Best (Premium) Internet Security Software
It's a cruel world out there, with no shortage of malware, ransomware and phishing attacks to swoop in and steal your data, money and personal information. So what’s the best way to protect your devices and preserve your peace of mind?
The answer is to build the tallest and thickest wall around your digital life with a premium antivirus suite. Based on our extensive testing, we’ve determined that your best option is Kaspersky Total Security. It offers not only excellent malware detection, but also has webcam protection and a sandboxed browser for safe online banking and shopping.
Why Premium Antivirus?
Premium antivirus products cost upward of $100 per year, but they offer many extra features that low-cost or free antivirus programs don't have. Their product licenses often cover multiple installations on several platforms — including Mac, Android, iOS and, sometimes, Windows Phone — although other platforms' software may be more limited. The most cost-effective premium packages offer all-you-can-scan plans, with unlimited device installations across multiple platforms.
All eight products below include parental controls and password managers, and give users online accounts to remotely manage antivirus software on all of their devices. Most of these programs also offer two-way firewalls, system optimizers, file shredders, file encryption and specialized web browsers hardened against infection or hijacking.
A few have anti-theft features to help you track down a lost or stolen laptop, and/or dedicated protection for webcams and specialized defenses against ransomware encryption. Some also include non-security-related features, such as backup software or online storage.
How We Tested
We've done extensive evaluations on eight of the latest flagship antivirus suites from Bitdefender, ESET, F-Secure, Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, Norton, Panda Security and Trend Micro. We installed the latest version of each suite on an Asus X555LA laptop running fully patched 64-bit Windows 10 on an Intel Core i3 processor. The laptop had 6GB of RAM and 36GB of files on a 500GB hard drive.
To assess each suite's ability to protect against malware, we used recent antivirus-software evaluations conducted by four different testing organizations: our own lab in Utah, Germany's AV-TEST lab, AV-Comparatives in Austria and SE Labs in England. They routinely test programs against both widespread malware and less common, but more dangerous, zero-day malware. Each lab uses different methods and criteria to rank and rate products, but the same half-dozen brands seem to always cluster near the top.
Our OpenOffice performance test measures system performance by timing how long a spreadsheet program takes to match 20,000 names and addresses. We ran the test multiple times during each of four scenarios: before a program was installed, after installation but while not scanning, during a full scan and during a quick scan.
We also considered the number and usefulness of each program’s additional security and privacy features, as well as their setups, interfaces and ease of use.
[Editor's Note: Best Buy has removed Kaspersky Lab products from its shelves, citing concerns regarding Kaspersky's alleged (but as yet undocumented) ties to the Russian government. However, until we see evidence that Kaspersky software is a threat to consumers, we will continue to recommend it. Here is further clarification of our position.]