Overview of BitDefender Total Security 2011

After over a year and some, I am giving BitDefender another try. I’ve been an otherwise satisfied user of Norton Internet Security 2010 for over 15 months , but when I got an email from the Social Media monitoring team at BitDefender offering me the chance to give their latest 2011 security product a whirl, I was sufficiently intrigued and leapt at the opportunity.

BitDefender Total Security 2011 comes with a lot of little extras that make it worth its price tag of $79.95 for a yearly license which covers 3 PCs. Currently, it offers the following main services:

  1. Antivirus scanning: realtime and on-demand
  2. Chat/File Encryption
  3. File Storage/Backup and File Deletion
  4. Parental and Privacy Controls
  5. PC Tune-Up/Monitoring/Optimization
  6. Verdict

The BitDefender Interface

Installation of the program is straightforward and you get a chance to pick the best viewing mode for you to use the BitDefender Total Security 2011.
BitDefender Mode Selection Screen

BitDefender Total Security 2011 has 3 modes to let you use and configure the products:
Basic, Intermediate and Expert.

Scanning

On-demand scanning with BitDefender Total Security 2011 is fast. I daresay it completed a full system scan in less time than it would take Norton Internet Security to perform similar task! My computer didn’t get bogged down appreciably so this is a huge positive. Like any Internet Security suite worth its salt, you can scan specific files via the Windows Explorer, perform quick/full system scans etc. However, BitDefender adds a couple of useful scanning options like auto-logon scanning, device scanning and contextual scanning.
BitDefender AV Scanning Options

Encrypted (Chat/IM and Files)

This IM encryption feature works with other computers that have BitDefender Total Security installed and it support two major Instant messaging programs: Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live messenger. For people engaged in sensitive data transfer or communication, this is invaluable. I’m not quite clear on what protocol BitDefender uses for encryption but I’m investigating. 🙂 Basically, you create a “container” (in this case, it’s a .bvd file) that will hold the files you wish to encrypt and the .bvd container is encrypted. When you’re done creating the file vault, you can open it which will cause it to act like a mounted drive in Windows. Placing files is as simple as dragging and dropping! Here’s what the creation and opening of a file vault looks like:
BitDefender File Vault Creation
bd-file-vault-open.png

File Storage and Secure File Deletion

With the File Storage/Backup feature, BitDefender TS 2011 will allow you to backup to your local hard drive or to their online system which is a measly 2 gigabytes of storage. Expectedly, you can purchase more storage, but that’ll cost you. However, if you don’t have an online backup system (like I do in the form of Carbonite), you’ll appreciate the ability of BitDefender to schedule your file backups to your local drive or their online storage system. I’m currently using the online backup option for a handful of select files and I appreciate the email reports I receive from BitDefender that let me know any changes to the folder I’m backing up. See a sample email report below:
BitDefender Email Report for backup

Parental Control and Privacy

This is one place that BitDefender Total Security 2011 scores a win against Norton Internet Security 2010. First of all, I didn’t have to download a separate add-on like NIS 2010 makes you. Parental control is already available in BitDefender TS 2011 and waiting to be turned on. With Parental Controls in BitDefender TS 2011, you can be as restrictive as you want even to the point of specifying applications (and times that said applications) can access the internet, specifying “forbidden” keywords that’ll cause a site/email not to load, specifying the child’s age and letting BitDefender decide what sites to block, et cetera. It’s incredibly granular and if you love messing with settings, you’ll fall in love with this feature. In an even more awesome ‘twist’, you can access the log from your online account at BitDefender! Alas, I have no kids, but I’ve turned on parental controls for myself anyway just for kicks. 😛 The image below shows the options available for using the Parental Control feature in BitDefender Total Security 2011.
BitDefender Parental Control
The Privacy control aspect of BitDefender Total Security 2011 covers the standard protections such as identity, registry & cookie controls which are meant to help prevent the leaks of private information (like social security number, house addresses, etc) or shady sites dropping cookies they have no business doing. Leave the default setting (identity control is enabled by default, but you have to add the items you need protected) as-is unless you really want to be notified every minute about what site is dropping a cookie on your computer, etc.

