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Bitdefender Antivirus Plus latest product review!

The base-line dividing a simple antivirus product from a full computer security suite isn't always clear. Look at Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, for example, in addition to every feature a customer had expect in an antivirus, it includes a password manager, a hardened browser, a secure deletion utility, a scan for system vulnerabilities, protection against ransomware attacks, and more. 

However, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus doesn't offer a firewall protection, spam filtering, or parental control, among other features you get with Bitdefender's actual suite products. It's an antivirus, with some benefits, and it remains an excellent choice if you're seeking malware protection for your PC.

Pricing hasn't changed with the new edition. You still have to pay $39.99 per year for a single license or $59.99 for three. Many other antivirus products share that price point, just below $40, among them Kaspersky, Norton, and Webroot (Secure Anywhere Antivirus). McAfee's base price is $59.99 per year, but that lets you install antivirus protection on all the Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices in your IT household.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus installation and appearance.

As with many modern computer security products, installation of Bitdefender Antivirus Plus involves going through your online account. Log on to Bitdefender website, enter your product key, and download Bitdefender Antivirus Plus protection. It's that simple. During the installation process, it runs a quick scan for active malware.

The Bitdefender antivirus product's interface hasn't changed appreciably since the previous edition, still featuring mostly white text against a dark grey background. A left-rail menu offers access to features: Protection, Privacy, Tools, Activity, Notifications, Account, Settings, and Support. The Grey and Red colour combination give the active and security feeling.

The status panel displays a red warning if your configuration settings put the system at risk. Putting the system back in Autopilot mode should solve such problems, and if you leave Autopilot on, you should always see Protected in green as your status.

Autopilot has been a Bitdefender antivirus staple for quite a few years by now. In this mode, the antivirus takes care of business with an absolute minimum of fuss. It quietly wipes out any malware it finds. It updates itself as needed. If it really wants to communicate with the user, it displays a number on the Notifications icon.

From the Protection and Privacy tabs, you can click to view feature details. Here, you'll begin to realize how this feature-rich antivirus differs from Bitdefender's security suite products. On the Protection Features page, you see that firewall and antispam protection require an upgrade. Under Privacy Features, file encryption, webcam protection, and parental advisor all require an upgrade. The Tools page, furthermore, is filled entirely with features that are only present in Bitdefender's top-of-the-line suite.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus - fantastic lab scores.

Each of the professional antivirus testing labs takes its own methods to testing and scoring antivirus products. The more labs that include a product in testing, the more complete a picture I can get by looking at all their results. We follow five labs, and all five of them include Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. That's an honour not accorded to many. Of the companies that we track, the only others covered by all five labs are Avast, AVG, ESET, and Kaspersky antivirus.

SE Labs attempts to emulate real-world situations as closely as possible in testing, by capturing real malicious websites and using a playback system to hit each product with the exact same attack. This lab offers certification at five levels: AAA, AA, A, B, and C. Bitdefender took the top certification, AAA, along with quite a few others.

Out of the many tests regularly performed by AV-Comparatives, I track results of four. This lab certifies a product at the Standard level provided that it achieves a passing grade. Those that do better, or much better, than the minimum can earn certification at the Advanced or Advanced+ level. Out of four tests, Bitdefender earned four Advanced+ ratings.

Most of the tests that I follow return a numeric result or a rating level. Tests by MRG-Effitas don't do that. A product either turns in a near-perfect performance or it fails, and many do fail. Bitdefender passed this lab's banking malware test. In the general malware test it received Level 2 certification, which means that while it did not completely prevent every malware attack, it did remediate all attacks within 24 hours.

When the testers at AV-Test Institute put an antivirus product up on the testing rack, they rate it in three areas: Protection, Performance, and Usability. That last category refers to keeping false positives (good programs or websites identified as bad) to a minimum. Six points are possible in each category, for a total of 18. Bitdefender nearly hit that top score, but 5.5 points for Usability brought it down to 17.5. Avira and Kaspersky took the full 18 points in the latest test.

