January 04, 2011, 1:57 PM — It's no longer enough for antivirus software to scan files on your PC. You need someone looking over your shoulder and telling you whether it's safe to click that link; whether the popup for that software update is legitimate; and whether that download from your favorite social network is actually a tool created by organized criminals for stealing your personal information. You need an all-in-one Internet security suite capable of identifying, blocking, and cleaning up after a wide array of malware.
We examined 13 security suites for this story. To handle our expanded Internet security testing, PCWorld contracted for the services of AV-Test.org, a respected security testing company. We looked at traditional signature-based detection (which indicates how well products can block known malware) and at how well the suites cleaned infections and blocked brand-new, live malware attacks.
In many respects, the suites we looked at produced closely bunched results, but they did vary in the efficacy of their protection and in the extra features they offered. Ultimately, we picked Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2011--the most balanced of the suites--as our overall winner.
New Threats for a New Year
Malware has migrated to social networks, so this year's Internet security suites put more emphasis on stopping Web-based attacks. Norton Internet Security 2011, for example, has Norton Safe Web, a feature that hooks into your Facebook stream (with your permission) to scan your Facebook links and proactively block malicious ones. Other suites this year look for techniques that cyber-criminals use in attempts to poison SEO (search engine optimization), loading up on popular search keywords to make malware-compromised sites appear higher in search results. A suite may flag any such sites in search results as unsafe or questionable.
Another threat is the resurgence of banking-related malware. Though some suites protect against certain types of banking-specific malware--Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 offers a virtual, on-screen keyboard that lets you bypass traditional keyloggers, and in our tests, Panda, followed by G-Data, offered the best detection rates for known banking-specific malware-- no suite targets the relatively new "man-in-the-browser" attacks, in which the malware doesn't activate until you have successfully logged into your bank account.