Comprehensive security in the home

This topic was created by Edwin .

  1. Edwin

    Comprehensive security in the home

    Hi all,

    I'm hoping to get some suggestions, because I'm rapidly losing my mind in the minefield that is security software, particularly when it comes to licensing many devices... The internet has become useless for this sort of research, I find: 90% of search result hits are resellers trying to sell me software rather than a comprehensive comparative review.

    Let me sketch it out:

    I'm looking for a software solution to manage security on the family digital devices (me, wife, kids of 9 and 12). Between the four of us, we have three Windows 7 PCs, three Android tablets and four Lumia phones.

    The software in question must:

    - provide good antivirus and general protection for the PCs for all platforms

    - provide good malware protection for the tablets

    - provide an overview of which android apps pose privacy risks

    - be free of ads and whatnot (which is why I'm abandoning Avast)


    - parental controls (restrict what the kids can install on their tablets)

    - have some intention of covering WinPho in the future

    - whatever system optimisation and other features they care to add

    So far, I'm looking at Symantec, Bitdefender, Webroot and Kaspersky. They all seem to offer more or less the same features, though licensing is a nightmare: almost everyone will cover *5* devices, but not *6* (or, if we include the handsets, 10).

    WinPho doesn't seem to be covered by anyone, though Webroot indicated they have been contemplating it, which puts my costs for one year (in USD, since that's what the websites are offering at first glance) at:

    Symantec: $100. They offer Norton 360 licenses up to 5 devices, so I would need to buy one extra mobile security license. The customer service agent I chatted with suggested Norton One instead of the Norton360 family pack, because you can 'add seats'. Great idea, except Norton One costs twice what the 360 pack costs, and offers for no clear extra value that I can make out.

    Kaspersky: $105. They have a 10 device license, but that costs more than taking out a 3 device overall license for the PCs and another 3 device license for the tablets (why???)

    Bitdefender: $130. Bitdefender stands out here in that they offer 'family member' packages, so for households of 3 or 5 people they will cover all devices. Great licensing model, though the most expensive offering of the lot (and what's wrong with my family of *4* people?)

    Webroot: $60. They are by far the cheapest option on the face of it. Their customer support also claims to offer a 10 device license, but I can't find it on their website. Plan B would be a 3 device license plus 3 copies of their android software (though whether the android software goes by year is unclear)

    In the end, it's not strictly about cost, but about functionality and reliability. Cost comes in second (very very close second if you ask the wife).

    My question is: does anyone have experience with any of these packages and different licensing models? Or is there some key player I'm completely overlooking? I appreciate that last question is a bit like starting a discussion about your favourite Linux editor (emacs) or hard disk model (who cares), but suggestions are welcome!



    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Comprehensive security in the home

      Edwin, first off, don't think you are being ignored - the link in the article was bust (now fixed) :).

      Personally, I'd use Kaspersky. YMMV, but I have used all the others and they're simply not as good, even though I personally dislike the "simplified into uselessness" user interfaces that seems to be all the rage now. And I know Eugene :).

      If you're at home you could start with a good firewall - if you get yourself a Draytek router you make a good start, but that won't help you when mobile (pardon the pun).

      All the traveling gear needs local protection. With Android, you could start with not installing other than from known good sources but I cannot help you with advice on what is best there for virus protection or child limiting - I don't use it, so I bow out and see what others say (you're not served with assumptions - you need facts).

    2. ESET Al

      Re: Comprehensive security in the home

      Hi Edwin

      Are you based in the US as quoting $ prices on other products ?

  2. ElNumbre
    Thumb Up

    Thinking outside the box

    Doesn't answer your original question about specific packages directly, but a good solution to home filtering on 'every' device is to have a proxy server sat between your devices and the internet.

    I use pfSense (firewall), with Squid (proxy), ClamAV (AV-Filter) and DansGuardian (Dodgy site filter) which protects any device on my network, whether it has AV installed or not. The machine it runs on cost about £75 from ebay, and costs about £10 a month in electricity costs. Following some instructions on the net, it took me about 2hrs to get it all setup and working.

