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Best Internet Security 2017

By: Tara Tuckwiller on May 21, 2017

Editor's Note:
If you are worried about WannaCry, other ransomware, or any of the other threats lurking on line, Kaspersky Total Security has you covered. Avast is the top choice for mobile devices, and it's free. Looking for an alternative? Bitdefender ranks nearly as highly as Kaspersky, tests say.

Kaspersky Total Security (2017) Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Free or paid – Paid Number of licenses – 5 Operating systems supported – PC, Mac, Android, iOS

Best Internet security software suite

Kaspersky Total Security does it all, experts say. One solution protects PCs, Macs and Android devices (and some features work with iOS) against malware, ransomware, phishing, webcam spies and more. It automatically backs up your files to your Dropbox account, manages your passwords, and lets you exhaustively monitor (or block) what your children access on all of their devices. This version includes protection for five devices, but a version that protects 10 devices is also available.

Buy for $59.00
Kaspersky Internet Security (2017) Review
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Free or paid – Paid Number of licenses – 3 Operating systems supported – PC, Mac, Android

Best value Internet security software suite

If your budget and needs are more modest, Kaspersky Internet Security is your best bet. It's just as good as its big brother, Kaspersky Total Security in keeping your computer safe from malware, tests reveal, without annoying slow-downs or pop-ups. You'll find all of the important security features (adequate parental controls and anti-theft protection, for example), but not a lot of frills. Although Kaspersky Internet Security works on PC, Mac and Android, some features are PC-only.

Buy for $79.95
Avast Mobile Security and Antivirus
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Free or paid – Free Number of licenses – 1 Operating systems supported – Android

Free mobile Internet security software suite

Avast! Mobile Security and Antivirus

Experts and users rave about Avast Mobile Security and Antivirus for Android: It delivers strong malware and phishing protection with a boatload of extras, yet it's easy to use and won't cost you a penny (you'll see ads on your phone instead). Avast can locate, lock and/or wipe your lost or stolen phone or tablet, block spam, unwanted calls and texts, back up your files, manage your passwords, conserve your battery, lock any app against nosy users and more.

Internet security software provides all-in-one protection

The best Internet security software typically includes three essential components -- antivirus, anti-spyware and a firewall -- along with optional features, such as a spam filter and parental controls. Some companies bundle additional components as well, including identity theft prevention, anti-phishing software and online backup. Smartphones and tablets are increasingly vulnerable to malware too, and we cover both PC/Mac and smartphone/tablet Internet security software in this report, as well as some double-duty products that protect both computers and mobile devices.

Do you even need Internet security software?

When the WannaCry ransomware attacks crippled computers worldwide in May 2017, folks who had installed Internet security software were sitting pretty.

"If you've taken my advice, you have a powerful security suite installed on all your computers, just waiting to blast malware of all types," wrote Neil J. Rubenking at PCMag.com, in response to the attacks. "He adds that a quality Internet security suite "really should smack down a ransomware attack before it does any damage." He also notes that Norton, McAfee, Bitdefender, and other Internet security makers sent out notices to their users to reassure them that their suite protect against WannaCry and similar attacks.

Keep in mind that you may not want or use all the components of an Internet security software suite. A firewall is essential to protect your computer from intrusion threats (that look to steal data from your computer or hijack your identity), but you may already have a firewall in your wireless router, and experts say that a hardware firewall of that type is generally more effective than a software firewall. You might not need a spam filter if your Internet service provider or email program is already filtering spam.

Therefore, for many, effective antivirus software could be all you need. In addition, software vendors have been packing in more and more features into antivirus software, largely blurring the lines between those and products that are marketed as Internet security suites. Also, Windows includes Windows Defender antivirus, but that security software, while better than having none at all, finishes at the bottom of the pack in many independent tests. See our report on antivirus software for our recommendations of dedicated antivirus programs -- including free products -- that perform better.

However, if you do need more than what a typical antivirus program can provide, buying an Internet security software suite is usually cheaper than buying separate stand-alone programs. It also reduces the likelihood that security programs will refuse to work together. While you can also assemble your own security software system by choosing the top-rated software in each category, though getting them all to "play nice" together might be a tall order for some typical users.

Finding The Best Internet Security Suites

To find the top performing, most effective Internet security suites, we looked to both expert and user guidance. On the expert side of things, we consulted the top independent testing laboratories, as well as sites and publications that do at least some unique testing on their own. User reviews posted at retail sites and elsewhere are particularly helpful in addressing usability, especially in how well suites perform in real-world settings rather than dedicated testing situations. With that research completed, we look first to performance, but also ease of use and features to name the best Internet security suites.

