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Bitdefender Total Security 2023 Review
By Tibor Moes / January 2023 / Rating 5 of 5
About the author
This article was written by Tibor Moes, founder and CEO of SoftwareLab.
Tibor is an engineer from the Netherlands that started reviewing security software in 2014. Since then, he has tested 72 antivirus software, VPN, password managers, and hosting services.
Currently, he uses BitDefender and Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords. This website, SoftwareLab.org, is hosted on a Digital Ocean’s server via Cloudways and built with DIVI on WordPress.
Bitdefender Total Security 2023 Review Summary
Bitdefender Total Security is one of the best antivirus you can buy. It’s beautifully designed and offers incredibly advanced protection. On top of that, the VPN has been dramatically improved on all operating software.
It’s not perfect: The parental controls need updating, and the password manager is Windows-only. In 2023, a password manager becomes a bit useless if you can’t use it on your smartphone too.
Outside of that, though, Bitdefender remains our favorite antivirus for Windows. It shares this throne with Norton, which has a better password manager and unlimited VPN. But Bitdefender is more affordable.
- Excellent Anti-Malware: Together with Norton and Kaspersky, Bitdefender scores the highest marks in the anti-malware tests by AV-Test.
- Great VPN: Bitdefender has made significant improvements to its VPN. It’s fast, secure, no-logs, and works with Netflix and torrents.
- Complete Protection on Windows: Anti-malware, password manager, web protection, firewall, VPN, SafePay, webcam protection, and more.
- Complete Protection on Android: Anti-malware, web protection, VPN, anti-theft, account privacy, app lock, and more.
- Excellent Design on Windows and macOS: Bitdefender is equally advanced as intuitive to use. And in Dark Mode, it looks super cool.
- SafePay Browser: Bitdefender includes an extra secure browser for your online banking, with a virtual keyboard to protect from keyloggers.
- Ransomware Remediation: Bitdefender can restore files that ransomware attacks have encrypted.
- Anti-Theft Tools: On Windows and Android, you can remotely locate, lock, or erase the data on your devices. Something Norton doesn’t offer.
- Affordable: Compared to most competitors, Bitdefender is sharply priced, giving it excellent value for money.
- Limited Features on macOS: Bitdefender doesn’t offer a firewall or password manager on Mac. We recommend Norton 360 Deluxe on Mac.
- Password Manager Only for Windows: By not supporting Android, iOS, and macOS, the password manager becomes a bit useless.
- Disappointing Parental Controls: Not all features work, and an intelligent teenager would easily circumvent others.
- The Unlimited VPN Costs Extra: Bitdefender’s VPN is excellent. But unlike Norton and McAfee, Bitdefender’s does not include its VPN for free.
The price varies by region. Click the link below to see it in yours.
Bitdefender Total Security 2023 Full Review
Bitdefender Total Security 2023 is one of the best antivirus programs of 2023. But how does it compare to the other heavyweights Norton, Kaspersky, and McAfee? To find out, we put it through a range of tests. Click the links below to learn more:
- Bitdefender for Windows Review
- Bitdefender for Mac Review
- Bitdefender for Android Review
- Bitdefender for iOS Review
- Anti-Malware Test
- Password Manager Test
- Parental Controls Test
- VPN Test
- Company Profile
- Product Line-Up
Image 1: BitDefender’s dashboard on Android and Windows 10.
Bitdefender Total Security for Windows Review
Key takeaway: We’re big fans of Bitdefender Total Security for Windows. Together with Norton, it’s our favourite. The feature list is nothing short of impressive and its design is intuitive enough for any user. The parental controls are disappointing, and the password manager works well on Windows, but not Android, iOS or macOS. But even when accounting for those drawbacks, we still highly recommend Bitdefender for Windows.
Before diving into Bitdefender’s features on each operating software, it’s important to know about Bitdefender Central. This is Bitdefender’s web app and the digital dashboard of its cybersecurity tools:
- Here you can get an overview of your protected devices, and run scans, updates, and optimization tools remotely.
- Here you can access the antitheft tools, allowing you to locate your device on a map, see its latest IP address, lock it, or wipe its hard drive entirely.
- Here you can set up Digital Identity Protection, to learn whether your data was leaked to legal or illegal sources, on the regular or dark web.
- Here you can access the parental controls, to learn where your children are, and set protective boundaries on their digital lives.
- Here you can access additional premium services and manage your active subscriptions.
It is your cybersecurity hub under which all your protected devices are structured. Although you can also download it in app form, we are big fans of the web app. It’s clean, intuitive, and simply excellent.
Bitdefender Total Security on Windows 10 review:
Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we really like Bitdefender’s design on Windows 10 and 11. Its grey and blue tones inspire calm and confidence, and its layout is intuitive and easy. It resembles the excellent design of McAfee’s interface but feels a bit more techy and serious.
And if you want to go genuinely cybertech, activate Dark Mode under Settings. It makes the app look particularly cool. And yes, we are aware that calling an antivirus app “cool”, does not make us look very cool.