    For my actual machines, I use Microsoft Security Essentials (Windows), ClamAV (Linux), and Avast (Linux), which seem to work quite well and have done an excellent job at keeping nasties away, and cover me when I'm off my own grid.

    I've also heard good things about k9webprotection as a filtering web server, but that only does web filtering and is an install on every machine too.

  3. Steve Lionel

    Norton 360

    I tested Norton 360 MultiDevice for Amazon Vine - you can see my review here. I have been using the Norton products for many years and, while I've tried some of the others, keep coming back to Norton. As long as you're not expecting anything on an iOS device, I think Norton 360 will do what you want. I'm not sure where you get the $100 price, though - Amazon sells this for $60. No WinPho support, though.

  4. Paul 87

    Maybe it's worth considering a combination solution? For Windows PC's, Microsoft Security Essentials plus regular scans from Malwarebytes will usually put paid to the most common threats, and for the phones there are several options available.

    In combination with this, a secure router (e.g. offers additional protection for the devices at home.

  5. NS-AR73


    I have been using WebRoot for over a year, and have gradually moved all my clients over to it; The result? A very real drop in clients having virus or spyware problems. A big drop.... To ZERO.

    Where WebRoot really scores over the other products is it really does cope with Spyware, which most others do not.

    I realise that every IT professional has their favourite software, and before Webroot we were very much in the mcAfee camp. But WebRoot has been much better, as well as easier to manage.

    However I dont think it has the parental controls that you ask about. It does though do a good job on the mobile support - Android, WinPho, and even iPhone.

    In short, the choice is yours, with pros and cons with each. and even a few $$$ more is worth it if it saves many hours of recovery after an attack,

    1. Don Bannister

      Re: WebRoot

      Just out of curiosity. I can see what appears to be two different Webroot companies. One has a dot co dot uk (Webroot Software Inc), and the other has a dot com with a /gb/en/ (Webroot). To which were you referring ? Cheers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: WebRoot

        Its the same company, Offices in the US and EU (Ireland & England)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about Sophos Home UTM (FREE for up to 50 IPs)

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. dogged

      Re: Install Linux

      I can totally see that working for his phones.

      Also, a linux box set up by somebody new to linux and misinformed that it is somehow inherently secure is 1000% greater security risk that a Windows box set up by a novice with baked-in Windows Defender/MSSE.

      I can't really help with your problem Edwin (although ElNumbre's solution looks like a good one) since I am currently unencumbered with tablets of any sort and the Mrs can handle her own Mac stuff, thank glod. But I can definitely advise you to ignore this idiot.

  8. king of foo

    what a difference a browser makes

    Slightly off topic but I try to preach prevention instead of just protection. The first thing I do to "prevent" nasties is to get users to ditch IE and install adblock, be it on Firefox or chrome. There's a real connection between "ads" and malware. I forget the name but I also try to add a traffic light extension/add on to rate websites.

    I know you can get plugins for IE but I simply don't trust it.

    1. dogged

      Re: what a difference a browser makes

      For IE, the trick is to install Tracking Protection Lists. These kill ads from those sources and also prevent trackbacks.

      MS have a decent selection here -

      but I would recommend that you also install Fanboy's List -

      Personally I prefer Firefox with AdBlock+, NoScript and Ghostery but if you're in a position where IE is your only option, these TPLs can make it a whole lot less awful.

      And... what does a quick search show me? Could it be true?

      At last.

  9. a_mu

    why one solution

    Out of interest,

    the 'problem' I found one time was that one particular security package had a hole, and all the kids pc's got infected at once. Try to fix that one,

    so I now put different anti systems on different machines,

    for instance I currently use avast and avg for anti virus at home,

    it was surprising what one will find that the other won't ,

    same with anti male ware,

    Add to that the android tablets, the Nintendo's and tv;s with web access et all, and security is interesting.

    as for parent control,


    if my kids are anything like I was at 12, then I will not be able to control what they do

    so I 'just' have a snooper on the gateway, makes log of all sites visited,

    lets hope they don't find vpn too soon,

  10. homedoc

    I think your analysis is a bit too skewed toward costs and away from effectiveness. Ask yourself "What is the potential cost to me in man hours and possibly financial cost related to hiring a pro to clean up an infected network, and (heaven forbid) identity theft"?