PC Tune Up

BitDefender Tuneup
A lot of the tuning services performed by BitDefender TS 2011 can be done freely on your computer and truthfully speaking, I generally prefer to run those tune-ups with Windows built-in tools such as Disk Defragmenter or Disk Clean Up.
Windows 7 Tune Up Tools
However, BitDefender also lets you monitor your computer’s ‘health’ with this easy-to-use visual tool and lets you see & sort what programs or processes have been resource hogs. In fact, this tool reminds me of the Resource Monitor in Windows 7, but as you’ll see, BitDefender presents the information, quicker and in a more digestible format. Expectedly, you can only view this performance monitor if you’re in Intermediate or Expert mode.

BitDefender Performance Monitor
Sidenote: To access the resource monitor in Windows 7, start the “Task Manager” and navigate to the “Performance” tab.
Resource Mon in Task Manager
Resource Monitor on Windows 7

Minor Gripes

  1. I had last used the 2009 version of BitDefender Internet Security 2009. Here’s what that product looked like. Since the 2010 and now, 2011 versions, the color scheme has changed from red to blue. The blue color scheme feels dissonant and at odds with the prominent red logo, but that’s just me being weird.
  2. The Online Backup feature of BitDefender is only good for 2 gigabytes of data. In my case, it’s next to useless, but I’ve saved a handful of files already just to give the feature a fair shake. In any case, I strongly recommend a proper and dedicated online backup service like Carbonite or Mozy.
  3. Ability to turn off Antivirus or Firewall with 1-click (from the system tray) isn’t available. In Basic mode, you’ve got to make sure you enabled “Configure Firewall” and “Configure Antivirus” in order to cause those options to show up under the Security tab. Only then can you click on “Configure Firewall” or “Configure Antivirus” to turn off those features. In Intermediate mode, things are much better and you can turn off either the firewall or antivirus scanning with 2 clicks (navigate to the “Security” tab and click on the status you would like to turn on or off. Turning on/off the Antivirus/Firewall features in BitDefender’s Expert mode is similar to how one turns on/off AV and Firewall while in Intermediate mode. Overall, my peeve is that I can’t simply right-click the BitDefender icon in the system tray and turn the antivirus or firewall ON or OFF like Norton Internet Security 2010 does.
  4. During a scan, I wish BitDefender would allow you to click through to see suspicious items as they are being detected. Again, not a dealbreaker because after the scan is done, there is a summary that lets you see what further action needs to be taken.
    BitDefender Scan Report
  5. I have a lot of items integrated into my Windows Explorer interface. Here’s what the rightclick menu in Explorer looks like:
    bd-rightclick.png
    There are 3 entries for BitDefender as opposed to the typical single entry I’m used to from other applications. It’s obviously not a dealbreaker as it has the effect of getting me to the options quicker, but “cluttering” my rightclick menu.
  6. During the installation of BitDefender Total Security 2011, there was a ‘strange’ windows that showed avc3.sys was being installed. I didn’t get any warning about what this system file was, but I was concerned initially until I searched online & found that this was a BitDefender file. It would be helpful to be more explicit about what all is being installed to the computer. If it’s not information you wouldn’t want the customer to see, then, make it more hidden.
    BitDefender avc3.sys
  7. Installation of BitDefender TS 2011 was surprisingly difficult. Word to the wise: If you’ve had a previous AV or Internet Security Suite on your computers and after uninstalling this AV/Internet Security suite, you’re having troubles with installing your new AV/Internet Security suite, I humbly suggest that you’d be best served by performing the following precautionary steps:
    1. Running the removal tool for that particular AV/Internet Security Suite. Here are the links for the major security products: Norton Removal tool, McAfee removal tool, BitDefender Removal Tool, Kaspersky Removal Tool, Removal Script for Comodo, and AVG Removal Tool. Don’t forget to restart your computer when done.
    2. That said, the issue I ran into while installing BitDefender Total Security 2011 (BitDefender TS 2010) was that the program was unable to register my copy or update definitions because BitDefender TS 2010 alone couldn’t connect to the internet. It was after some online sleuthing that I discovered that I might need to run the Norton Removal Tool. Another trick, that I didn’t try, could be disable BitDefender’s Firewall according to this BitDefender forum post, but I didn’t try that out.In any case, I would recommend you do your research online, search your AV/Internet Security website’s forums and contact the support folk as well.
    3. Update: I installed BitDefender Total Security 2011 on a different computer and it went smoothly so don’t expect problems from the get-go. Simply: uninstall your previous Antivirus/Internet Security suite, restart your computer, install BitDefender and restart. 🙂

