Techworld

4 security suites that protect all your devices

McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro and Webroot offer protection for all your devices plus Web-based management.

Security is no longer a one-machine affair. Most people today use two or more devices -- for example, you could be using a work desktop, a personal laptop, a tablet and a smartphone. And it's possible, if not probable, that you're using two or more operating systems, such as Windows, OS X, Android, iOS or Windows Phone.

No matter what devices you use, you can be sure of one thing: The bad guys are out to get you. There's a lot of malware out there, and it's targeting almost every operating system available. That means you -- and your family -- need multi-device protection.

In earlier days, protection for non-Windows devices didn't seem important. People believed that Macs were safe from attack, while smartphones weren't being targeted by malware. Today, though, it's clear that no matter what device you use, you need to make sure it's secure.

While there are a number of individual products out there that can help with that task, there are also several anti-malware suites that encourage you to think of security in a holistic way, rather than just device-by-device. For a single price, you buy protection for multiple devices -- for example, two Windows-based PCs, one Mac, an Android smartphone and an iPad.

These suites typically cost more than a single-OS version (which usually protects up to three machines), and so if you only use the suites to protect two devices, you may not save any money. However, if you're protecting five of them, the savings can add up quickly. For example, a copy of Norton 360 provides one year of protection for three Windows PCs for $59.99, while Norton 360 Everywhere, which offers protection for five devices (Windows, OS X or Android) costs $99.99.

But wait, there's more: Besides offering multiple pieces of software for a single price, there's a new way of managing the security on all of your devices -- from the cloud. A Web-based management interface lets you see which devices are protected by which software, install software directly from the site, and in some cases remotely configure the protection on various devices.

In this roundup, I examine four such suites: McAfee All Access, Norton One, Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012 and Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete. (There are other suites, such as Kaspersky One, that include multi-device protection but don't include a common Web-management interface and therefore aren't included in this roundup.)

I installed the appropriate versions on a Windows-7 based PC, a Mac running OS X 10.7.4, and a Motorola Droid X smartphone with Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread). Since I don't own an iPhone, the iOS apps were tested by Computerworld staffers Johanna Ambrosio and Valerie Potter.

We looked at the interface of each application and what features were available. I also looked at the main Web interface of each package to see what it offered and how well it operated.

The suites each provide protection for some combination of PCs, Macs and mobile devices, with the exact devices and combination varying somewhat for each. In each review, I'll tell you which devices the suite supports, and the limit (if any) on how many devices you can protect.

McAfee All Access

$99.99 OSes protected: Windows, OS X, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian No. of devices protected: No limitations for a single user

McAfee All Access offers the widest range of security tools of the suites in this roundup. With one subscription, you get protection software for an unlimited number of Windows PCs, Macs, Android smartphones and tablets, and BlackBerry and Symbian smartphones. Because it covers more mobile operating systems than its competitors, it's the one to choose if you have multiple types of smartphones -- unless it's an iPhone.

Web interface

McAfee All Access: Web interfaceClick to view larger image.

As with most of the suites reviewed here, McAfee's Web dashboard doesn't really live up to its name. Unlike Webroot's dashboard, it doesn't show you any potential security issues on any device, or make recommendations about how to fix those issues. Instead, it's a central location from which you can see what modules you have installed, and install them on any device.

So if you log in from your Mac, you can download Mac software; log in on your Windows PC to download Windows software.

Android is a little trickier. If you want to install the software on, say, a tablet, you're sent a link via email from which you can download the software. If you want to install it on a smartphone, you're sent a text message with a link to download the software.

For some reason, the text message never got sent to my phone, even though I tried several times. But I was able to install the software by writing down the link sent to my tablet and typing it into my smartphone's browser.

As with the Norton suite, I rarely used the Web interface, simply because it didn't offer much of value.