    Believe me, after you spend three days trying to fix an infected and/or bricked machine, you'll be a lot more prone to chose the most effective system you can afford. If you do a search on "review compare antivirus software 2014", you'll find articles on highly respected websites such as CNET and PCMagazine. They usually conduct in depth tests and will tell you which software had the highest success rate with a bunch of test malwares.

    I have been using Kaspersky for three years now and it has worked flawlessly - at least as far as I know, none of my machines has ever been infected. I also like its supplemental features like super-secure online financial transactions, immediate look-up of suspicious code on their real-time server, etc.

    Before that I tried Bitdefender, Eset and Symantec, all of which let crap through.

    There are also some specialized solutions, many of them free, that do things like giving you a super-secure VPN when you are using public WIFI.

    The other issue is who is listening to your traffic. It makes my skin crawl to think that I may be spied on by tracking cookies and other snooping technologies. If this is a concern to you, there are good solutions out there, again many of them free, that you can search for. For example, the TOR proxy network which comes packaged with a secure browser that is a branch of Firefox. SWare Iron is a branch of Chrome with all the tracking features removed.

    Good luck! And let us know what you decide on.

  11. Snapper
    Thumb Down

    Mental exercise

    It's probably good for staving of Alzheimer's, but that's a LOT of effort just to stand still.

    Couldn't you just get Macs and spend more time with friends, family and loved ones?

    Sort of 'Get A Life'!

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Mental exercise

      Couldn't you just get Macs and spend more time with friends, family and loved ones?

      It's a home situation, and given the budget sensitivity I suspect there is no appreciation of long term costs (which is where Macs have real advantages). In addition, it means learning a new platform which is not everyone's cup of tea - many are scared of the new, and I must admit I wouldn't have switched either if I hadn't bought a Mac for research (it wasn't originally my intention to switch, but it took less than a month to realise OSX was -for my needs- the perfect platform).

      In addition, it's not just desk/laptops they're trying to secure. In my opinion, he's actually identified an unaddressed market, it IS difficult.

      Back to theme: I also recommend looking at Prey. I like how it works, even though they have to sometimes fight the OS to make it happen.

  12. Phil W

    MSE + Avast

    Personally I'd use mixed software, for different platforms.

    Microsoft Security Essentials is perfectly decent for Windows PCs, not to mention being free.

    Avast is great on Android, no annoying Ads and provides file and app security along with device tracking/locking/remote wiping.

    I don't own any Windows Phone device, but there seem to be very limited options on that platform and Microsoft seem to be of the opinion it is not needed. I have to say the architecture does make most potential attack vectors very difficult.

  13. Edwin

    Rollup on the first set of comments

    First, my thanks to El Reg for bumping this topic. I owe you a drink! Also thanks to all the helpful responses. I feel some pride in having started a thread with a troll:helpful post ratio of substantially less than 1.

    Second, to all the suggestions that I should change my home setup to Linux, Mac, OS/2, or CP/M: Trolls aside, I think you're missing the point. The vast majority of people looking for a comprehensive solution will be working cross-platform, unless you're running Chromebooks and Nexii only. And yes, I have sufficient *nix cred to run Linux (I even have my first Slackware distro on 60 floppies lying around for nostalgic purposes), but at the end of the day I'm only 1 out of 4 users in the house. Even if I were to change (hardware costs aside), I'd still want some sort of protection against virii, phishing and various types of mal- or grayware. There would be a lot of new shiny toys, but the problem would persist.

    OK, on to the topic at hand - some comments:

    Cost: As I said, it wasn't only about cost. As some have pointed out, my prices didn't match with 'shopping around'. They were based on what the vendor was offering in their own webshop and in the end, they weren't *that* different. I'm in Europe, but since the first quick round of websites put me in dollar land, I stuck with USD. Anyway, yes, cost is a consideration. Otherwise I'd have plumped for an enterprise-grade solution.