Virus Bulletin regularly releases results from its RAP (Reactive and Proactive) test. Bitdefender didn't do as well in this one, though its score is well above the current average. When aggregating lab test results for a combined score, I give a bit less weight to the RAP test.

To get that combined score, I use a formula that maps each lab's results on a scale from 0 to 10 and then combines them. Bitdefender's aggregate score is 9.8; no other product tested by all the labs scored higher, though Kaspersky also scored 9.8. Avira Antivirus Pro actually holds the top score, a perfect 10, but that's based on results from only three of the five labs.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus Malware Protection Testing.

With such glowing reports from the labs, my own hands-on tests aren't as critical. I still run them, though, to get a feel for how each product operates.

My malware protection test starts when I open the folder that contains my current set of samples. Bitdefender immediately started looking over the samples, checking for any it recognized on sight, but its behaviour wasn't at all obvious. Running in Autopilot mode, it just silently eliminated known threats. The only sign of its activity was the steadily dwindling number of files reported by Windows Explorer.

When the numbers stopped ticking down, I checked how many samples remained. Bitdefender eliminated 54 percent of them on sight. Presented with these same samples, Emsisoft Anti-Malware wiped out 79 percent immediately, and Vipre managed 75 percent.

To continue the test, I launched each of the remaining samples. The Safe Files feature (more about that below) blocked file changes by several, but didn't actively identify them as malware, so I didn't count that as a successful detection. A few others slipped past Bitdefender entirely, and some that it did detect still managed to place malware-related executable files on the test system. Its overall detection rate of 75 percent and score of 7.1 points are both rather low. I did note that all of the missed samples fell in lower-risk categories.

Tested against the same malware collection, Emsisoft managed 100 percent detection and an overall score of 9.4 points. Webroot and Comodo Antivirus also managed 100 percent detection, though I tested those two using my previous malware collection. Both also managed a perfect 10 points.

I manually analyze all the samples in my collection so I can determine just how thoroughly each antivirus blocks installation. That analysis is quite a lengthy process, and as a result I use the same sample set for many months. My malicious URL protection test, on the other hand, always uses the very newest malware, and in this test Bitdefender did much better.

I start with a feed of recent malware URL discoveries from MRG-Effitas. Launching each in turn, I take note of how the antivirus handles it. I give equal credit for blocking all access to the URL and for eliminating the malware payload during download. And I keep going until I have data for 100 valid malware-hosting URLs.

Bitdefender blocked 80 percent of the samples at the URL level, in many cases identifying the malware danger on the site by name. It wiped out another 11 percent during download, for a total protection rate of 91 percent, which is quite good. Note, though, that Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic achieved 98 percent protection, and Avira managed 95 percent.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus good at phishing protection.

Bitdefender's protection against malicious and fraudulent URLs happens at the network level, with no need for a browser plugin. In my earlier testing, I observed it blocking internet connections by malware samples even when it didn't wipe out the samples themselves. And while this feature did a good job preventing access to malware-hosting URLs, it was even better against phishing sites, fraudulent sites that try to steal your login credentials.

For this test, I scour the internet seeking the very newest frauds, looking particularly for those too new to have been analysed and blacklisted. Phishing sites are ephemeral; as soon as one gets shut down, the fraudsters put up another. The best anti-phishing utilities analyse pages in real time rather than simply relying on blacklists.

Phishing tricks and trends change constantly, so rather than reporting a hard detection rate in this test, I compare the product detection rate with that of long-time phishing champ Norton, and with the phishing protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. Few products beat Norton, and many can't even outperform the protection built into the browsers.

Previously, Bitdefender held the best score in this test, beating Norton's detection rate by 5 percent. This time around, it left Norton in the dust, with a detection rate fully 12 percent higher. This is, in part, due to an overall decline that I've observed recently in Norton's fraud detection. But it's still impressive. And of course, Bitdefender handily beat all three browsers.