Windows protection

On PCs, McAfee gives you malware protection, a firewall, anti-spam software, Web security, parental controls, a system cleanup tool, online backup, a "digital vault" that protects files you don't want seen by anyone else, a disk defragmenter...and yes, more as well. It's all presented in a neat, compact interface that makes it simple for you to see at a glance what tools you're currently using and to turn any on or off. McAfee Total Protection also lets you customize the way those tools work to a significant degree.

One of All Access' more intriguing tools is what it calls Home Network Defense, which lists every device connected to your network and provides details on each (if it can find out those details, which isn't always). If you find any devices you don't recognize, you can use Home Network Defense to block them from the network. In addition, whenever a new device makes a connection to your network you get a warning. You can then examine the alert, decide whether it's an intruder, and can block it if that's the case.

McAfee All Access: WindowsClick to view larger image.

For each device, Home Network Defense can give you the device's name, type (Windows computer, for example) manufacturer, model, IP address and MAC address (a universal ID for devices that connect to the Internet). If it can't find out many details about the device, it provides bare bones information -- just the IP address and MAC address.

The tool is a useful one, although not nearly as useful as it could be. During testing, I found that it only rarely provided details about most devices connected to my network. In almost every case, it merely reported the IP address and MAC address.

It makes sense that it couldn't identify devices such as the Sonos wireless speakers that I've got connected to my home network. But it also couldn't identify many common pieces of hardware, such as a MacBook Air and an Acer Aspire One netbook. It did, however, properly identify my Linksys WRT160N router and a computer on which I'd installed Windows Home Server.

Home Network Defense shows not just basic information, but details about the security state of each device on your system, such as whether it has security software installed or whether it has file- and printer-sharing turned on (which can be a security risk).

But I found this feature to be only partially useful. Although the software claims to show the "protection status" of each device, in my tests it only reported whether the devices were using McAfee security software. It showed several of my PCs as being unprotected, even though they had non-McAfee security software installed.

It also couldn't properly identify my main desktop as a Windows-based computer. And for the vast majority of devices, it merely called them unidentified, which on my home network meant the device could be a Mac, an Android tablet, a Nook tablet, an Android smartphone, an iPad or wireless Sonos speakers. For today's complex home networks, this simply isn't good enough.

The Windows software also includes a Traffic Monitor, which I found much more useful. It graphs incoming and outgoing traffic use over time, and reports on average incoming and outgoing transfer rates, the current transfer rate and the maximum transfer rate. It does the same thing for traffic volume. So, for example, it has a pie chart that shows which applications have used the Internet the most over the last 24 hours, as well as details about which applications are currently using the Internet.

This can help you determine whether you've having connectivity issues. It also shows which apps use the network the most over time, and which are currently using it. Keep in mind, though, that this is only for the device on which you've installed McAfee; it doesn't include traffic from devices that may not have McAfee on them -- such as iPhones -- so it's somewhat limited in scope

I found one drawback to the Windows protection: When it was performing a scan, the rest of my system slowed down significantly. In fact, at times it was so slow that I paused or cancelled scans and scheduled them to be performed when I wasn't using the computer.

OS X protection

McAfee All Access: OS XClick to view larger image.

You don't get nearly the same suite of tools on a Mac that you do on a PC -- nothing beyond basic protection. That means no Traffic Monitor, no Home Network Defense, no digital vault and no disk defragmenter.

However, you do get a straightforward malware scanner that scans your Mac for threats. You can schedule and customize scans so that only certain folders are scanned. And you also get a quarantine area where you can isolate suspect files. There's also a scan history and log. The software includes real-time scanning, spyware scanning, and a firewall.

Android protection

McAfee All Access: AndroidClick to view larger image.

McAfee's Android app offers a malware scanner and a way to locate a lost or stolen device and lock it or wipe its data. These features are considerably better than those provided by Norton One, because they can be done from any Web browser. Simply go into your McAfee Web dashboard, click the Android device that you've lost, and then click what you want to do -- locate the device, lock it remotely, or wipe its data remotely. It also supports backing up contacts and SMS messages to the cloud and restoring them.

