Out of the dozens of internet security software brands on the market, we've found Norton 360 Deluxe to be the best all-around internet security software, followed closely by Bitdefender Total Security, McAfee Total Protection, and Trend Micro Maximum Security. Each of these suites brings a slew of useful features, excellent protection, reasonable pricing, and cross-platform support.
To determine the best internet security software, we considered a number of factors: price, feature set, performance, and supported devices. All of our picks support the main platforms of Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, and all of them offer solid performance without slowing your devices down. To decide on final rankings, we consider the overall feature set, as well as how useful those features are to the average user.
Best internet security software
- Useful VPN
- Solid mobile apps
- Large array of features
- Some features limited to specific platforms
- Limited iOS support
A ton of features at a reasonable price
Our pick for the best all-around internet security software is Norton 360 Deluxe. This is one of the most fully featured options available in this space, with an unlimited VPN, excellent website filtering, a powerful firewall, and even cloud storage for offsite backups. Norton 360 Deluxe also stays true to its namesake with robust antivirus protection in the event something makes it through the other defenses.
Norton 360 Deluxe is available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices, so it covers all your device needs, and you get five licenses for your subscription fee. This is an excellent choice for anyone who wants robust protection and a slew of useful features from a trustworthy brand. For that reason, we think it should be the default pick for most people.
Norton advertises its 360 Deluxe option for $109.99 per year, but you can score big discounts in the first year. Visit Norton to see what's available.
If you are less cost-conscious but want the added peace of mind of identity theft protection plus additional cloud storage, you can choose the Norton 360 with LifeLock option for about $50 more per year.
- Powerful antivirus protection
- Useful online management tools
- Limited iOS support
- VPN could be more robust
Everything you need (and the kitchen sink)
If you want total protection for your devices, look no further than Bitdefender Total Security. This suite of internet security tools offers a solid core of antivirus software plus a ton of additional features, including the ability to manage your security settings and stats online. Other features include a VPN, parental controls, and even a password manager.
Bitdefender Total Security also offers excellent cross-platform support. The Windows, Mac, and Android suites are loaded with goodies. There’s also iOS support, although it predictably lags behind the others. Our other big gripe here is that the free VPN has a data cap of 6 GB per month, compared to unlimited data with Norton's offering. However, Bitdefender is an ideal choice for users who want everything and the kitchen sink from their internet security suite.
The sticker price for Bitdefender Total Security is $94.99 per year, but look for promotions that can save you $50 or more in the first year. You can also choose less-expensive options through Bitdefender's website.
- Useful identity theft protection and credit monitoring
- Support for unlimited devices
- No dedicated parental controls
- Confusing plans
Solid antivirus and device protection with some unique features
McAfee Total Protection is an interesting option for a few reasons. One, it covers the basics well, with virus protection, a VPN, and more. Two, it supports unlimited devices, making it ideal for households where every person has a laptop, phone, and tablet to protect. Three, it offers a variety of unique features that some might find extremely valuable.
These features include identity protection and identity theft recovery support, credit reporting and monitoring, an unlimited VPN, and even Chromebook support. Not everyone will be able to use all these features, but if you can, McAfee is a no-brainer. It’s especially nice for people who want credit reporting or monitoring services.
McAfee Total Protection Advanced starts at $89.99 per year for five devices in the first year. The unlimited devices plans start at $139.99 per year. Checkout McAfee's website for the latest deals.
- Excellent cross-platform support
- A variety of useful security features
- Lackluster parental controls
- No VPN
Excellent cross-platform support and strong phishing protection
Our #4 pick is Trend Micro Maximum Security. This suite packs all the usual features, like antivirus, phishing protection (phishing is the practice of tricking people into providing information by pretending you’re someone you’re not), encrypted storage for sensitive documents, and parental controls (although they’re somewhat lackluster).
The real power of Trend Micro is cross-platform support. It’s available on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Chromebooks. Even better, it offers more features and support for non-Windows platforms than many competitors—Mac and iOS in particular. For this reason, Trend Micro is the way to go for users who have a lot of devices across different platforms.
Trend Micro Maximum Security starts at $89.95 per year, but you can get first-year discounts on the company site, save by buying two years at a time, or find additional options on Amazon.com.
What to consider when choosing internet security software
There are a lot of options available in the internet security space. To help decide which ones to recommend, we considered a range of factors. The most important are below.