    Multiple vendors: I must confess to quite liking the idea, and may have a go with it. I feel my data risk is fairly low: all the data at home lives on a NAS which has a weekly offline backup. I guess here my expectation is a bit different from Joe User since he's probably not as paranoid as I am. Second, this is slightly at odds with my laziness: what I want is a comprehensive licensing model: I want my 'home' covered, so that if one of the kids buys a new tablet, or we install an extra PC or whatever, I don't have to worry about it: just install the application and it's covered. Still, a second line of defense on the main PC is probably worthwhile (any other PC only takes me an hour or two to wipe and reinstall).

    Routing: my FritzBox already provides a certain degree of protection on the network, but the idea of a separate proxy server is something I'll have a go at. Synology is pretty hackable, and I've seen some tips on getting it up and running as a proxy server.

    On the clients: my shortlist is currently Norton and Bitdefender. I've always had a soft spot for Norton, though the performance impact used to be horrific (and one of the home PCs is a lowly Thinkpad T60p) and online research suggests they haven't quite solved this yet. The lack of a true many device license is also a pain point.

    Bitdefender gets good reviews, though there appear to be some installation niggles about disabling parts of their software. OTOH, the "every single device for 5 family members" and "parental controls" are very tempting, particularly since you can apparently manage the parental controls via a portal.

    I'll try to get things sorted over the next week and report back. Meanwhile, further comments welcome!


  14. Eion MacDonald

    variety per device

    I would use multiple Anti-virus programs and other programs on each of the same type of device, eg 3 PCs then at least two AV programs so not all are caught by a single instance infection. AND it should be different to the AV used by your ISP . (For example my ISP BT internet uses and offers McAfee , so the some machines are McAfee while one is not). Problem is roaming, the tablets and phones can pick up anything outside your network. The key of no adds is well put but that would restrict the add revenue to some legitimate sites that need it to pay bills. I would treat it as a three ship problem , each ship (device type) being handled separately. No one solution fits all. However this is a market you have spotted and no vendor is as yet moving to support it

  15. Edwin

    Final rollup

    Hi all,

    After a lot of consideration, I've gone and sprung for the Bitdefender comprehensive license rather than one of the other packages. In addition, I'll be setting up a proxy on the Synology NAS at home to add an extra layer of protection.

    Why Bitdefender?

    - Nice licensing model: one fee, infinite devices

    - Seemingly robust protection (e.g. no worse than anyone else)

    - Online client management

    - Unspeakably scrupulously honest

    A few words on the last two:

    The online dashboard is quite clever, though I think it could be clever-er.

    With Parental controls installed, you create a profile for each child and group all their devices (or in the case of Windows, their usernames on each PC) under that one profile. Set up the various controls (when allowed online, which sites permitted) and you're off. The defaults are pretty strict but a good place to start. I've tuned them a bit and the kids are not complaining.

    Things I'm missing are limiting online time (duration, rather than time slots) and the ability to check the status of a client (last updated) or even enable/disable features (BitDefender Wallet: I'm looking at you).

    Features I think are a bit over-the-top: the detailed reports of what the kids are doing (applications run and sites visited). But if you're a paranoid parent, you'll probably appreciate those.

    Other features (client protection and Android theft protection) not tested.

    On the unspeakably scrupulous honesty:

    The privacy assessment of android apps is quite clever - apps are evaluated and the device is given an overall score. The wife and kids spent an afternoon competing with each other, trying to get the best score without sacrificing anything "important". Also very clever is the ability to share the risks of an application with friends. Which brings us to Honesty: The Bitdefender Android Security application correctly identifies the Bitdefender Parental Control application as a major security risk (which it is, of course, since it captures user data). One of the kids massively enjoyed sending me security risk reports to this effect and demanding the app be uninstalled (no).

    My thanks to you all for your input!



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