In the menu on the left side of the app, the six main categories are housed, under which all security features and settings are structured.
We’ll walk you through each:
The first category is the customizable Dashboard. Here you have six slots that you can fill with features that you frequently use.
As standard, Bitdefender has filled the first five positions with the quick scan, system scan, vulnerability scan, VPN, and SafePay. You can choose between the password manager, file shredder, or OneClick optimizer for the sixth position. We went with the password manager.
The second category, Protection, includes seven different features and a wide range of underlying settings. As the name suggests, the features here are related to protecting your device from malware:
- Antivirus: This is a real-time protection feature, where you can start quick scans, deep system scans, or start the rescue environment to remove resilient threats. There are also various advanced settings to customize the scans. For instance, whether you want to scan applications, scripts, archives, boot sectors, and so much more.
- Advanced Threat Detection: This feature identifies suspiciously behaving applications and blocks zero-day exploit attacks. Here, Bitdefender keeps you up to date on attacks that happened in the last 90 days, and allows you to turn some features on and off.
- Online Threat Prevention: This feature consists of 6 separate elements that you can turn on and off: Preventing web attacks, scanning search results, checking the safety of encryption certificates on websites, checking for fraud and phishing attempts by websites, and preventing the exploitation of vulnerabilities on your device. You can also set file paths, extensions, and URLs that will be excluded from the prevention scans.
- Vulnerability: Here, you can start the vulnerability scan, which scans your Windows installation, applications, and network for security issues. When it discovers a Windows vulnerability, it will also help you install the correct update. In addition, the Wi-Fi Security Advisor checks your Wi-Fi networks for the encryption and authentification type, and the password strength.
- Firewall: The firewall allows you to monitor the connections your apps make and set rules per app. For instance, you can choose on which network type (home or public) they are allowed to connect, on which protocol they are allowed to operate, and whether they can create inbound or outbound connections (or both). And if that’s not enough, you can even assign custom IPs and Ports. Finally, you can (de-)activate port scan protection and stealth mode.
- Ransomware Remediation: This feature reverses damage done by ransomware. It does so by restoring any files that have been encrypted by ransomware.
- Antispam: Here, you can set rules to the antispam feature of Outlook and Thunderbird, two email applications for Windows. Settings include creating a white-list (friends) and black-list (spammers), whether to block emails with Asian or Cyrillic characters, and settings to train Bitdefender’s detection algorithm.
The third category, Privacy, focuses on your online safety. It includes six features:
- SafePay: SafePay is a secure browser that you can use as an extra layer of security when banking online. It includes Bitdefender’s password manager, Wallets, and a virtual keyboard to avoid being tracked by keyloggers. Under SafePay’s settings, you can set the VPN to activate when you open the SafePay browser, and you can choose to get a notification to open SafePay when you visit a bank’s website in a regular browser.
- VPN: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) creates an encrypted internet connection that hides your IP address and makes you anonymous online. We analyze it in detail in the VPN section of this review. Spoiler alert: It’s pretty good.
- Password Manager: A password manager helps you create, store, and autofill highly secure passwords. Bitdefender’s password manager works as a browser extension for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and SafePay. We analyze it in detail in the password manager section of this review. Spoiler alert: It works well, but only supports Windows.
- Video & Audio Protection: Here, applications will appear that attempt to access your webcam or microphone. You can specify which apps are allowed to so and which should be blocked. Under settings, you can select whether you should be notified when an application attempts to access your webcam or microphone, or whether to block all access to them.
- Anti-Tracker: This feature is a browser extension for Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome, that blocks trackers from collecting data on you and building user profiles.
- Parental Advisor: This is the parental controls feature of Bitdefender. It allows you to check the digital activities of your children and set protective boundaries. We analyze it in detail in the parental controls section of this review. Spoiler alert: It’s not great.
The fourth category, Utilities, consist of four separate parts:
- Anti-Theft: The anti-theft tools are part of your Bitdefender Central account, the cybersecurity web app. They allow you to locate your device on Google maps, lock your device remotely with a customer access code, and erase all data on your device.
- OneClick Optimizer: With a single click, you scan your disk (e.g., Windows Cache), registry (e.g., Startup items), browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer Cache and Cookies) for temporary files that you can delete to free up space.
- Profiles: Bitdefender allows you to activate one of five profiles based on your activity. These include a Work, Movie, Game, Public Wi-Fi, and Battery Mode profile. You can also configure each to tailor them to your exact needs.
- Data Protection: Also known as the File Shredder, this feature allows you to permanently delete files and folders from your hard drive.
The fifth category, Notifications, does precisely what the name suggests. It gives you a list of notifications in chronological order. For instance, it can tell you when a specific application was allowed access to a network. Or it might inform you of a vulnerability that was detected and will give you a quick link to fixing it.
As if there weren’t enough settings so far, the sixth category, called Settings, adds a few more on top. But they are more mundane in nature. Here you can decide whether Bitdefender can show you special offers, change the app’s language, activate Dark Mode, and turn automatic updates on or off.