Overall Verdict

  1. Ease of use: BitDefender wins big time here. I love the 3 modes (Basic, Intermediate and Expert) that let you have access to as much or as little information you want.
  2. Proactive Stance of BitDefender: Not only is my notebook being actively protected against malware, but BitDefender Total Security 2011 goes the extra mile with the addition of encrypted files/chats, parental/privacy controls that prevent your personal info from being compromised, and automated local and online storage!
  3. Use of Computer Resources: BitDefender doesn’t slow my computer down which is great. It’s on par with NIS 2010, but it feels marginally faster than Norton.
  4. Network management: The interface for the network management feature is well designed. I love having the ability to update definitions or start a scan on computers in my network.
  5. Based on the above, I call BitDefender Total Security 2011 a keeper. *throws confetti* If your antivirus subscription to a competing product like Norton or Kaspersky is running out, take a good look at BitDefender Total Security 2011 for your needs. Visit BitDefender.com and the BitDefender online store for more of their offerings.

Update: Full video showing an install of BitDefender Total Security 2011 from Start to Finish without any issues I mentioned in this post:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki-iMYrx4wg

Disclosure: I received a free license for 1 year to try BitDefender Total Security 2011.

I look forward to reading your comments, experiences or corrections!

Overzealous malware hunter: Norton Internet Security 2010

I‘m a happy user of Norton Internet Security 2010 (referrred to as NIS 2010 henceforth). I have never been infected with any nasties primarily due to a combo of taking common-sense precautions (like not downloading “free ringtones”, “sexy videos” or any “codecs” to view said sexy videos), being aware of my internet surroundings and having NIS take care of things when I’m lax. However, NIS 2010 has issues that I need to vent about.

NIS 2010 has this nifty feature called Insight Network Scan where Norton consults its community/database on a file it’s not sure about. By default, it appears that if a file has been used by less than 10 users (not sure how they can definitively say this because they may be counting only systems with Norton Internet Security 2010 installed, who knows?), Norton classifies the file as a risk, specifically as WS.Reputation.1 or Reser.Reputation.1. Here are some specific and notable instances of Norton Insight ensnaring ‘innocent’ files:

  1. Wireshark x64 v. 1.2.6: On the 28th of January 2010, I downloaded the 64-bit version of Wireshark and I got alerted that the file was Suspicious and the risk it posed was called “Reser.Reputation.1”. After complaining on Norton’s Facebook page, some updates were pushed out and the “Reser.Reputation.1” classification was removed.
    wireshark.png
  2. FastPicture Viewer Codec Pack v. 2.1R3: On 26th of May 2010, I purchased this Codec Pack and downloaded the file. Norton complained and deleted the file after calling the risk “WS.Reputation.1”. This case was actually interesting because I contacted the developer via email to verify that their software hadn’t been somehow tampered with and I got a semi-humorous lecture about my use of internet security software. 🙂 They assured me their software was fine, provided me with VirusTotal links, etc. I also went ahead to notify & they instructed me on how to submit a false positive report.
    fastpicture-nortonissue-flattened.png
  3. Fraps (paid version) v. 3.2.3: On the 16th of June 2010, I learned of a new version of Fraps via Neowin and I went to download this latest copy. Norton deleted this file because it was *gasp* a risk, having been used by less than 10 people in the Norton “community”. This time, the Fraps file’s risk was termed “WS.Reputation.1”. I wasn’t even given the opportunity to whitelist the particular executable that I downloaded. Eventually, I had to temporarily pause Norton’s “antivirus protect” service just so I could download and install the file! As usual, I notified @NortonOnline and filed a false positive report.
    fraps.png

Now, up till now, my impression of the “xx.Reputation.1 risk” classification has been that it’s a minor disturbance. Everytime this happened with a file I cared about (Wireshark, Fraps, etc), I notified @NortonOnline (their official twitter account) and filled out a dispute form on their site. and I can certainly appreciate why this feature was put in place, but clearly the feature is becoming a little too trigger-happy. So far, the files that have been caught in this dragnet have been files I downloaded from the internet. However, today (06/27/2010), Norton Internet Security 2010 went too far.