However, McAfee is missing other useful features, such as Webroot's app inspector and its ability to check your device for potential security holes. Still, for a basic Android malware protector, McAfee Android does the job.

Bottom line

If you're looking for a suite that protects a wide variety of devices, McAfee All Access is the one for you. In addition, it has some very useful PC protection modules, particularly for home networks, although they're somewhat of a mixed bag.

Like the other suites reviewed here, McAfee won't clog up your system by using too much RAM or system resources. However, if you're looking for a useful Web-based dashboard, or a more complete Android solution, you'd best look elsewhere, notably to Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete.

Norton One

$149.99 OSes protected: Windows, OS X, Android No. of devices protected: Up to five devices for any combination of Windows, OS X and Android systems

Norton One offers several choices, depending on what you want to protect. If you're using a Windows-based PC, you can choose whether you want to install Norton 360 (which offers a full gamut of protection software and system tools) or Norton Internet Security 2012 (which is essentially the same product as Norton 360 except that it doesn't have Norton 360's backup-and-restore and tune-up capabilities). Macs get Norton Internet Security for Mac, while Android devices (both tablets and phones) get Norton Mobile Security. In any case, you also get 25GB of online storage.

Web interface

Norton One: Web interfaceClick to view larger image.

Norton's Web dashboard can't be considered a powerful addition to the security suite. Like McAfee's interface, you can only use it for installing and uninstalling software, and for checking what software is installed on your various devices. Because of this, in my tests I found myself generally using it only for installation; after that point, I rarely returned to it.

To install a part of the suite on a new device, you click "Add device" and then enter an email address. A setup link is then sent to the device that, when clicked, sends you to a Web page where you can download the software. In the case of Android, you can also scan a QR code that appears onscreen and download the software that way.

Apart from installing software, though, there's little else you can do on the Web dashboard. It shows you when a device is using a part of the suite -- for example, when a PC is actively using Norton 360, the dashboard will say that it's "online." But just showing that a device is using a product isn't a particularly useful feature. And it doesn't always work -- it never, for example, showed when my Android phone was using Norton Mobile Security.

Windows protection

Those not already familiar with Symantec's Windows-based suite Norton 360 will find an excellent security suite that includes extras for juicing up system performance and backing up files. You'll find all the usual security tools, including anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spam and firewall; there is also identity protection, which includes anti-phishing, malicious Web-page blocking and password management. It's unlikely you'll need to change any default settings, but if you want to, the Settings area lets you tweak to your heart's content.

Particularly noteworthy is Norton's System Insight feature, which checks any currently running software for safety and reliability. It does this by leveraging the experience that Symantec product users have had with the application, and shows the application's relative trustworthiness, rating it either Poor, Good or Trusted. System Insight also shows whether that rating is based on input from a few people or many. And it shows a rating for each application's stability level, also based on other people's usage.

Norton One: WindowsClick to view larger image.

System Insight also warns you if any of these applications are slowing down your system. Stability and trust ratings are shown in a list side by side with resource usage, so it's easy to see at a glance how each app rates.

Norton 360 also includes a solid set of tools for improving PC performance, such as a disk optimizer and file cleanup. Especially useful is Startup Manager, which provides details about each application and helps you decide which to run (and which not to run) at startup, so that you can speed your bootup and possibly improve overall performance. You can also delay applications from starting until some time after startup. And it includes Parental Controls as well.

I found that despite of all these tools, my PC took no performance hit from the use of Norton. Until I wanted to use it, I didn't even notice it was there.

OS X protection

Norton One: OS XClick to view larger image.

Norton Internet Security for the Mac (which works with OS X Lion or later) offers a full suite of security software, but it doesn't include most of the extras in the PC version, such as system performance tools and System Insight.