All in all, Bitdefender Total Security for Windows is simply excellent. It can compete with the absolute best in the industry. It’s a shame that the parental controls aren’t as good as Norton’s and we’re disappointed that the password manager only works on Windows. But those are the only downsides to an otherwise excellent product.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac Review
Key takeaway: Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is a well-designed app, with excellent anti-malware and web protection, and a solid VPN. However, it lacks a firewall and password manager, which are both present with Norton on macOS. Therefore, for Mac users, we prefer Norton.
Note: Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac has the same features as Bitdefender Total Security for Mac. The only difference is that with Total Security, you get the Parental Controls feature in Bitdefender Central.
Bitdefender Antivirus for macOS review:
Bitdefender Antivirus for macOS looks just as cool as its sibling for Windows. But as with all antivirus software for Mac, it lacks many of its features. The most noticeable omissions are the firewall and password manager. Both of which Norton does offer for Mac users.
On macOS, it also follows the same build as on Windows. On the left side of the app is a menu with seven items, under which the various protection features and settings are structured. From top to bottom, these are:
The first menu item, Dashboard, contains short-cuts to the five most important features of the antivirus: Quick scan, system scan, protect a new device, safe files, and web protection.
The second menu item, Protection, covers the vast majority of all security features:
- Quick Scan: Rapidly scan the areas where malware usually hides.
- System Scan: Completely scan your Mac, including all files and directories.
- Custom Scan: Pick specific files to scan.
- Quarantine: A list of files that have been flagged as malware and moved into quarantine. From here, you can delete or restore them.
- Exceptions: An area where you can add files that can be excluded from scanning.
- TrafficLight: A browser extension that catches, analyzes, and filters all web data, preventing malicious content from reaching you. The extension is available for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.
- Safe Files: A feature that stops ransomware and other malware from making unauthorized changes to your files. You can add files and folders to the protected files list and see which applications have requested access to them.
- Time Machine Protection: Protect your backups from unauthorized changes.
The third menu item, Privacy, houses the features that protect your online privacy.
- VPN: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) restores your privacy online by encrypting your internet connection and hiding your IP address. We analyze Bitdefender’s VPN in detail in the VPN section of this review. Spoiler alert: It’s a good VPN. Both on Mac and other OS.
- Anti-Tracker: A browser plugin that protects your privacy by blocking data trackers that follow you around the web. The extension is available for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox,
The fourth menu item, Notifications, gives you a chronological overview of anything cybersecurity-related that happened on your Macbook.
In the fifth menu item, My Account, you’ll see your account information and the remaining duration of your subscription. It also includes a link to BitDefender Central, from where you can manage your account settings.
In the sixth menu item, Preferences, you can (de-)activate various features, such as Bitdefender Shield, whether to scan only modified files, whether to scan files in your backups, and whether Bitdefender is allowed to send you offers.
All in all, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac does many things right. It offers excellent anti-malware protection, a secure VPN, and excellent web protection. But, it doesn’t feature a firewall or password manager. Both of which Norton does offer for macOS, which is why we believe it might be the better choice to protect your MacBook or iMac.
Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android Review
Key takeaway: Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android includes everything you need: Solid anti-malware and web protection, an excellent standalone VPN app, and great anti-theft tools. Its design is a bit basic, but the protection is excellent.
Note: Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android has the same features as Bitdefender Total Security for Android. The only difference is that with Total Security, you get the Parental Controls feature in Bitdefender Central.
Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android review:
Bitdefender mobile security for Android looks a bit basic compared to Bitdefender’s excellent design on Windows. Because of this, it really can’t compete with the look and feel of Norton or McAfee on Android. This is a shame because it certainly isn’t a bad security app.
The structure of the app is straightforward. There is a menu at the bottom of the app with five icons. Each of them houses its own set of security features and settings. We’ll talk you through each:
The first menu item, Dashboard, highlights security features that still need to be installed. For instance, the Scam Alert, App Lock, Web Protection, or Anti-Theft features. Once you’ve gone through all them, the Dashboard’s only purpose becomes telling you that you are safe.
The second menu item, Malware Scanner, is precisely what the name suggests: A malware scan for your apps. It scans for visible and invisible apps considered malware, ransomware, adware, spyware, or crypto miners.
The third menu item, Web Protection, is a browser protection feature. It will scan your internet traffic for malicious intent and shield you from it. It works with a wide range of browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge, Brave, Samsung Internet, Huawei Browser, and Dolphin.
The fourth menu item, Scam Alert, monitors your text messages to infected links and phishing attacks.
The fifth menu item, More, includes a wide range of features:
- VPN: The Virtual Private Network (VPN) will restore your privacy online by encrypting your internet connection. You can either use the VPN integrated into the app or download the standalone Bitdefender VPN for Android, which is significantly better.
- Anti-Theft: A complete anti-theft feature that allows you remotely locate, lock, and wipe your phone. It also allows your phone to automatically take a photo with the front camera after three failed login attempts.
- Account Privacy: Websites get hacked all the time, and often user data is compromised. The Account Privacy feature checks whether your data, like your email address, has been compromised.