Kaspersky Total Security (2017): Ultimate protection for all of your devices

So what's the best, easiest way to shield all of your devices? Kaspersky Total Security (2017) (Est. $60 per year for 5 devices), reviews say. This software protects 5 PCs, Macs, Android and iOS devices -- and it does it masterfully.

In a nutshell, Kaspersky Total Security (2017) offers all the security you probably need, for every device you probably own -- PC, Mac or Android. Malware rarely gets past Kaspersky in tests; in fact, it's the only security software that earns highest honors from every single independent testing lab we consulted.

"Kaspersky's fast and thorough antivirus programs build an effective fence around a family's computers," says Brian Nadel at TomsGuide.com, awarding Kaspersky Total Security his Best Premium PC Security Suite prize. Not to mention its mega-suite of goodies, PCMag.com's Neil J. Rubenking adds: "Most of its components are great, some are good, none are bad. It's a winner."

Besides absolutely slaying malware, Kaspersky is the best protection you can buy against phishing (those phony websites that pretend to be your bank, etc.). For years, Rubenking has used Norton Security Premium as the gold standard in his antiphishing test -- but this year, Kaspersky actually beats Norton (and everyone else) in the test. Like all top security suites, Kaspersky protects against ramsomware, and provides some additional information here to help its users -- and others -- make sure that their system are completely immune.

A cheaper version, Kaspersky Internet Security (2017) (Est. $25 per year for 3 devices) (discussed below), is a Best Reviewed pick in its own right, offering equally powerful protection and an already robust set of features -- including a firewall, spam filter, VPN (virtual private network) to browse the web anonymously, a hardened Safe Money browser to protect your financial transactions, app safety adviser, webcam and microphone protection, the aforementioned awesome anti-phishing protection and more. "To that suite's bountiful feature collection," Rubenking writes, "Kaspersky Total Security adds a backup system, enhanced parental control, a password manager, and an excellent cross-platform parental control system, as well as data encryption and secure file deletion." The parental controls are especially impressive: It includes child location monitoring, app- and content-blocking and time limits, and it works across all of the family's devices and platforms.

It all works nicely in expert tests. False alarms are almost nonexistent, and it doesn't bog down the computer at either TomsGuide.com or PCMag.com (although it does slow bootup by about 30 seconds at PCMag -- but, as Rubenking notes, most people only boot up once per day). Kaspersky Total Security (2017) is a customer favorite at BestBuy.com, and most Amazon.com buyers like it too. However, 15 percent of Amazon.com users slap Kaspersky Total Security with the lowest possible 1-star rating, usually because it messed up their computer or they got fed up with Kaspersky's customer service.

The best alternative? Runner-up Bitdefender Total Security 2017 (Est. $55 per year for 10 devices). Bitdefender runs neck-and-neck with Kaspersky in independent malware-busting tests, year after year. Like Kaspersky Total Security, Bitdefender Total Security runs on PC, Mac or Android. It boasts many of the same features, and PCMag names Bitdefender Total Security and Kaspersky Total Security co-Editors' Choices.

However, Bitdefender lacks some trimmings. There's no VPN, no backup software or online storage, TomsGuide.com notes. Another leading test organization knocks Bitdefender's lousy help system. Like Kaspersky, Bitdefender boasts robust anti-ransomware protection.

Kaspersky Internet Security (2017) is the best budget alternative

If you your needs -- and budget -- are more modest, Kaspersky Internet Security (2017) (Est. $25 per year for 3 devices) will protect three devices (PC, Mac, Android or iOS) is a good alternative. It doesn't pack quite as many extras as its big brother, but security is equally top-notch. "Many people may find Kaspersky Internet Security to be the sweet spot," Nadel says, naming Kaspersky Internet Security (2017) the Best Midrange Antivirus Product at TomsGuide.com.

Kaspersky Internet Security offers the same core features and robust protection as Kaspersky Total Security -- only without the password manager, backup software and supercharged, cross-platform parental controls. However, Kaspersky Internet Security still has more than adequate parental controls, and can block websites, games and apps, limit screen time and monitor social networking, but you do lose things like the child location monitor and real-time alerts if suspicious activity is noticed.

It's an Editors' Choice at PCMag.com, a Best Buy in another leading test, and -- like its costlier sibling -- the only security software that earns highest honors from every single independent testing lab we consulted. Both versions of Kaspersky are nearly flawless at detecting viruses, worms and Trojan horses (even unknown malware), without bogging down the system or bugging the user with false alarms.