So you get anti-virus, firewall and Norton Identity, which blocks phishing sites. There's also a File Guard feature that blocks changes to files and stops files from being accessed if personal information might be compromised.

All of the features are available from a single icon at the top of the screen. Click it and a drop-down list appears; you can then choose the security feature you want to customize or run. The anti-virus features lets you select individual folders of files to scan, do a quick scan of all your files, or do a more comprehensive system scan. You can set the scan to ignore certain files and folders. The firewall also allows for a good deal of customization.

Generally, though, Norton Internet Security for the Mac is a set-and-forget piece of software. Install it, use the defaults, and you'll be protected.

Android protection

Norton One: AndroidClick to view larger image.

Norton One's Android security software, Norton Mobile Security, protects Android devices against a wide variety of threats.

You can scan for malware manually or on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule. You can also scan your SD card, which is vital for Android users who have moved apps to their SD cards.

The anti-theft feature is especially well done. You create a password, and if you lose your phone or it's stolen, you can send a text message to it from any phone with the word "lock" followed by your password. That will lock the phone, and it can only be unlocked when your password is entered.

If you download a free add-on, you can also locate your device by going to the Norton Anti-Theft website; from there, you can remotely trigger your device's camera to take a photo, which may help you in finding the device or identifying a thief.

However, you can't lock your device remotely from the Web -- only from another phone -- so your only choice for remote lock is sending text message, which is far from ideal. This is something that should be fixed.

There is a robust set of tools for blocking spam phone calls and text messages. You can enter the numbers you want to block by typing them in manually, selecting them from your contacts or selecting them from your call log or SMS log.

When someone from your blocked list calls you, the call is sent directly to your voicemail, so you aren't bothered by it. When someone from the blocked list sends a text, it simply doesn't get to you. You can review logs of all blocked calls and SMS messages. And you can easily unblock calls.

A Web protection feature blocks phishing sites and sites known to harbor malware. You can override the block, although the override lasts for only 30 minutes. The block works only with the built-in Android browser, not with third-party browsers such as Dolphin.

Bottom line

It's hard to argue with an all-in-one suite that offers such a full set of security tools. Both the computer-based protection and mobile-based protection of Norton One are stellar, and pack pretty much every security feature you might ask for. Extra features such as Norton Insight and Startup Manager made Norton One stand out even more.

Norton One falls down where most others in this roundup do -- the Web interface. At this point, the Web interface is little more than an easy way to install software and see which of your devices are protected. If you're looking for a fully featured Web dashboard for helping manage security on all of your devices, Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete is a better bet.

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security

$53.00 OSes protected: Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, Symbian No. of devices protected: Three computers (PCs and/or Macs) and an unlimited number of mobile devices

As with the other suites reviewed here, Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012 offers a host of tools that pretty much covers everything you might want, including malware protection, a firewall, parental controls and quite a few extras. It protects Windows-based PCs and Macs, along with Android, iOS and Symbian devices.

Web interface

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security: Web interfaceClick to view larger image.

The software falls short when it comes to having an all-in-one dashboard for managing your protection on all of your devices. From your Trend Micro account on the Web, you'll be able to see what software is installed on each device and install the software on other devices, but nothing beyond that.

Windows protection

As befits software with a six-word name, Trend Micro packs just about every security-related tool into it you can imagine, as well as some useful non-security related ones.

It goes beyond the usual malware/spyware/Trojan scanning and includes parental controls, a firewall, a tool to protect important files from being erased, another that password-protects important folders and a system tune-up tool. You also get 10GB of free backup.

With all these features, you might expect a packed and confusing interface, but that's not the case. The software takes a layered approach to its options. The main console is made up of a relatively small window that shows the current security state of your system as well as a security summary that offers info such as what threats the software has taken action against, and links to the Parental Controls and System Tuner modules. In addition, you'll see when your subscription expires. The console is clean, neat and easy to follow.