- App Lock: This feature allows you to add an extra security layer to sensitive apps by setting a pin code to them. Whenever you want to access the app, you’ll need to type in the code or use the biometrics scanner of your device (face recognition or fingerprint).
All in all, Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android offers everything you need from a mobile security app: A solid anti-malware scan, web protection, and a VPN. It even provides excellent anti-theft tools, which Norton doesn’t.
Too bad Bitdefender’s design is on the basic side, but that doesn’t stop it from providing excellent protection.
Bitdefender Mobile Security for iOS Review
Key takeaway: Bitdefender Mobile Security for iOS is a work in progress. The VPN is transitioning to a standalone app, and it can’t be active simultaneously with the Web Protection feature. We have faith that Bitdefender will solve these issues. Until then, we prefer Norton on iOS.
Note: Bitdefender Mobile Security for iOS has the same features as Bitdefender Total Security for iOS. The only difference is that with Total Security, you get the Parental Controls feature in Bitdefender Central.
Bitdefender Mobile Security for iOS review:
Bitdefender Mobile Security for iOS looks a fair bit better than its sibling on Android. Nonetheless, as with every antivirus for iOS, the feature list is relatively short. For instance, there is no antivirus scan.
That’s not Bitdefender’s fault. Because every iOS app lives in a closed-off environment, it can’t infect other areas, making iOS a very secure operating software. However, this also makes it impossible for apps to scan the entire phone. Thus, no antivirus scans on iOS.
So why get a security app on iOS? Mainly for its additional features: Password management, parental controls, web protection, and VPN.
Bitdefender’s Mobile Security features on iOS:
The layout of Bitdefender iOS is roughly the same as on Android. In the bottom bar, there are four menu items, each housing their own security features. We’ll walk you through each:
From the first menu item, Dashboard, you can run a scan of your phone. This is not a malware scan but rather a vulnerability scan. It checks whether your iOS version is up to date, whether the app has access to your device, whether your Wi-Fi network is secure, and whether you have browsing protection turned on.
From the second menu item, VPN, you can activate the Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts your internet connection and hides your IP address, making you anonymous online.
The VPN integrated into Bitdefender’s mobile security app is very basic, and Bitdefender has recently launched a standalone VPN app, which is more advanced. So Bitdefender will prompt you to download the standalone VPN app instead of using the one integrated.
By the time you read this, Bitdefender may have already removed the VPN from the antivirus app entirely, as the standalone VPN will be the only option in the future.
The third menu item, Web Protection, uses Bitdefender’s VPN technology to route your phone’s DNS queries to Bitdefender’s DNS resolver. It does this to scan for malicious connections. When a URL is known for phishing or malicious content, that connection is blocked. In short, the feature protects you from accessing dangerous pages.
Confusingly, because Web Protection and the VPN both rely on VPN tech, they can’t simultaneously be active. So when you activate one, the other deactivates automatically. This means you’ll have to choose between safe browsing (via Web Protection) and anonymous surfing (via the VPN).
To us, that doesn’t feel like a very user-friendly setup. In all likelihood, it will confuse users and make them believe there is a bug in the app.
When websites get hacked, they often leak user data, such as email addresses and passwords. Via Bitdefender’s Account Privacy feature, you can scan the web for your data to see if it has been leaked.
At the time of writing, Bitdefender’s mobile security for iOS feels like a work in progress. The VPN is transitioning from within the app to a standalone app. And another core feature, Web Protection, can’t be active simultaneously with the VPN, making you choose between anonymity and security.
If you’re like us, this confuses you slightly. Therefore, we don’t recommend using Bitdefender Mobile Security on iOS. We prefer Norton instead.
- Norton 100% 100%
- Bitdefender 99% 99%
- Kaspersky 99% 99%
- Avira 98% 98%
- AVG 98% 98%
- Avast 98% 98%
- McAfee 96% 96%
- BullGuard 96% 96%
- Windows Defender 95% 95%
- TotalAV 81% 81%
Graph 1: The average of all anti-malware test results for Windows 10 since October 2016 by AV-Test.
Bitdefender Total Security 2023: Anti-Malware
Key takeaway: Bitdefender’s anti-malware test scores are the envy of most other antivirus brands. In all protection tests for Windows 10 since October 2016, only Norton has been able to surpass Bitdefender’s nearly perfect record.
What are malware and anti-malware?
Malware describes any malicious software that can infect your devices and cause harm. Typical examples are viruses, worms, adware, spyware, trojans, keyloggers, and ransomware. Anti-malware, a function of antivirus software, is the feature that finds and removes malware from your device.
Up until 2020, Windows Defender was relatively poor at detecting malware, making antivirus software essential. These days, Windows Defender has become quite capable and frequently achieves the same test results as industry giants like McAfee.
So do you still need anti-malware software?
Yes, unfortunately, you do. Not only does malware continue to evolve, but other digital hazards are emerging too. Today, identity theft and privacy breaches are equally significant concerns.
