Let's face it: No matter what device you use, you're in danger. Security threats and malware lurk on Windows PCs, Macs, and Android and iOS devices. If you use more than one device -- like most of us do -- that makes it even more difficult and expensive to be vigilant and keep yourself safe.
That's where all-in-one security suites come in. They protect not just a single device, but multiple ones, and offer comprehensive security for a far lower price than if you had to buy software individually for each of your devices.
All of the suites reviewed here protect Windows, Macs and Android devices. A few add iOS security as well. Most offer some kind of Web-based dashboard for installing and managing the software on each individual device.
Note that this isn't an evaluation of how well these products actually protect against malware -- for that, it's best to check out a report from a lab such as AV-TEST, which recently rated a variety of applications for how they protect Windows 8.1 systems and Android devices.
Instead, I've looked at each suite's usability and what features it offers outside of traditional anti-malware protection. I've included quick snapshots of the strengths and weaknesses of the product for each operating system -- Windows, OS X, iOS and Android -- and evaluate the Web dashboard that some of the suites offer to help you manage the security of all your devices.
In this roundup, I've reviewed seven all-in-one protection suites:
- Bitdefender Family Pack
- Kaspersky Internet Security - Multi-Device
- McAfee LiveSafe 2014
- Norton 360 Multi Device
- Panda Global Protection 2014
- Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security
- Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete
Bitdefender Family Pack
Price: $9.99/mo. or $99.95/yr. for 3 users; $11.95/mo. or $129.95/yr. for 5 users
Number of devices: Unlimited
The Bitdefender Family Pack isn't so much a well-integrated suite for protecting multiple devices as it is a way to package several of them in a single product to save you money. Each component must be installed separately, via a Web link, and although there is a basic Web dashboard, that dashboard won't let you install and uninstall the software.
Bitdefender offers a full suite of PC protection tools, but the interface is so confusing, you'll take some time figuring out how to use it. There are two dueling interfaces, a compact one on your Windows system and a Web dashboard, which is necessary not just for getting an overview of all of the devices protected by Bitdefender, but also to use some of Bitdefender's features, such as Parental Controls and Facebook protection.
The Windows component is simple to use. To access or customize any feature, click the associated icon in the application, such as firewall, privacy protection or anti-malware scanning. It offers two different modes: Autopilot and User Mode. In theory, in User Mode, you'll receive notifications if major actions need to be taken, such as rebooting in order to finish cleaning an infection. In Autopilot, Bitdefender takes those actions without asking you. In practice, I found no difference between the two modes, likely because I never encountered an issue that required a major action to be taken.
Bitdefender offers the full complement of anti-malware along with a firewall, and goes well beyond that. There are parental controls, and the ability to find and remotely wipe devices. It also scans your Facebook pages for malicious links. And there's 2GB of free cloud-based backup so you can sync files among all of your devices.
Bit Defender's Mac protection is the most basic of those included in any of these suites. It's a straight-ahead anti-malware scanner that lets you scan your entire system, what it calls critical locations or a custom location. But there's nothing beyond that -- you can't even schedule scans for more convenient times, like overnight for instance.
You can download add-ins for Safari, Chrome or Firefox that offer protection against phishing attacks and block downloading malicious content. But this isn't part of the package itself, and you don't need to buy Bitdefender to use them -- just install them as you would any other browser extension. They're free.
There is no iOS protection.
Bitdefender's Android app comes with full suite of protection: anti-virus; anti-theft, including remote locate, remote lock, remote wipe and even a "remote scream" feature that helps you find your device if you've mislaid it; browsing security that includes anti-phishing and blocking malicious downloads; and a Privacy Adviser with some features not found in the other Android apps reviewed here.
It gives your Android device an overall privacy score based on the apps you have installed on it. It also lists every app on your device and color-codes it for privacy risk (red for big privacy risk, orange for moderate privacy risk and green for no privacy risk). Tap any app to see details about its privacy problems; tap the Uninstall button to uninstall the app.
The Web dashboard does double-duty. First, it controls individual components such as Facebook protection, parental control and locating your Android device.
It also acts as a traditional dashboard, giving you an overview of all the devices you have protected. However, in this role, it's only moderately useful. You can see all the devices on which you've installed Bitdefender, but you get information only about their operating systems. You won't be able to see the results of scans or any potential issues such as outdated virus definitions. And you can't install and uninstall software from the dashboard either. All in all, it's no winner.
Bitdefender's confusing interface and lack of iOS protection puts it near the bottom of the list of useful all-in-one security software. That being said, its features goes beyond what others offer in some cases, including solid Android protection and the ability to remotely wipe laptops if they're lost.
Kaspersky Internet Security - Multi-Device
Kaspersky Lab ZAO
Price: $79.95/yr., $149.95/2 yrs. or $199.95/3 yrs.
Number of devices: 5
Kaspersky Internet Security - Multi Device offers simple, straightforward protection, and also provides advanced PC tools for those technically sophisticated enough to use them. It's marred by not having a Web-based dashboard and offers only rudimentary iOS protection.
