitdefender’s configuration is more flexible, allowing me to turn antivirus off while leaving ransomware protection running.
That permitted me to launch a ransomware sample and observe the protection.
The first thing my ransomware sample does is copy an executable file to the Documents folder, launch that new file, and delete itself.
Bitdefender cut off that behavior, and thereby prevented the entire ransomware attack.
I also tried editing a file in the Documents folder using an unknown text editor, one that I wrote myself.
As with Trend Micro, the ransomware protection blocked my attempt to save the edited file until I clicked the button to allow access. Panda’s Data Shield goes even further, optionally blocking unauthorized programs from even reading files in your protected folders.
But Panda Antivirus Pro 2016 doesn’t have this feature, just the security suite.
What’s in Your WalletOver the years, Bitdefender’s Wallet feature has evolved into a complete, if basic, password manager.
Its feature set is on par with Trend Micro Password Manager 3.7, but it’s not available as a separate purchase.
Wallet exists as an extension in Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox. You can create multiple wallets, perhaps for different users of the family PC. When you create a wallet, you must give it a strong master password, something you can remember, but that nobody else would guess. You can choose whether or not to sync this wallet across multiple Bitdefender installations.
At creation time, a new wallet can siphon off passwords stored insecurely in your browsers. However, it doesn’t remove them from the browsers or disable future password capture, the way Trend Micro does.
There’s no option to import passwords from other competing programs.
When you log in to a secure site, Bitdefender captures your credentials and pops up a transient notification that it did so.
Clicking the notification lets you edit the just-saved site, but you can’t give it a friendly display name or assign it to a folder or category. When you return to a site, Bitdefender fills in your credentials.
Even easier, you can select the site from the browser extension’s menu to both navigate there and log in. Like Trend Micro, Bitdefender doesn’t handle non-standard login pages.
You can manually add website login details, if you wish. You can also add application passwords, though the password manager won’t fill them in for you.
When you’re signing up for a new account or replacing a bad password on an old one, use the password generator to create something random. You don’t have to remember it, after all.
The password generator defaults to a respectable 15 characters, but only uses letters and digits by default. Please check the box to enable use of special characters, as it will improve your password security.
You can create one or more identity profiles for use in filling Web forms.
Each profile includes personal, address, email, and telephone data, with just one instance of each field.
There’s also a separate option to create credit card and bank account profiles, but for security these are not synced across multiple devices. When you reach a page that’s asking for that personal data, just click the Wallet button and choose the profile you want to use.
If appropriate, choose the credit card separately.
In testing, I found that Bitdefender did fill Web form data on most sites, including a few that stymied Trend Micro.
It did miss filling quite a few fields, but every field that it handles is one you don’t have to type.
And hey, in last year’s test it put the wrong data in many fields.
This is an improvement.
Wallet has a few more features. You can use it to store geeky email details, like the server address and port.
If for some reason your laptop doesn’t remember for itself, you can record Wi-Fi network details like password and type of encryption.
Wallet handles all the basics of password management, and it may well be enough for you. However, if you want advanced features like two-factor authentication, secure credential sharing, and automated password update, you should look at our round up of the best password managers and choose one of those.
Bitdefender SafePayIf you’re just surfing the web for videos of kittens and fainting goats, any old browser will do.
But if your aim is to log in and make money transfers from your bank, that’s a different story. When Bitdefender detects that you’re heading for a financial site, it offers to open it in SafePay, a separate, secure desktop with a full-featured, hardened browser that supports multiple tabs and bookmarks. Naturally Wallet is compatible with the SafePay browser.
It allows installation of Flash, but no other extensions are permitted.
Processes running in the SafePay desktop are isolated from those on the regular desktop. You can switch back and forth at will.
For protection against even a hardware keylogger, SafePay includes a virtual keyboard.
And it prevents applications from capturing the screen.
I couldn’t get a screenshot using Alt+PrtSc; I had to use the virtual machine’s internal screen capture feature.
I strongly advise using SafePay for any sensitive online activity.
Wi-Fi AdvisorI couldn’t actively test the Wi-Fi Security Advisor feature, because the virtual machines I use for testing don’t have Wi-Fi.
This tools works one way for public networks, another way for your home network.
When you connect to a public network, the advisor checks its security level.
If the network fails the sniff test, the advisor suggests you do all your browsing through the secure SafePay browser.
For the network that you designate as home, the advisor checks security and makes recommendations.
For example, if you’re using weak encryption, or no encryption, it advises that you use at least WPA2 encryption, and choose a strong password.
File ShredderIf you just delete a file, it goes to the Recycle Bin, which is handy for those times you deleted the wrong file. You can also bypass the Recycle Bin for sensitive files, but even if you do, it’s often possible to recover the deleted file’s data.
For true, unrecoverable deletion, you need a secure deletion utility like Bitdefender’s File Shredder component.
Some secure deletion utilities, especially those found in encryption tools, let you choose from many different shredding algorithms.
But in truth, overwriting data just once before deletion is enough to foil all but the highest-end forensic recovery tools.
Bitdefender overwrites the data three times, which is plenty.
You can open the File Shredder and browse to add files and folders for deletion, or right click a file or folder and choose File Shredder from the Bitdefender submenu.
This tool proved easy to use, though I would have preferred the option to drag files and folders onto it rather than browsing for them.
Practically a SuiteThis is a long review, because this is a feature-packed product.
The labs love it, and it did especially well in my own antiphishing and malicious URL blocking tests.
Among its vast array of bonus features are a basic password manager, a secure browser to protect your financial transactions, and a permissions-control monitor to keep ransomware from modifying your important files.
Bitdefender shares the Editors’ Choice honor with several other commercial antivirus products.
The labs love Kaspersky Anti-Virus even more than they do Bitdefender. McAfee AntiVirus Plus protects all of your devices, on multiple platforms.
Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic includes advanced intrusion detection and other significant bonus features.
And the journal-and-rollback technique that Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus applies to unknown programs should let it prevent damage by even a zero-day Trojan.
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