Price is always a concern when selecting products and services, and internet security is no exception. While there’s a lot you can do to help keep yourself safe for free, the best security suites tend to cost money. That said, this is one area where it may make sense to pay up—if your devices are compromised, the cost can be much steeper than the annual fee for a security suite.
Something else that’s important to note about security software pricing is that a license, while seemingly expensive, often covers multiple devices. If you’re installing it on four or five computers, the cost per device starts to look much more attractive.
Internet security suites offer a wide array of features—some extremely useful, others less so. These are the main ones we look for.
A good firewall is internet security 101. Firewalls monitor network traffic and ensure that no illegitimate activity goes on behind the scenes. With a good firewall in place, you don’t need to worry about cybercriminals (or sketchy neighbors) snooping on your online activities. They can also help prevent malicious apps on your device from broadcasting private information.
Firewalls are useful at home, but they come in especially handy when you’re using public Wi-Fi, which is inherently less secure (due to the public nature). If you do a lot of work on public networks, like at coffee shops or hotels, a robust firewall is a must.
While this all sounds complex, most security suites come with firewalls already configured, so all you need to do is turn it on. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to mess with the settings much, if at all.
Backups are an important part of smart computer use. In an ideal world, you’d never need to use a backup, but things happen. Viruses sneak onto your computer, a hard drive fails, or your phone falls into water. When these technological disasters happen, a thorough data backup can often be the difference between an inconvenience and a nightmare.
The best internet security software comes bundled with online, cloud-based backup solutions that keep your data secure in a remote location. This means that even if your hardware is destroyed, your important personal information is safe, and you can get back up and running in no time.
Malware scanning and removal
Malware, including computer viruses and malicious apps, remains a concern. Following online safety best practices, like not opening files from unknown sources, can go a long way toward preventing infection, but sometimes things slip through the cracks.
As such, one of the chief roles of security software is to scan your devices for malware, quarantine the infected files, and safely remove them from the device. Your security suite should be able to do this with minimal disruption to your daily activities—in other words, you shouldn't have to stop working so your antivirus can scan your computer.
A website filter is a software tool that monitors the sites you visit and prevents malicious, insecure, or blocked sites from loading. You might be familiar with this type of software through your employer—many companies block websites to cut down on distractions or keep confidential data secure.
On your personal devices, these filters can also be useful. Typically, the security software company will maintain a list of known malicious sites, and if you try to access one—intentionally or accidentally—it’ll show you a warning message instead. You may or may not have the option to proceed anyway, but you’ll usually have to jump through some type of hoop to ensure you really know what you’re doing.
A virtual private network (VPN) is a powerful tool for protecting your privacy online. These networks disguise your traffic (and thus, identity and location) by routing your signal through a secure, encrypted network, often in another country.
Again, you may be familiar with VPNs from work. You may find them useful for personal browsing on public networks to help prevent snooping. VPNs are available as standalone services, but you can save some money by choosing security software that comes bundled with one. Learn more about choosing the right VPN.
The internet has a lot to offer for kids, but it also has a lot of dangers. It’s all too easy for unsuspecting children to stumble onto inappropriate material. Parental controls help with this by limiting the content your kids’ devices and accounts can access. They’re also useful for limiting the amount of time children can spend on screens, ensuring they give their brains a rest and get outside.
With all the features on offer, it’s important that internet security software doesn’t slow down the performance of your devices—something these tools have occasionally been known for in the past. Ideally, you shouldn’t be able to tell that you’re using the software—it should just quietly hum along in the background, keeping you safe.
These days, many (if not most) people have multiple devices in their household that they’ll need to protect, so your software choice should be capable of covering most or all of them. This could include Windows and Mac computers, Android devices, iPhones, and iPads.
Support for these platforms can vary widely from one security suite or device to another. For example, due to the locked-down nature of iPhones, it can be difficult for these types of tools to perform some of their functions. However, at least some level of support for each device type is nice to see.
Stay safe with the right internet security software
Norton 360 Deluxe is our pick for best internet security software, followed very closely by Bitdefender Total Security. McAfee and Trend Micro come in third and fourth, respectively. Ultimately, any of these options will serve you well, but Norton takes the cake.
Want more security tips? Check out our library of internet articles.
Dave Schafer is a freelance writer with a passion for making technical concepts easy for anyone to understand. He’s been covering the world of gadgets, tech, and the internet for over 8 years, with a particular focus on TV and internet service providers. When he’s not writing, Dave can be found playing guitar or camping with his family and golden retriever, Rosie.
Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.