This year has given us plenty of reasons to question the efficacy of our Internet security: Heartbleed vulnerabilities, Target and Home Depot customer data leaks, celebrity iCloud photo hacks, attacks on Sony. While companies batten down their Web servers, you can protect your computer and phone with a security app -- but with so many options, how do you choose? We've reviewed all of this year's major antivirus and security updates, and now here are our recommendations for the apps that will work best for you, whether you're running an old version of Windows or need remote control of all your devices.
If you want the best all-around protection: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus(Windows, see also Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac)
The good: With unrivaled test results from independent security labs, Bitdefender Antivirus offers the best protection on the market. The app also includes a variety of optimization tools, such as a Registry cleaner and a disk defragmenter. Bitdefender Safepay provides extra security for online shoppers to store sensitive payment information.
The bad: First-time setup can be a drag, as the initial scan takes some time to complete. Bitdefender Safepay isn't as functionally flawless as the antivirus app and won't be able to autofill your information on some sites.
If you want more than the basics: Avast Free Antivirus(Windows, see also Avast Mac Security)
The good: The new Avast Smart Scan provides a comprehensive check for malware, viruses, program updates, and network integrity: This convenient scan can shore up many vulnerabilities in one go. The My Avast console means you don't have to dig around for license keys for installations, and Secure HTTPS Scan plus VPN provides additional protection when you're working on public networks.
The bad: Many of Avast's more powerful features are locked behind a paywall -- some scans alert you to issues but prompt you to upgrade for a fix. Avast's antivirus protection scores have fallen a bit behind in recent years. Avast may be better than the standard protection, but there are even more thorough alternatives.
If you have clean-up jobs: F-Secure Internet Security(Windows, see also F-Secure Anti-Virus for Mac)
The good: F-Secure offers one-click installation and runs a pre-scan first, which is helpful if your system has already been infected. Added browsing protection prevents family members from accessing dangerous sites. With a top real-world protection rating from security testing labs, F-Secure is an effective antivirus with few frills, requiring minimal interaction from you.
The bad: F-Secure's bland user interface is functional but boring. Its browser protection works only with popular browsers and can at times be unreliable.
If you need mobile control: AVG AntiVirus Free(Windows, Mac)
The good: AVG offers a winning combination of functionality and accessibility: reliable protection, an intuitive layout, and a remote-control option for another PC or an Android device.
The bad: At first glance, AVG's menu may look crowded with tools, but the app is actually quite limited unless you upgrade to a premium suite. The company's up-sell strategy is more aggressive than its peers' and can be a turnoff.
If you're running a legacy OS: Trend Micro Maximum Security(Windows, see also Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac)
The good: With consistently high protection ratings from security labs and extended support for Windows XP, Trend Micro is the antivirus designed for those running older Windows OSs. Maximum Security has a minimal design but a number of extra features worth checking out, including password filling, site-reputation checks, and a social network scan.
The bad: Trend Micro's installation isn't terribly smooth, and extra features require extra installation steps. There's also no pre-scan option to check for active malware or viruses during installation.
If you need to protect multiple devices: Norton Security(Windows, Mac)
The good: Norton Security protects up to five of your devices -- desktop, laptop, or mobile -- and you can raise that number to 10 if you upgrade to Norton Security With Backup, which also adds cloud storage. The modern UI, designed with a touch interface in mind, speeds up scans. A password manager, Norton Identity Safe, secures your sensitive sign-in data all in one place.
The bad: Norton now offers fewer subscription options, none of them free.