The Windows interface is simple and clear, with large icons representing the various security features, including scanning, parental control and others.
Kaspersky doesn't have the kind of Windows tune-up tools that Norton does, but it does have several technical modules that experienced users might welcome. The Application Control feature gives a snapshot of the current state of your PC, including how many applications and processes are running and how much memory they're using.
If you suspect that any applications are malicious, you can block them, and later enable them if you want. Also useful is a network activity monitor, which shows your network traffic over time. With it you can also see all of your open ports, which protocol they use, and what applications, if any, are currently using each port.
One unusual component is called Safe Money; it helps ensure that when you visit a bank's website, you're actually visiting that site and not a scam page. It does this by comparing the URL of the site you're visiting with the bank's real URL, checks whether the page has a valid certificate, and then opens the site in a protected browser mode to safeguard personal data.
The suite's OS X protection mirrors the Windows version. However, as with other Mac security applications, it doesn't include all the features that the Windows version has, such as Application Control, the network activity monitor and Safe Money. Still, it's one of the better Mac protection suites, and includes not just anti-malware, but also anti-phishing, protection against dangerous websites and parental controls.
There's also protection against keyloggers and screen capture malware, so that your login information and passwords are much less likely to be stolen. Unlike the flat-looking Windows interface, the Mac UI features glowing green highlights and rounded 3D objects.
iOS users won't find much here, and they can download the iOS app free without having to buy the full suite. It provides a browser that protects against phishing and malicious links, but you need to use it instead of Safari. As with similar browsers, it looks and works much like Safari. But that's all you get -- no anti-malware and no lost device protection.
Android protection is solid. There's the usual anti-malware, along with remote location of a missing device, remote wipe and remote lock. And it lets you block unwanted phone calls and text messages. There are some unusual features as well, including the ability to show only certain features of your phone when other people are using it.
The main interface has big, colorful buttons at the bottom for each of the app's features (scanning, anti-theft and so on) and, at the top, a very large icon that tells you whether your device is safe or whether there are any issues with it. Tap the icon to see the problem and solve it.
Kaspersky doesn't include a Web dashboard for managing security on your devices. Because of that, you'll have to install the Mac and iOS modules separately from the PC one.
Kaspersky Internet Security Multi-Device sticks to the basics and doesn't provide the range of Windows tune-up tools that other suites such as Norton and McAfee include. It also lacks a Web-based dashboard and doesn't offer iOS protection. However, its anti-malware coverage for Windows, OS X and Android is solid and useful.
McAfee LiveSafe 2014
Number of devices: Unlimited
McAfee offers a solid set of tools for protecting your Windows, OS X and Android devices, although it offers only minimal iOS protection. If you have a lot of gear to protect, you'll welcome the fact that it lets you protect an unlimited number of devices for one price.
McAfee offers all the protection you need for your Windows system and does it so easily that, once you install the program, you really never need open it. However, if you want to do things such as schedule scans, turn the firewall on or off, or use additional tools such as a file shredder, its primary interface is simple and straightforward to use.
One of the more unusual tools is its Traffic Monitor feature, which analyzes traffic between your PC and the Internet. The overall analysis shows your incoming and outgoing traffic levels over time, as well as current traffic and the current bandwidth use. You can also see all the currently active programs on your PC.
More useful is the Traffic Use view; it shows you which programs used the most bandwidth over the past 24 hours. It's not an easy tool to find, though, because it's not available from the main menu. Instead, you'll have to click the small Navigation button on the upper right corner of the main screen, then scroll down to the Traffic Monitor link and click it.
The tune-up tools are somewhat basic compared to Norton, consisting of a QuickClean feature that, as the name implies, deletes unnecessary files. There's also a defragmenter and a file shredder, but not much beyond that.
There is also a Windows 8 app called McAfee Central that is supposed to work in concert with McAfee LiveSafe. I tried it two times with separate LiveSafe installations.
The first time I found it confusing to use, because when I'd click it to perform a task, such as to customize my firewall, I was often switched over to the desktop app to actually do the work. The second time I installed it, the app incorrectly reported that I didn't have the McAfee desktop app installed, even though I did.
The Mac security software offers the usual anti-malware, firewall and protection against malicious Web sites. But as with other software in this roundup, you don't get the full range of tools offered for Windows PCs, such as the Traffic Monitor feature or the tune-up tools.
That being said, it does offer parental controls via its Family Protection module. That offers more than the usual protection, because it also can filter TV shows watched on the Mac, as well as YouTube and iTunes filtering.
The interface is simple and compact, with the main panel on the right reporting on the security state of your Mac, and a smaller navigational panel on the left letting you use its features, such as performing or customizing scans, looking at the application's logs and seeing any software it has quarantined.
LiveSafe doesn't offer true iOS protection -- there's no malware scanning or protection. Instead, there are two separate apps (both available for free even if you don't buy the entire multi-device LifeSafe package): A password manager called McAfee SafeKey and a privacy vault that protects files on your phone, including photos and videos, backs up your contacts and lets you locate your phone if it gets lost.