Bitdefender Total Security

Many security companies that offer an entry-level security suite go on to add a higher-tier suite for even more security. Some craft a mega-suite by adding advanced features for Windows computers, things like online backup and system performance optimization. Others extend protection to additional platforms, adding support for macOS, Android, and iOS. Bitdefender Total Security does a bit of both. On Windows, it adds system optimization and anti-theft. It also lets you install full-blown protection for your macOS and Android devices, and very limited protection on iOS. Bitdefender Total Security is our current Editors’ Choice for security mega-suites.

For $89.99 per year, you can install Bitdefender on five devices; upping that to $99.99 raises the limit to 10 devices. If you need more than five licenses, that’s $10 well spent. That same $99.99 would get you five licenses for Kaspersky Total Security, while Symantec Norton 360 Deluxe costs $99.99 per year for five suite licenses, five VPN licenses, and 50GB of hosted online storage for your backups.

For those who manage a ton of devices, McAfee Total Protection is a good deal, as it costs $119.99 per year for unlimited installations on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Depending on the number of devices in your household, Bitdefender’s 15-license family pack may be just as suitable as McAfee’s unlimited subscription, for the same price. Not to be outdone, Kaspersky offers a 20-license subscription to Kaspersky Security Cloud for $149.99.

As befits a product that’s not limited to one platform, you activate your subscription by entering a code in the Bitdefender Central online console. Once the product appears in your console, you can install it on the system you’re using, or send an email with a link to install on other devices. The installation link automatically downloads the appropriate installer for the active operating system.

Bitdefender Total Security on WindowsBitdefender Internet Security. Other than the window title, the only difference is that the Utilities page gives you useful utilities, instead of an invitation to upgrade. More about those utilities below.

The installer also adds Bitdefender’s VPN, powered by Hotspot Shield. However, even with this top-tier suite you must purchase a separate VPN subscription to lift the 200MB daily bandwidth cap and gain the ability to use the server of your choice. For full details on the VPN and basic Windows suite, please read our review of Bitdefender Internet Security.

Optimization for Windows

On the Utilities page of the Windows edition you’ll find a handy tune-up tool called OneClick Optimizer. Just click Optimize to get things started. On my test system, the scan quickly found hundreds of items in the categories Disk Cleanup, Registry Cleanup, and Privacy Cleanup. As recommended, I clicked to view details in each category.

Disk issues included junk, temporary, and cache files, occupying more than half a gig of disk space. In the Registry issues category, Bitdefender reported useless or erroneous entries of several types, including help files and shared DLLs. Privacy issues turns out to refer to browser cache, cookies, and history. To be specific, it reported on Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera—not Edge. I clicked Optimize to remediate all the issues.

Bitdefender Total Security OptimizationSome Changes to Features

Those familiar with previous versions of this product may note the absence of Startup Optimizer and Disk Cleanup from the Utilities page. The elaborate Startup Optimizer analyzed programs that launch at startup, letting you know how much time each took to load. It also allowed you to reversibly disable launch of any startup program or set it to launch after a delay. Disk Cleanup identified huge files, ones that you might want to delete if you’re low on disk space.

My Bitdefender contact explained that “less used and timeworn secondary functionalities have been removed…as part of a continuous revision in terms of user needs.” Also dropped are the Safe Files component, which aimed to balk ransomware by banning unauthorized changes to protected files, and the File Vault encryption system. Note that enhanced Ransomware Remediation takes up the slack left by removing Safe Files. In testing, it proved effective.

Premium parental control was never built into Bitdefender’s suite products. Rather, it was an add-on, with an additional price of $49.99 per year. This ambitious project used artificial intelligence to analyze the child’s texts and other instant messages for signs of cyberbullying and other troubles. The system didn’t directly expose the child’s communication to parents. Rather, it flagged the type of problem detected and directed parents with advice such as “Listen to your child. Find out exactly what happened and how he/she felt and why.

Apparently, this system didn’t get enough users to merit its continuation. Bitdefender no longer offers premium parental control.

Anti-Theft for Windows

For a blocky desktop computer that sits in your home, or in a locked office, theft isn’t the biggest worry. However, modern laptops are so powerful that many individuals (and companies) skip the desktop altogether. It’s convenient to take your computer wherever you want, but for a thief, it’s just plain convenient to take your computer.

You don’t have to do anything special to enable anti-theft on a Windows laptop. To manage this feature, you log into Bitdefender Central. Buttons on the Anti-Theft page let you locate, lock, or wipe the device. The option to sound a loud alarm is Android-only.

When the device connects via Wi-Fi, Bitdefender gets its location using Wi-Fi triangulation. In testing, this proved quite accurate. However, on an Ethernet connection it falls back on IP address geolocation, with much coarser accuracy. You’ll be lucky if it gives you the right city. In my case, it located the laptop about ten miles away, in the middle of a park. Fortunately, a stolen laptop will almost always connect via Wi-Fi.

Bitdefender Total Security Anti-TheftProtection for macOS

The parental control system in Bitdefender’s entry-level suite supports Macs, but that’s just parental control, nothing more. Installing this cross-platform product on a Mac, you get a full installation of Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac, as well as the free, feature-limited version of the VPN product.

Th independent antivirus labs that extend their testing to macOS love this product, and it aced our hands-on phishing protection test. It protects your files and your backups against ransomware. And its TrafficLight browser extension warns of dangerous links in search results.

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is an Editors’ Choice in its field, sharing that honor with Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac. To learn all the details about Bitdefender’s macOS product, please read my full review.