Luckily, advanced antivirus software like Bitdefender constantly improve their security, identity, and privacy features. With an arsenal of security tools, ranging from firewalls, VPN, and password managers, they are a welcome addition to any digital safety net.
How good is Bitdefender’s anti-malware protection?
To analyze the anti-malware abilities of Bitdefender, we averaged the test results of all Windows 10 protection trials by AV-Test since October 2016, when they first began.
BitDefender, together with Norton and Kaspersky, had always achieved top marks in the protection trials. Rarely ever are other brands, like Avira, Avast, AVG, BullGuard, and Panda, able to beat any of them.
Note: AV-Test is widely considered the leading IT security testing institute, and tests the anti-malware capabilities of all major antivirus software six times per year.
Image 2: Bitdefender’s password manager browser extension on Windows 10.
Bitdefender Total Security: Password Manager
Key takeaway: Bitdefender’s password manager is basic, but functional. However, it only works on Windows, making it somewhat useless. After all, you will need those passwords not just on your PC, but also on your mobile devices. If you want to use Bitdefender, then we recommend Dashlane as a standalone password manager. Alternatively, you can use Norton, which combines excellent antivirus software with a password manager that works on all operating software.
What is a password manager?
Too many people use the same password and email combination for all their accounts. Whether they log in to Facebook, Gmail, or their online bank, they’ll use the same password. So if one of these accounts gets hacked, all their other accounts will be accessible to the hacker too.
In an ideal world, these people would use a unique and secure password like *u=opReP?s?QU#8C0jEp for each of their accounts. Of course, this is wishful thinking, as people can’t remember and type such passwords. Luckily, there is a simple solution: A password manager.
A password manager will generate highly secure passwords, store them in a safe environment, and auto-fill them when you enter a website. It’s an essential cybersecurity tool that too few people use.
How do you set up Bitdefender’s password manager?
Bitdefender’s password manager is called Wallet, and the setup is straightforward. From the privacy tab in the antivirus software on Windows, you click Wallet. From there, you click “create a wallet,” assign a unique name and master password, and select the browser to which you want to add the password manager (Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome are supported).
From now on, all your email and password combinations will be stored in the password manager. You can choose to add these combinations manually or let the browser extension add them automatically when you log in to a website. And once the login details are stored in the password manager, it will auto-fill them when you return to the website.
Tip: For the master password for your Wallet, we recommend choosing a secure and unique one that you can easily remember and type. For most people, combining three random words, a symbol, and a number will do the trick. For instance: @YellowMouseHouse31.
How good is Bitdefender’s password manager?
Generating, storing, and auto-filling the passwords is smooth. In addition, the browser extension has direct links to frequently visited web pages and a password generator. It also allows you to open and lock the password manager from within the extension.
Even though the password manager won’t win any design prizes, and doesn’t feature biometrics login via Windows Hello, the core concept certainly works very well.
But there is one big flaw: Bitdefender’s password manager doesn’t work on Android, iOS, or macOS. And let’s be honest, what is the point of having unique auto-filling passwords on Windows, if you need to enter them manually on your phone?
Can you imagine typing a password like aJzxsn&6Ak#Xmyk7FC! on your iPhone? That would be a disaster.
Bitdefender’s password manager works fine on Windows. It’s basic but performs all core tasks well. However, there is no support for Android, iOS, and macOS, rendering the password manager useless.
After all, you don’t just have a Windows laptop or PC. You probably also have a phone and perhaps a tablet. Maybe even a Mac. Wouldn’t you want all those passwords to be synced across all your devices? We certainly do.
So if you want both an antivirus software and a password manager, you can combine Bitdefender with Dashlane. It’s the password manager we use. But if you want everything in one, then have a look at Norton. It offers excellent antivirus software and a password manager that works on all devices.
Image 3: Bitdefender’s parental controls in Bitdefender Central.
Bitdefender Total Security: Parental Controls
Key takeaway: Bitdefender’s parental controls have very poor user reviews (1.8 out of 5 stars in Google Play). And these are justified. Some features work, some don’t, and a smart teenager easily circumvents others. If parental controls are an important reason for buying a security suite, you should buy Norton instead. Its parental controls simply work.
What are Parental Controls?
Parental controls enable you to see where your kids are in real life and in the digital world. It also allows you to set protective boundaries on their online adventures. Of course, the exact functionality will vary from provider to provider, but with Bitdefender’s parental controls, you can do the following:
- You can see how much time your kids spend on their devices, what websites and apps they use, for how long, and how often.
- You can set daily time limits on screen time, and schedule between which hours this time can be used. E.g., 2 hours per day, but not after 20:00.
- You can block websites and applications.
- You can see where your child is on Google maps.
How good are Bitdefender’s parental controls?
Bitdefender’s parental control is a web-based feature in Bitdefender Central. As far as first impressions go, it looks great. Similar to the design of Bitdefender’s antivirus app on Windows.
So we created a child profile, sent the installation link via email to our kids’ device, and ran through the installation. Although everything went smoothly, we did notice something strange in the Google Play Store:
The rating of Bitdefender’s parental control app is 1.8 stars (out of 5) from over 800 reviews. By comparison, Norton’s parental controls app has 3.7 stars from 21.000 reviews, and McAfee’s app has 2.5 stars from 5.000 reviews.