For more in-depth information, head to the bottom of the screen, where you'll find a compact set of icons for performing a variety of actions, such as initiating a system scan, viewing a security report or gaining access to the program's many other tools.

I found the security report especially illuminating. It displays a graph showing you what actions the software has taken to protect you over time; for example, finding and killing spyware. You can view similar reports for Parental Controls and the System Tuner.

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security: WindowsClick to view larger image.

Parents who believe in Parental Controls will be particularly pleased to see that the report shows the categories of sites blocked (i.e., whether they are sexual in nature, violent, drug-related and so on), as well as specific websites that have been blocked.

I didn't expect a great deal from the System Tuner, because I've tried many types of this kind of software and they frequently do less than they promise. I was pleasantly surprised, though -- Trend Micro's version does all the right things, such as cleaning out the Registry, deleting unnecessary files and checking to see whether unnecessary programs launch on startup.

As set up, the software's security settings worked quite well, but those who like to fiddle are able to. There are not as many options here as dedicated tweakers might like, but it does well for the basics. For example, you can choose how aggressively the program should check for Web-based threats (three settings: Low, Normal and High), and you can similarly decide whether you want it to attempt to filter spam and threats in emailed attachments. You can also exclude folders from security scans.

OS X protection

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security: OS XClick to view larger image.

Trend Micro's Smart Surfing for Mac is the least comprehensive of the Mac security software covered in this roundup -- for one thing, it lacks a firewall. It does, however, offer simple-to-use, basic protection. Included is a malware scanner and protection against phishing and malicious software found on websites. The Web threat protection is customizable and can be set to Low, Normal or High. There's also a customizable family filter for blocking sites rated according to sexual content, illegal drug mentions, violence and so on.

One thing to be careful of: It appears that there are a number of different bundles of Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012, some of which don't contain Smart Surfing for the Mac. (For example, I wrongly thought the version I had included Smart Surfing -- it didn't.) So if you decide to buy the suite and you have a Mac, double-check to make sure it's included in your bundle.

Android protection

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security: AndroidClick to view larger image.

The security suite falls short when it comes to mobile security: It's not really the integrated mobile/PC solution it claims to be. I was unable to activate the Android protection it promised on my phone, and you may well have the same problem.

In order to install the mobile protection on a smartphone, you're supposed to log into your Trend Micro account on the Web, choose your mobile device from a drop-down list, and then follow instructions for installing and activating your mobile protection on the device. However, when I did that, I found only Symbian smartphones on the list -- there were no Android devices, iOS devices or Windows Phone 7 devices.

After a significant amount of searching on the Trend Micro site, I found instructions that said to install the protection software on the device yourself as you would any other app -- for example, in the case of Android devices, straight from Google Play. After you install the software, you type the suite's registration key into the app and then enable it. Only then will the full version of the software work. (A stripped-down version, which only scans apps for malware, is free -- you can also try the full version for 30 days.)

However, the app refused to accept my registration key. Eventually, I downloaded the app as an .APK (Android application package) file from the Trend Micro site, transferred the file to my Android device, installed it and then used the registration code, and it turned into a premium version with no problems.

The premium version includes the ability to locate a lost Android device, wipe it remotely and make it "scream" to chase away the person who's found it. In addition, it has parental control features and can block specific websites, phone calls and text messages. The app-scanning and remote security features are standard for Android security tools; parental controls and the ability to block specific websites, phone calls and text messages are nice extras.

iOS protection

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security: iOSClick to view larger image.

The iOS portion of the suite (called Smart Surfing, like the OS X module) is, like Webroot's iOS app, pretty much a one-trick pony. As its name indicates, it's a secure browser that protects against malicious websites and any evil that can result to one's gadgets from visiting those places. Even if you don't buy the suite, you can download and use it for free.

