BitDefender Antivirus Plus PDF Print E-mail
BitDefender Antivirus PlusPros: Scores well in tests by independent security software labs; Monitors privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter; Detects and scans CDs DVDs and USB drives; Secure gamer mode; 24-7 support; Free credit monitoring service included

Cons: Bitdefender brand is not as well known as it should be.

The Verdict: This antivirus software provides the best malware protection available.

Pre-install Scanning

During its streamlined installation process Bitdefender runs a pre-install scan for active malware. This scan found threats to remove on all of the infested test systems. On six of the test systems the installer requested a reboot to clean out persistent threats and ensure a successful installation. After reboot, half of those requested the additional power of a Rescue Mode scan.

Bitdefender's Rescue Mode is a truly impressive feature. It boots the system into an alternate operating system, just as you'd do with a Rescue CD. The user doesn't need to download anything and doesn't need to burn a CD, but the effect is exactly the same. The user interface within the Rescue Mode is streamlined, but there's still room to improve its ease of use.

Excellent Lab Results

Bitdefender's antivirus technology gets stellar ratings from the independent testing labs. ICSA Labs and West Coast Labs certify it for virus detection and removal, and it received VB100 certification from Virus Bulletin in each of their last ten tests.

AV-Comparatives runs two kinds of file-based malware detection tests. The regular test checks how many samples the product can detect in its default configuration, while the retrospective test forces the product to use old malware definitions, checking its ability to detect new threats. In both tests, Bitdefender rated ADVANCED+, the highest rating.

AV-Test rates antivirus tools on three real-world criteria: repair of infested systems, protection against new attacks, and overall usability. A product can receive up to six points in each category, with a total of 11 needed for certification. In tests under Windows XP and Windows 7, Bitdefender received an impressive 17 of 18 possible points.

AV-Comparatives also tests real-world protection, daily challenging products to defend against brand-new threats over a period of months. Bitdefender took an ADVANCED+ rating in this test as well. For more information about the independent labs and their tests, see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

One test system utterly lost connectivity after malware cleanup; another suddenly decided its copy of Windows was not authentic. I didn't have time to apply all the fixes supplied by tech support, but they were very quick with answers. I have no doubt the remaining fixes would have been effective.

When I totaled up the results I found that Bitdefender did an excellent job cleaning up the malware samples from my test systems. It detected 87 percent of the threats and scored 6.4 points for malware removal. That's both the highest detection percentage and highest score for products tested under my current collection of malware samples. Emsisoft Emergency Kit 2.0 (free, 3.5 stars) came in second, with 82 percent and 5.6 points.

Some of the products tested with my previous sample set scored quite a bit higher. Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus ($39.95 direct, 4.5 stars) detected the most, 94 percent. With 7.1 points, Norton AntiVirus 2012 ($39.99 direct, 4.5 stars) had the highest score.

Like FixMeStick ($49.95 direct for three licenses, 3 stars) and ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall (free, 3.5 stars), Bitdefender detected 100 of the samples that use rootkit technology to hide their actions. Bitdefender scored 7.6 points for rootkit removal; ZoneAlarm took 8.2 points in the same test.

The rootkits in the previous sample set were different, of course, but quite a few products detected all of them. Norton scored highest against rootkits in that test, with 8.9 points. Comodo Cleaning Essentials (free, 4.5 stars) came very close, scoring 8.7.

The malware blocking test uses samples that I downloaded previously. When I tried to re-download my current collection, Bitdefender's response was impressive. Of course some of the URLs are no longer valid, but of those still functioning, Bitdefender blocked 82 percent before my browser could reach the dangerous page. It blocked another 9 percent before the download completed. With 91 percent blocking overall, it's the most effective of products tested using my current malware collection.

By default, Bitdefender monitors all applications and halts those that exhibit suspicious behavior. Behavior-based systems can sometimes block valid programs, so I installed and ran 20 old PCMag utilities, utilities that some trigger-happy behavior-based detection systems will identify as malicious. Bitdefender correctly left these tools alone. The only false positive I encountered was a rootkit detection tool from another vendor, and I can't blame Bitdefender from thinking the chicanery needed to detect rootkits might itself be dangerous.

Powerful Phishing Protection

The same browser protection component that blocks access to malware-hosting websites also keeps users from getting fooled by fraudulent phishing sites. To test phishing protection I compare each product's behavior against Internet Explorer 8 alone and against Norton, the consistent phishing champion.

Last year Bitdefender actually beat Norton's detection rate by 8 percentage points. This year it's a single point behind, but that doesn't mean Bitdefender got worse. Rather, Norton got better. Bitdefender also beat Internet Explorer by 52 percentage points. Given that almost three quarters of recently-tested products were less effective than IE alone, Bitdefender looks darn good. The article How We Test Antiphishing explains exactly how I derive these scores.

Bitdefender also blocked a significant number of URLs that were no longer valid. Fully a third of those it blocked just returned an error message in the other two test systems. For testing purposes I omit any URLs that are no longer active, since they're no longer any threat.

The product also offers phishing protection and message encryption for instant messaging, but its system requirements are very specific. You get phishing protection strictly for Yahoo Messenger 8.1 and higher, and your IM conversations can be encrypted if both you and your correspondent have the correct version of Yahoo Messenger and are both running Bitdefender.

Enhanced Online Access

As part of your initial product registration you'll create a MyBitdefender online account. With the 2013 release the online dashboard has gotten a thorough makeover. The most impressive new feature is full remote management. The slick new interface offers easy access to all of your Bitdefender installations. You can remotely check status, fix problems, launch scans, and trigger updates. This full remote access replaces the network map feature found in the previous version.

The MyBitdefender dashboard also offers access to other Bitdefender services, and features like parental control, Safebox online backup, and anti-theft. Most of these are specific to the full suite product, but the dashboard does let you check your Safego status.

You can quickly jump to MyBitdefender from the main program window, or log on from any PC. The interface even offers different skins, to let you customize its appearance.

A Very Good Choice

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus performed very well in PCMag's tests and in independent lab tests. It offers quite a few features that you'd expect to find only in a full-scale suite, among them powerful phishing protection and a hardened browser for financial transactions. My one gripe is that it can take a long time to clean up malware-infested systems, and, from my experience, sometimes causes damage during cleanup. But when your system has been pwned by malware, a little time and trouble to thoroughly clean it seems worthwhile.

In a field as big as this one, we can't limit ourselves to a single Editor's Choice. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus joins Norton AntiVirus 2012 and Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus, sharing the Editors' Choice honor for commercial antivirus protection.

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