Not sure what to think about our two contrasting experiences, we ventured forward, and aimed to test three things:
- The app’s analytical capabilities
- The app’s blocking capabilities
- The app’s time limiting capabilites
To test, we did a few things:
- We browsed a bit on Medium.com via Google Chrome.
- We played a few videos on YouTube via its Android app.
- We watched a show on Netflix via its Android app.
Then we went back to Bitdefender Central to check what showed up. At first, nothing showed up. But with a 10 min delay, we saw the following:
- We had accessed Chrome, YouTube, Netflix, and the Google Play Store on the phone. Also, the time indications seemed accurate.
- Our real-life location didn’t show up. And when we clicked on “locate,” it just said: “Location is currently unavailable.” We checked the settings on the phone, and these were correct. So we waited a bit. 10 minutes passed, 20 minutes passed, and we still couldn’t see the real-life location.
So a hit and a miss.
Next, we set the Netflix and YouTube apps on a blocked-app list. And we put Medium.com on a blocked-website list. Afterward, we attempted to access them on the phone and all were blocked correctly.
We then downloaded DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused browser, to see if the website Medium.com was still blocked. It wasn’t. So the block seemed to be limited to Google Chrome.
To make sure our conclusion was correct, we restarted the phone and revisited Medium.com in DuckDuckGo. Unfortunately, we were still able to access it.
But in Bitdefender’s defense, neither Kaspersky’s nor Norton’s parental controls could filter websites in DuckDuckGo. So this seems to be a general problem, rather than Bitdefender specific.
So another hit and a miss.
We unblocked Netflix and attempted to set a daily time limit on the app. But that feature doesn’t exist. You can only set time-limits on the entire device, not individual apps. So instead, we placed a daily time limit of 50 minutes on the entire phone.
As we had already spent 42 minutes for the day, we put a Netflix show on and waited. 50 minutes passed, 55 minutes passed, but then all of a sudden, Netflix was blocked, as were most other apps. From that moment forward, we could only call and text, which seems sensible for emergencies.
The criticism of Bitdefender’s parental controls is partly justified. Some features work, but some don’t. Of the parental controls that we have tested, we found Norton’s and Kaspersky’s more versatile and effective.
Image 4: BitDefender’s VPN app on Android and Windows 10.
BitDefender Total Security 2023: Premium VPN
Key takeaway: Bitdefender’s VPN is excellent. It is secure, includes a kill switch on each operating software, doesn’t track you online, works with Netflix and torrents, and is fast enough for every purpose. However, we’re not sure whether it works in China. Of the VPN sold by big antivirus brands, Bitdefender’s VPN is the most advanced. But unlike Norton’s VPN, it isn’t included for free with the antivirus software.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts your internet connection and masks your Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is your device’s identification number online. Doing so has several advantages:
- You are anonymous online: Many people want to track your digital activities, usually to show you ads. Whether it is your internet service provider (ISP), Facebook, or Google, none of these organizations can track you online when you are connected to a VPN.
- You are safe on public Wi-Fi networks: When you are connected to a VPN while surfing on a public Wi-Fi network, and a hacker intercepts your data stream, all the hacker can see is encrypted and unusable information.
- You can watch foreign streaming services: Many streaming services, like Netflix, have unique shows in particular countries. Shows that only locals can watch. However, if you log into a VPN server in that country, you can watch anything without restrictions.
- You can unblock the internet: Some countries, like China, censor the internet. This means that you cannot access some websites and apps while in that country. But if you log into a foreign VPN server, all of a sudden, you can access the entire web.
So the advantages of a VPN are clear. But is Bitdefender’s VPN any good? To find out, we put it to the test:
- On what operating software does the VPN work?
- How fast is it and how does it compare to other VPN?
- How secure it is?
- How private it is?
- How many server options do you have?
- Does it work with Netflix?
- Does it work with torrents (P2P)?
- Does it work in China?
Before we answer those questions, there is one thing you need to know about Bitdefender’s VPN: It’s not their technology.
Several antivirus companies, such as Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Panda, have decided not to create their own VPN technology. Instead, they license the technology from a company called Aura, the owner of several VPNs, including Hotspot Shield.
Note: Bitdefender includes a free VPN, limited to 200 MB per day per device, with all its security products. For unlimited data, you will need to upgrade to Bitdefender’s premium VPN subscription.
On what operating software does Bitdefender’s VPN work?
Bitdefender works on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
How fast is Bitdefender’s VPN and how does it compare?
When you connect to a VPN server, your internet connection slows down. This is because you are routing your data through a server while encrypting it. However, with an advanced VPN like NordVPN or CyberGhost, these slowdowns are very minimal. Usually somewhere between 5% and 15%.
To figure out how fast or slow Bitdefender’s VPN is, we tested it on a 300 Mbps connection in Europe. The process was the following:
- We tested our download speed without an active VPN connection via speedtest.net.