To get that benefit, users must do all their Web surfing via the Trend Micro app on their iPhone and not use Safari or another browser. In one case, Trend Micro blocked a legit site that I was able to enter via Safari (and, luckily, it turned out to be a legit site). Users can set, and later change, the danger level of the spam filter.

In my admittedly limited testing, Smart Surfing appeared to protect well enough against sites that were either virus-laden or spammy in some sense. In these cases, Trend Micro took me to a screen on my iPhone that said that visiting this site might put my security at risk, and that the Web page was rated "dangerous."

At the same time, though, the app allowed me to access "adult content" sites. So it didn't block everything, just what it deemed dangerous to the wellbeing of my smartphone if not my psyche.

--Johanna Ambrosio

Bottom line

If you're looking for a PC-protection program, Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012 offers a comprehensive set of tools. It's all presented in a neat, clean, easy-to-manage package. But the Mac protection is the least comprehensive of all those I tested, and I encountered problems installing the Android version. Its Web-based dashboard leaves much to be desired as well.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2012

$79.95 (until September 6, 2012, price covers 15 months) OSes protected: Windows, Android, iOS No. of devices protected: Up to three PCs, and an unlimited number of Android and iOS devices

Webroot SecureAnywhere has a simple, clean, straightforward interface combined with the ability to dig deep and customize how the software works. Unlike some of its competitors, Webroot's Web-based console actually does what it promises -- shows you the state of all of your systems at a glance, and offers recommendations on how to fix any potential problems. On the other hand, it is the only package among the four covered here that doesn't have any kind of OS X coverage.

Web interface

Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2012: Web interfaceClick to view larger image.

Unlike the other all-in-one-suites in this roundup, the Webroot Web-based dashboard truly is a dashboard, and does more than merely list what devices use the software. For each device, it shows you the state of its security, including past history. For example, for each PC, it lists the last malware scan, how long the scan took, the results of the scan, when it was last infected, and a history of past scans.

It presents similar security information for mobile devices, and includes the phone number associated with the device, the manufacturer and version it's running. You can also use the dashboard to locate a missing device, as well as remotely lock it, wipe it or make it "scream" to scare away someone who might have stolen it.

In addition to all that, it reports if any of your devices has a security issue, and if so, it recommends how to fix it. This is a dashboard that has been built for actual use, rather than one constructed so that it can be a checkmark on a marketing feature list. Because of that, I frequently checked it, so that I could see the security state of my various devices.

Windows protection

Webroot's basic Windows security offers exactly what you'd expect -- malware scanning and real-time protection, including a firewall and a variety of shields such as checking any system modifications to make sure nothing is being done that might compromise your security.

Also included are privacy tools, such as protecting against so-called "man-in-the-middle" attacks in which hackers take control of an Internet connection and route all data through the victims' computers. You can also download an additional module to back up your data to the cloud and synchronize the data among the devices running Webroot SecureAnywhere. Each PC can back up a maximum of 10GB of data.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2012: WindowsClick to view larger image.

In addition, there's a useful feature that cleans your Registry and deletes duplicate and unnecessary files. It's not quite as useful as a similar tool in Trend Micro Titanium, which can also keep unnecessary programs from loading at startup, but still, it's a good addition.

Webroot packs all of that into a compact main screen divided into five sections: Overview, PC Security, Identity & Privacy, Backup & Sync and System Tools. Click any section and you can change settings and take actions such as launching a scan or system cleanup. You can also dig quite deeply into your settings -- in fact, it offers a higher degree of customization than any of the other packages covered in this roundup. I found that it offered the best balance between depth of customization and ease of use.

Android protection

Overall, Webroot's mobile security is top-notch -- but first you'll have to get past the potentially problematic setup process.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2012: AndroidClick to view larger image.

You first download the free version from Google Play. During the installation process, you have to enter the user name and password you used to register with Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete. After that, you'll need to upgrade (since you are entitled to use the paid version of the products).

