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.
$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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
$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.
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.