- We then tested Bitdefender’s download speed while connected to one of their local servers, and while connected to one of their US-based servers.
- We then did the same for CyberGhost VPN and Hotspot Shield.
We ran each test three times and averaged the results afterward. These were the results:
|Hotspot Shield Local||243.7||-17.6%|
|Hotspot Shield US||246.7||-16.7%|
As you can see, Bitdefender’s VPN is more than fast enough and can keep us with ultra-fast VPN like Hotspot Shield and CyberGhost.
How secure is Bitdefender’s VPN?
To find out whether Bitdefender’s VPN is secure, we investigated the following:
- What encryption protocols and standard does it use?
- What security features are present, and which aren’t?
- Does it leak any data?
Encryption protocols and standard
As mentioned, Bitdefender’s VPN uses Aura’s technology. Therefore, we know that it uses the Hydra VPN protocol with AES-256 encryption. It is a performance-focused protocol that third-party security experts frequently evaluate. Hotspot Shield has an in-depth article on the workings of its protocol here.
Kill Switch: Bitdefender’s VPN includes a kill switch on all operating software. It is a feature that stops your internet connection when the VPN suddenly fails. In doing so, it makes sure none of your data is transmitted via an unsecured connection.
Split Tunneling: The VPN includes the Split Tunneling feature on Windows, Android, and iOS, but not on macOS. Split Tunneling allows you to select websites or apps that will bypass the secure VPN tunnel. On Windows and iOS, you can only split-tunnel websites. But on Android, you can split-tunnel both websites and apps.
Start-Up and Auto-Connect: On Windows and macOS, there is also a start-up feature that will make sure the VPN connects as soon as you start up your PC or Mac. Sadly that is not available on Android and iOS. However, there are various auto-connect options:
- On all operating software, you can set the VPN to automatically start when you connect to a public Wi-Fi network.
- You can also set the VPN to automatically start when you download a file via a peer-to-peer platform. As most people use P2P networks only on Windows and Mac, this is feature is exclusive to those operating software.
- Finally, on Windows, you can select specific apps, websites, and website categories to activate the VPN connection automatically. Categories include dating, mature content, file sharing, health, online payments, and financial.
Interestingly, the auto-connect feature for specific categories is not available in Hotspot Shield’s app on Windows. So it could be that Bitdefender is developing VPN features separately, even though it is using Aura’s technology.
We tested the VPN on browserleaks.com for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks. But everything came back clean. So Bitdefender’s VPN does not leak your data.
How private is Bitdefender’s VPN?
“(…) we use Aura as data processor (…). We do not store any details regarding your location or online activity nor do we share them with other entities.“
So Bitdefender does not track you. That’s pretty clear. But what about Aura?
“Aura does not record your VPN browsing activities in any way that can be associated back to you. When you use a VPN connection, we do not store any information that identifies what you browse, view, or do online via that VPN connection.“
All in all, there is no need to worry. When you use Bitdefender’s VPN, no one is tracking your online activities or your location. You’ll be anonymous online.
How many server options does Bitdefender’s VPN have?
Bitdefender counts 48 VPN server locations.
Outside of the many European countries, these are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, the UAE, the USA, and Vietnam.
Sadly, Bitdefender does not allow you to select servers on a city level in big countries, like the USA. You are only able to pick servers on a country level. Nonetheless, the country list is extensive enough to satisfy 99% of all users.
Does Bitdefender’s VPN work with Netflix?
Yes. Even though Bitdefender’s VPN doesn’t have any dedicated streaming servers like Hotspot Shield or CyberGhost, Netflix worked perfectly fine in our tests. Both on the local VPN server, as well as on the US-based VPN server.
Does Bitdefender’s VPN work with torrents (P2P)?
Yes. Bitdefender’s VPN is a safe choice to download torrents. It didn’t leak any data in our IP, DNS, and WebRTC leak test, and it uses a kill switch. So you can download via P2P networks without worrying.
Does Bitdefender’s VPN work in China?
Maybe. Bitdefender uses the same technology as Hotspot Shield, which only works intermittently in China and other highly censored countries. So if you are in China, or heading to China, better not rely fully on Bitdefender’s ability to function there.
Bitdefender: Company Profile
Bitdefender is a privately-owned cybersecurity company from Bucharest, Romania, with 1600 employees in offices worldwide. It was founded in 2001 by Florin Talpeș, who is still the CEO and principal shareholder. In 2017, Vitruvian Partners bought a 30% stake in the company, valuing it over $ 600 million.
Bitdefender has a strong research focus, with over 50% of its staff assigned to research and engineering. The company has over 440 patents relating to its technology, of which 10% focus on machine-learning algorithms, deep learning, and anomaly-based detection techniques.
Bitdefender is a globally recognized leader in cybersecurity, and frequently ranks among the very best in anti-malware protection tests.
Bitdefender: Product Line-Up
Bitdefender covers all the usual suspects: An entry-level Antivirus product for Windows and Mac, a range-topping Total Security product, Mobile Security apps for Android and iOS, and a few gap-filling products such as Internet Security and Premium Security.