Total Protection for Android

To install Bitdefender Security on an Android device you can send yourself an email from Bitdefender Central. Click the link to download the app from Google Play, and you’re ready to go. Your Bitdefender Central credentials are baked into the emailed link. You can also download the Bitdefender Central mobile app and install from there.

Initially, Bitdefender Security leads you through a lengthy series of important settings and actions. You need to give it Device Administrator status to enable anti-theft, as well as more mundane permissions such as access to your photos, media, and files. It recommends a full malware scan and invites you to enable App Lock (more about that shortly). If you activate the feature, Bitdefender can snap a photo of someone trying to guess your lockscreen PIN.

From the Bitdefender Central console, you can locate, lock, or wipe the device, as with Windows. You can also make it sound a loud alert, handy if you’ve misplaced your phone.

That malware scan at startup runs quickly, and you can launch it again any time you feel uneasy. Bitdefender also scans new apps as you install them. It doesn’t go quite as far as Norton’s Android app, which rates apps as you look at them in the Play Store, but it won’t let you install anything malicious.

Account Privacy is a mobile-specific feature that checks your Bitdefender account against known breaches, and reports any hits. On my test device, it found a couple of breaches dating back a few years. The app advises to change the account password and then mark the warnings as solved. You can add other email accounts for checking if you wish, but you can’t go snooping other people’s email for breaches. Bitdefender won’t scan until you enter a confirmation code emailed to the selected address.

Nobody can access your phone when it’s locked with a PIN or, even better, a fingerprint. However, someone who picks it up unlocked while you’re not looking could dig into your private email or other data. App Lock lets you put additional security on email, Messages, Settings, or any other apps you wish. Just tap to choose the protected apps.

Bitdefender Total Security Android MontageDiminished Protection for iOS

Bitdefender’s mobile security for iOS is a free product, and not technically part of Total Security. When you install protection on an iPhone or iPad, it doesn’t use up one of your licenses unless you enable the Web Protection feature. That’s understandable, because other than Web Protection the iOS product just doesn’t do a lot.

You can install protection on an iOS device by sending an email link from Bitdefender Central or by first installing the Bitdefender Central app. Installing the Bitdefender central app is smart, as it gives you access to most of the same information and actions you get by logging in to the online console.

The Web Protection system uses VPN technology that lets it filter all web traffic. When it encounters a dangerous domain, it cuts the connection and slides in a warning. This is a totally local use of VPN technology, no servers involved. My Bitdefender contacts confirmed that it doesn’t interfere with your use of the actual VPN, which is built right into the app.

Note that this is not the same kind of protection you get on other platforms. The iOS version blocks connections at the domain level, not at the web page level. So, for example, it won’t catch the AMTSO phishing test page because the amtso.org domain is not in itself dangerous.

Bitdefender Total Security iOSshut down iOS anti-theft in December of 2019.

Bitdefender’s mobile security for iOS is seriously limited, even more so now that there’s no anti-theft. But again, that this is not precisely a feature of Total Security. Unless you turn on Web Protection, it doesn’t use one of your licenses.

The Power of Bitdefender Central

At the start, I mentioned Bitdefender Central as the location for extending protection to new devices. As you’ve seen, it’s also the go-to for locating lost device and activating anti-theft features. But there’s more to this console. Just how much more depends on the device.

Select a Windows device in the console and you get five tabs: Dashboard, Protection, Optimizer, Anti-Theft, and Vulnerability. I’ve already gone over the Anti-Theft features. Dashboard, the default tab, displays stats on threats blocked in the last week, along with details like the device’s MAC address, the type of device, and the company that made it.

From the Protection tab, you can view the results of the latest quick or full scan for malware. You can also launch either scan remotely. That can be handy if you’re managing devices for a less-techie family member. Similarly, the Optimizer tab shows the results of the latest optimizer scan. You can remotely optimize the Windows system, and view details about the latest optimization activities. And on the Vulnerability page you can launch a vulnerability scan or view existing scan results.

Bitdefender Total Security CentralWebroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete offers a similar dashboard, with the ability to remotely review scan results and recent malware detections, as well as a set of remote commands. You can remotely launch a malware, cleanup, or system optimization scan, and you can lock, restart, or shut down the device remotely. However, Webroot’s anti-theft component is strictly for mobile devices.

The My Kaspersky dashboard associated with Kaspersky Security Cloud lets you manage licenses and devices, log into password manager data, and configure parental control, but it doesn’t include the remote scan options that Bitdefender offers.

Sophos Home Premium goes a bit farther, with all configuration and logging activities handled by the online dashboard. A small, local agent on each device takes orders from the dashboard. Like Bitdefender, its ability to remotely monitor and control security on your devices is outstanding.

Truly Total Security

Bitdefender Total Security stands on the shoulders of giants. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus wins awards from independent labs and aces our web-based tests. It includes a raft of features, among them multi-layered ransomware protection, banking protection, a password manager, and a virtual private network. Bitdefender Internet Security expands Windows protection with a firewall, a spam filter, and a fully functional cross-platform parental control system. At the top of the heap sits Bitdefender Total Security, with additional features for Windows systems and protection that extends to macOS, Android, and (to an extent) iOS devices.

With its massive collection of security features, all of them top notch, Bitdefender Total Security is our Editors’ Choice for security mega-suites. If your real aim is full protection for many devices on different platforms, consider Norton 360 Deluxe or Kaspersky Security Cloud, our Editors’ Choice products for cross-platform, multi-device security.

Bitdefender Total Security Specs

VPNLimited
FirewallYes
AntispamYes
Parental ControlYes
BackupNo
Tune-UpYes

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Further Reading

August 21, 2020
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