But careful -- it's not as simple a process as you would expect. Don't tap anything that asks you to upgrade to the paid version; if you do that, you'll end up paying again for something you've already paid for. Instead, press the app's menu button, select Register, and from the screen that appears type in your Webroot user name and the 20-character keycode you used to register your Webroot product with. After that, you'll have to download the paid app and have the free app removed. And then you have to type in your Webroot user name and 20-character keycode yet again. Clearly, this awkward setup needs to be fixed.

Once installed, the app itself is comprehensive, well laid out and thorough, and includes not just malware scanning, but also the ability to find a stolen or lost phone and remotely lock and wipe it, block Web sites that are security threats, and block unwanted calls and texts, among other features. It also examines all of your devices' settings and warns you about any that might present a security risk -- for example, it warned me that my USB debugging feature was enabled, something that none of the other apps covered here did.

The most unusual feature that Webroot includes is an App Inspector; it lists any apps that might present a security concern based on the access it has to your data and the kinds of network connections it makes. The Inspector also shows you which apps use the most battery power, and what types of network connections different apps make.

Overall, I found Webroot's Android security app to be the best of all I reviewed.

iOS protection

Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2012: iOSClick to view larger image.

Webroot's iOS protection, called SecureWeb, doesn't nearly come up to the standards of its Android protection. In fact, it's a stretch to call it a security tool for iOS, because it does one thing, and one thing only: It protects your iOS device from dangers while you surf.

It's a tabbed Web browser that identifies malicious Web sites and phishing sites, so that you avoid visiting them. As with Trend Micro's Safe Surfing iOS app, SecureWeb doesn't protect you if you're using another browser such as Safari.

That's certainly useful. But it's also certainly not a comprehensive security tool.

--Valerie Potter

Bottom line

Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete lives up to its name -- unless you want to protect any OS X equipment. It offers top-notch, simple-to-use and simple-to-customize PC protection as well as the best Android security app of any reviewed in this roundup. Its Web-based dashboard is the best as well, letting you see the security state of all your devices, and getting recommendations on how to improve it.

It doesn't take the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach of competitors, though, and so doesn't have every module some others do. For example, there are aren't parental controls, so if that's important to you, you'll want to look elsewhere. Its iOS protection is minimal and it won't protect Macs. Aside from that, though, this is a great all-in-one security suite.

Conclusions

If you're one of the many people who own several computers and mobile devices, using one of these suites is your best bet for keeping them all secure. You'll find that you'll save a substantial amount of money, and to a greater or lesser extent you also get a Web-based dashboard for managing the devices individually.

These dashboards are still in their infancy, and in several of the suites do little more than give you a common way to install the apps and a glance at what devices are using the software. However, I expect that to change in the future, and eventually they may offer more features, including in-depth information about each device.

In addition, if you're looking for protection for an iPhone or iPad, don't expect much. Even the two suites that offer apps for iOS devices -- Trend Micro and Webroot -- don't offer much more than very basic protection through their own built-in browsers.

As for which of the suites is best, they're all so different that there's no true overall winner. My favorite was Webroot SecureAnywhere because of the suite's simplicity and excellent protection, and because its Web dashboard showed detailed information about all of the covered systems, as well as recommendations about how to fix problems. But Webroot doesn't include Mac protection.

If you're looking for Mac coverage in addition to security features for Windows PCs and mobile devices, the Norton and McAfee offerings are your best bet. Although Trend Micro offers a good sets of tools and a well-designed, easy-to-use interface, its Mac support is limited. Norton and McAfee have a better balance between comprehensive protection and ease of use.

However, Trend Micro costs $47 less per year than McAfee All Access, which costs $50 less per year than Norton One. So if you're budget-minded, Trend Micro is an affordable compromise that offers some OS X protection, even if its OS X protection isn't as complete as that offered by the more expensive suites.

Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld.com and the author of more than 35 books, including How the Internet Works (Que, 2006).

See more by Preston Gralla on Computerworld.com.

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

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