Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Review: BullGuard Internet Security 9.0

With an ever growing threat from viruses, spyware and malware its important that every user take action and protect themselves with not just a good anti-virus application but also a great security suite. These should include not just a passive anti-virus program but active protections as well. They should also include a good firewall, email protection, built in spyware/malware protection, phishing protection and preferably some sort of back-up plan.

Generally here at Geek-News we advocate using the latest in freeware protection such as Avast, AVG or Avira. While we know these are all great pieces of software in their own right they don't offer the full protection that a full fledged security suite can offer, and many times must be supplemented by other software packages. So this past few weeks we decided to stray from the norm and test out BullGuard Internet Security 9.0, a full featured packaged costing $59.95.

Testing BullGuard

We are not software security experts, nor do we want our review to reflect that. We wanted to test the security suite from the home geek's perspective. So we started off with a clean install of Windows 7 went through the standard installation procedures, and took notes of what we saw. Mostly we focused on user related information like the controls, settings and basic usage information. For actual testing we downloaded new copies of several of our favorite programs, visited several questionable sites and then tried downloading several test files. Essentially we did the things we think every home user will do every day to see how well we though the software would stack up.

The Good:
  • Clean interface, easy to navigate and use
  • Small footprint, uses very little memory even when scanning so it was lite on the resources
  • Fully packed with lots of features

The Bad:
  • Lacks customization: You install all the components or nothing (only bad if you want to use other products in conjunction with BullGuard)
  • Integration: There was a serious lack of integration controls, components such as toolbars attach themselves to browsers without permission. This is something I really dislike!
  • Poor firewall controls: All installed applications are seemingly always set to allow unless you manually block them. This can be a serious concern.
  • Overly simplified feel: Without the above controls the security suite feels dumbed down to an advanced user.
  • Questionable AV protection: Several test files were overlooked


Sadly I see a trend in the software world of "simplifying" user controls. For me it feels more like the dumbing down of the applications or OSs more than anything. Unfortunately BullGuard Internet Security 9.0 falls victim to this trend. For the basic user the security suite might be ideal however for advanced users wanting greater customization, more control and much tighter security you'll find the suite severely lacking.

I never actually installed any malicious software that needed an internet connection I did test with the GRC Leak Test (which was auto allowed) however the fact the firewall allowed almost every piece of software I did install an automatic connect was alarming to me. I checked the firewall settings several times and saw no options to change these settings. Its my opinion even trusted software should be set to the "ask me" setting for the first time.

The Anti-virus protection was moderate at best. I tried and successfully downloaded several test files that weren't flagged by BullGuard but were by Windows Defender and my testing on a few "keygens" that are typically flagged as malicious turned up no hits. On the plus side BullGuard did not only block many of the high priority tests but it also blacklisted the site URLs. A very proactive step towards potential future infections.

Given all the above issues I would not recommend BullGuard for most users. For the basic home users wanting lightweight protection and a simplified feel you might be ok. I however feel there are other better alternatives out there that are more well know, more reliable and just as user friendly.

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