But Bitdefender also offers the Box. A physical security device that you connect to your network to protect all your internet-connected devices.
Finally, Bitdefender has an extensive product range for companies called GravityZone. But it falls outside of the scope of this review.
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Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is the entry-level security solution. But don’t let the words “entry-level” throw you off, as it comes jam-packed with security features.
Next to its excellent anti-malware protection, it offers a vulnerability scan, online threat prevention, free VPN up to 200 MB / day, secure browser, password manager, anti-tracker, and file shredder.
It is only compatible with Windows, and you can install it on a single device. It costs $ 19.99 in the first year while renewing for $ 39.99 in the second year.
This is the best option for users who only want to protect a single PC and don’t need online-focused security features like the firewall.
Bitdefender Internet Security
Bitdefender Internet Security offers the same features as Bitdefender Antivirus, but adds some online-focused security tools on top. Such as the firewall, microphone and webcam monitor, antispam, and parental controls.
Like Antivirus, it is a Windows-only product. You can install it on three devices. And it costs around $ 35 in the first year while renewing for $ 80 in the second year.
Considering that the price difference with Bitdefender’s range-topping Total Security is limited, most users opt for that one instead.
Bitdefender Total Security
Bitdefender’s top-of-the-range security solution is Total Security. It includes all features from Antivirus and Internet Security, but adds a device optimizer and anti-theft tool on top. More importantly, though, it is also compatible with macOS, Android, and iOS.
You can install it on up to 5 devices, and it costs around $ 45 in the first year, while renewing at $ 90 in the second year.
For users who want to protect multiple devices, this is the best option.
Bitdefender Small Office Security
Bitdefender Small Office Security is comparable to Total Security and compatible with all operating software. The difference is that it is aimed at small businesses that need to install it on more than five devices.
If you want to install it on ten devices, it will cost you $ 75 in the first year and $ 150 in the second year. And should you wish to install it on 20 devices, the cost will increase to $ 125 in the first year and $ 250 in the second year.
Bitdefender Premium Security
Bitdefender’s Premium Security is the most luxurious amongst Bitdefender’s security suites. It equals Total Security with three exceptions:
- It includes the unlimited VPN, rather than the VPN limited to 200 MB / day.
- It can be installed on ten devices rather than five.
- It has priority support.
It will set you back $ 75 in the first year, and $ 150 in the second year, when the software renews.
Bitdefender Box is different from the other antivirus products offered by the company. Rather than a software solution, it is a physical box that you connect to your network to secure all internet-connected devices, even the ones you can’t install antivirus software on.
- It detects all connected devices in your home and gives you detailed security and traffic information via an intuitive app.
- You can create user profiles with security rules and preferences for the members of your household.
- Its safe browsing feature keeps you safe online and stops any connected devices from creating unsecured connections.
- Its parental controls allow you to set protective boundaries for your children online and limits to screen time.
- It keeps webcams and smart speakers from being hacked and turned on, even via brute-force attacks.
It costs around $ 250 and includes a subscription to Bitdefender’s Total Security.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is similar to Antivirus Plus, but for macOS instead of Windows. That means that it is only compatible with Macbooks and is usually sold to protect only a single device.
As with most antivirus for macOS, the feature list isn’t extensive. For instance, it includes anti-malware protection in the form of a quick, complete, or custom scan. A web protection browser for Safari, Chrome, or Firefox. Anti-ransomware protection. Time machine protection. And a free VPN, which is limited to 200 MB / day.
It costs $ 25 in the first year to protect a single device and will renew at $ 40 in the second year.
Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android
Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android is a complete antivirus solution. It features a malware app scan, web protection, scam alert, free VPN limited to 200 MB / day, anti-theft, account privacy, and app lock. Which is far more than most brands offer for Android. It costs $ 15 per year.
Bitdefender Mobile Security for iOS
Bitdefender Mobile Security for iOS is, like every other antivirus for iPhones and iPads, a watered-down version of the security app for Android. It features a security scan, VPN limited to 200 MB / day, web protection, and account privacy. It costs $ 15 per year for a single device.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the most frequently asked questions about Bitdefender.
Is Bitdefender really the best?
Bitdefender has, together with Norton and Kaspersky, the best anti-malware test scores in the industry. On top of that, Bitdefender features an excellent firewall, VPN, and anti-ransomware protection. For Windows, Bitdefender belongs to the absolute best.
Is Bitdefender Total Security 2023 Good?
Yes. Bitdefender’s flagship Total Security is one of the very best antivirus software available in 2023. Not only does it have excellent anti-malware test scores, but it also features a range of powerful extra features, such as its firewall, VPN, anti-ransomware protection, vulnerability scanners, and webcam protection.
Is Bitdefender better than Kaspersky?
Bitdefender and Kaspersky have been rivals for many years. However, in our analysis of all anti-malware test scores for Windows 10 since October 2016, the two have reached identical averages. So when it comes to pure anti-malware performance, both Bitdefender and Kaspersky are excellent.