The best internet security suites are for when you need antivirus protection for more than just Windows. The packages also include antivirus programs for Macs and Android devices, security tools for iOS devices as well as extra features such as password managers, parental controls and two-way firewalls.
Some internet security suites bundle in boutique services that you would have had to purchase separately a few years ago, such as VPNs, cloud-backup software and identity-theft protection.
But the best internet security suites don’t come cheap. Yearly subscriptions can run from $130 to as much as $350, and most come with a minimum of 10 device licenses. The exceptions are Kaspersky, which has an inexpensive five-device plan, and ESET, which pro-rates the cost per device.
The best internet security suites you can get
Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus throws in just about every security feature you’d need, including many that we normally review as stand-alone services.
Unlimited password manager? Check. Unlimited VPN? Yup. Parental controls, cloud backup, top-notch identity-theft protection? All there.
Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus also has excellent protections against malware, its own firewall, dedicated webcam protection and can be installed on an unlimited number of devices.
So what’s the catch? The parental controls, which are otherwise excellent, don’t work on Macs. Neither does the cloud-backup service, and if you have more than one PC, you might fill up its 500GB of backup storage after a year or two.
Then there’s the sticker shock. Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus costs $350 annually after the first year, far more than any other premium antivirus suite.
Yet buying the equivalents of all of Norton’s features and services from other companies would cost at least $550 a year. If you really need and can afford all those extras, then Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus is a no-brainer.
Read our full Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus review.
What if you don’t want or need identity-theft protection or cloud-backup software, but still need an unlimited VPN? Bitdefender Premium Security, which costs $150 yearly for up to 10 devices, might be the answer.
Premium Security combines Bitdefender’s very good malware detection and easy-to-use interface with a huge assortment of extra features. These include a few that Norton doesn’t have, such as ransomware rollbacks, a super-secure web browser for online banking, anti-theft software for laptops and a file shredder.
Bitdefender Premium Security also has parental controls for all four major platforms, but its unlimited password manager and dedicated webcam and microphone protections work only on Windows.
Read our full Bitdefender Premium Security review.
If you can live without an unlimited VPN, then your best bet might be Kaspersky Total Security, which covers 5 devices for $100 per year or 10 devices for $150 per year.
Kaspersky has the best record on beating malware in third-party lab tests, hands-down. Its password manager works across all four major platforms, and its parental controls (also fully cross-platform) are second only to Norton’s.
Like Bitdefender, Kaspersky offers anti-theft features for laptops, ransomware rollbacks and a secure browser mode for online banking, but Kaspersky’s browser works on Macs as well as on Windows. It also offers file encryption and unique protection against “stalkerware” used by jealous partners.
However, while Kaspersky offers backup software, like Norton, it doesn’t provide online storage for those backups, but instead sends you to your own Dropbox account.
The VPN service comes with only 300MB of service per day, but its unlimited VPN service costs just $30 per year, a fraction of what many stand-alone VPNs cost. If you’ve got five or fewer devices to protect, you can get both Kaspersky Total Security and Kaspersky’s unlimited VPN for $105 annually, less than the cost of Bitdefender Premium Security.
Read our full Kaspersky Total Security review.
Norton isn’t the only antivirus maker with an identity-theft-protection service. McAfee Total Protection Ultimate includes similar coverage for $160 per year, less than half of what Norton costs.
You’ll get the benefits of McAfee’s Identity Theft Protection Plus plan, which costs $175 per year as a stand-alone and includes credit monitoring and up to $1 million in insurance coverage.
The package also includes McAfee’s protection against malware, the True Key password manager, Safe Kids parental controls, file encryption, file shredding, a firewall and unlimited VPN service for up to five devices. Like many McAfee antivirus subscriptions, Total Protection Ultimate nominally protects up to 10 devices but in practice is unlimited.
The downsides are that neither the VPN nor the parental controls work on Macs, and that there’s no webcam protection, hardened browser or backup software. But if you want all-encompassing protection at a bargain rate, you could do a lot worse than McAfee.
Read our full McAfee Total Protection Ultimate review.
Like McAfee Total Protection Premium, Trend Micro Premium Security ($130 per year for up to 10 devices) does without backup software or cloud storage, but it includes a password manager, unlimited VPN service and parental controls, all of which work on Mac, PC, Android and iOS.
There’s also what Trend Micro calls “ID Protection,” which actually just monitors the dark web for your data and can be accessed only through mobile apps.
On the antivirus side, Trend Micro does very well in lab tests of malware detection and also provides ransomware rollbacks, a file shredder, file encryption and a system optimizer. Trend Micro’s malware engine has a remarkably small impact on Windows system performance when running in the background, but can eat up a fair amount of resources during full scans.
Read our full Trend Micro Premium Security review.
ESET is one of the biggest names in antivirus protection in Europe, and while its top-end Smart Security Premium suite doesn’t pack in VPN service, backup software or identity protection, it’s still remarkably light, fast and efficient.
ESET Smart Security Premium does have a password manager, parental controls, anti-theft protections for laptops, dedicated webcam protection, a dedicated secure browser and even home-network-management software.
It even includes bare-bones antivirus software for Linux machines, and its Windows malware-detection engine does very well in lab tests. The only downside is that the parental controls don’t work on iOS.
One bonus: With ESET, you don’t pay more than you have to. Most antivirus brands tier premium subscriptions at five, 10 and sometimes 15 devices. ESET bucks the trend, starting at $60 per year for one device and adding $10 for each additional device.
So if you’ve got just four devices to protect, you’d pay $90 per year with ESET Smart Security Premium while most other brands on this page would charge you much more.
Read our full ESET Smart Security Premium review.
How to choose the best internet security suite for you
So do you need all this extra stuff with your antivirus software? Well, it’s hard to argue against using a password manager. Beyond that, you have to consider your personal circumstances.
If you’ve got young kids or teenagers at home, you might want parental-control software to keep tracking of what your children are doing online — or to track the location of their phones.
If you’re of comfortable means, investing in identity-theft protection might be wise. If you travel a lot, you’ll want to use a VPN while in hotel rooms and airport lounges.
To get a better idea of the stand-alone services these premium security suites are competing with, please visit our buying guides for the best identity theft protection, best cloud backup services, best parental-control apps and best password managers.
Internet security suites may seem expensive, but they’re still far cheaper than purchasing all those extra services a la carte. You just have to decide which ones you really need.