Antiphishing protection now beats even Norton (the gold standard for years) in PCMag.com's test. Perks include the same firewall, spam filter, VPN (virtual private network) for anonymous web browsing, hardened Safe Money browser for financial transactions, app safety adviser, and webcam and microphone protection you'll find on the pricier Kaspersky Total Security suite. Like its big brother, Kaspersky Internet Security (2017) is a customer favorite at BestBuy.com.

Once again, reviews say, Bitdefender offers the best alternative to Kaspersky. Bitdefender Internet Security 2017 (Est. $45 per year for 3 devices). It defends against malware and phishing nearly as well as Kaspersky in tests -- but this mid-level Bitdefender software is Windows-only, and is missing some features compared to Bitdefender Total Security 2017, such as a speed optimization tool. Based on that, unless you are on a tight budget and need to only protect three or fewer Windows (only machines) if Bitdefender is right for you, Bitdefender Total Security 2017 is a much better buy at present.

Secure your Android -- for free

What about free Internet security software? Try as we might, we could not find a totally free security suite for PC or Mac that passes muster. Protection lags behind the best paid software in tests, and we see lots of reports of usability issues. However, if your main interest is antivirus protection -- and that's most users' biggest worry -- we did find some solid antivirus software that will do a terrific job of protecting your computer and not cost you one cent. For more on those, see our report on antivirus software.

However, we did find some great free Internet security suites to protect Android phones and tablets, led by Avast Mobile Security and Antivirus (Free). "The breadth and scope of the features in Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus still blow us away," say editors at TomsGuide.com, where it's named the Best Free Option for Android security. It's PCMag's Editors' Choice, too: "Inside, you'll find antitheft tools, app management, safe Web browsing, a battery manager, and an antivirus engine that receives top marks from independent testing labs," Max Eddy writes.

Indeed, Avast Mobile Security and Antivirus detected 99.8 percent of malware in AV-Test.org's March 2017 testing, with one false alarm -- but it lost points for draining the phone's battery (we didn't see this complaint in other expert tests, or in user reviews on Google Play, though).

Avast has improved its malware detection since last year in tests. It has also gone completely free (it was "freemium" last year, with a few features you had to pay to unlock). Now, it's supported by on-screen ads -- which annoy some users on Google Play. However, "I typically saw only two ads, for the same content, at the top and bottom of every scan result," says Sean Riley at TomsGuide.com.

Avast gives you more -- for free -- than some other apps charge up to $40 for. It blocks malicious websites, spam, and calls and texts from numbers you choose. It double-checks Wi-Fi security in coffee shops and other hot spots. It scans your apps, to make sure they're not playing fast and loose with your personal info. It lets you lock apps, to keep your private data private. If you lose your phone or tablet, Avast lets you locate, lock and/or wipe it remotely. There's a password manager, a battery saver, a clean-up tool, automatic backup and more.

In tests, it proves to be extremely easy to set up and use, and it performs well in tests. Users love it, too. Avast earns 4.5 out of 5 stars, with a whopping 4 million-plus ratings at Google Play.

You could pay for Android security software, but you'll get only a tiny bump in effectiveness. Norton Mobile Security (Est. Free to $30 per year for 10 devices) is a "freemium" app: Most features are free, but to unlock some (notably antiphishing and the app adviser) you'll have to pay. Bitdefender Mobile Security and Antivirus (Est. $15 per year) proves lighter on its feet; it's "barely noticeable" in TomsGuide.com's test, barely slowing down the phone at all. Both Norton and Bitdefender perform flawlessly at AV-Test.org, detecting 100 percent of malware with zero false alarms.

Also, keep in mind that if you are paying for an Internet Security Suite for your laptop or computer, many -- including Kaspersky Total Security (2017) and Bitdefender Total Security 2017 -- protect mobile devices as well. That said, using a free mobile app means fewer used slots on your license, letting you protect additional devices or save a little money (opting for a license that covers fewer devices).

Expert & User Review Sources

Most independent test labs, including Austria's AV-Comparatives.org and the U.K.'s MRG-Effitas.com and SE Labs -- only evaluate antivirus software or the antivirus component of security suites. Germany's AV-Test.org is particularly helpful because it also rates factors such as usability and a suite's impact on a computer's performance. Technology websites generally defer to these labs when it comes to rating effectiveness, but PCMag.com conducts its own testing as well (for both PC/Mac and mobile security software), as does ConsumerReports.org. Others, such as Tom's Guide and DigitalTrends.com, focus their reviews on usability factors. User reviews at sites such as Google Play, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com are useful for evaluating how Internet security suites perform in the real world.

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  • Outstanding malware and phishing protection.
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