I learned that Firefox 3.6.6 had been released via Twitter and I quickly went to upgrade my install of Firefox from 3.6.4 to 3.6.6. NIS 2010 didn’t complain about the upgrade and I got the standard post-install welcome page from Mozilla about the successful upgrade. Fast forwarding to about ~ 4.20pm (EST) today, I got a prompt from NIS 2010 that I had never seen before:
nortonprompt.png

I was surprised because I hadn’t even received notification of a suspicious file being found. So, I reviewed the “Recent History and found out that NIS 2010 had slapped the “WS.Reputation.1” tag on 3 .dll files in Mozilla Firefox‘s install folder on my C: drive (freebl3.dll, softokn3.dll and nssdbm3.dll). From the NIS 2010 interface when reviewing the history, it’s not readily apparent on how to “reverse” any decisions the Insight engine has made so I reluctantly restarted my computer.
ffdlls.png

Since restarting my computer at ~7.30pm (EST), Firefox refused to start and crashed every single time.
ffcrashes-06272010.png
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t happy that those 3 .dll files were deleted by NIS 2010. In fact, those files are pretty important to Firefox (duh). Anyway, after getting tired of having IE 8 as my default browser and feverishly updating NIS 2010 definitions, I reinstalled Firefox 3.6.6. and *knock on wood* it hasn’t mysteriously decided that certain dll files are suspicious.

*That* was a mouthful. I’m sure I’ll have more of these false positives before the month is over. I’d rather NIS 2010 err on the side of caution every time, but they’re running the risk of me/users getting used to temporarily turning off the software just to install stuff. The end. 😛

In an automated email to me, Norton recommended:

  1. Digitally signing your binaries.
  2. Submitting your software to their Whitelist program here: https://submit.symantec.com/whitelist/

norton-rec.png

Providing PC support remotely to family and friends

I take the role of “computer-problem-fixer” in my family very seriously. 🙂 I love tinkering and troubleshooting so helping out doesn’t feel like a burden to me. So, I thought I’d do a post on how I’m able to assist my family members and friends from afar.

One of the things I’ll tell you right away is to assume that your computer jargon will be that: jargon and not understood by the non-techie. That said, do the following and you’ll be less likely to be frustrated:

  1. If you absolutely must direct the person being helped over the phone, spell out each step using specific terms (right- or left- click versus just telling them to ‘double-click’, position of the windows/prompts, etc) and depending on the skill level, feel free to spell out letters (this comes in handy when collecting usernames and/or passwords), use colors, and directional language (bottom-left panel/windows/alert-box, top-right, etc) to get the job done. It might sound silly, but if someone’s not as used to using computers as you are, they’ll need all the pointers they can get. From a recent memory, I lost an hour of time because the asker omitted a space between their Windows username and Logmein kept rejecting my login!
  2. If we’re talking about removing badware from the person’s computer, I strongly recommend using a remote service. I like to see what’s going on and reduce the chance that something crucial gets overlooked.

For this article, I’ll writing about my experiences with the following services: Logmein, Windows Remote Assistance (for XP, Vista, Windows 7), Windows Remote Desktop and Microsoft SharedView.

 

Logmein

Short and sweet verdict: If you’re called up out of the blue and have never touched the asker’s computer, this may be a lot of pain, but once you get over the installation and connection part, you’re good!. That said, there are a couple of steps to get things going:

  1. you’ll have to get the asker to sign up for the logmein.com website.
  2. install the Logmein software (increasing support time and risk of something else going wrong)
  3. Get the asker’s username and password to the Logmein website. With the Logmein free version (compared to the Pro version of Logmein), there’s no way to temporarily “invite” someone to work on your computer. The alternative would be to have the asker to install the Logmein software on their computer and input your credentials so that on the Logmein.com web interface, you can take remote control of the asker’s computer. Obviously, I recommend against doing that.
  4. The better alternative is to have the asker provide their Logmein.com credentials after they’re done installing so you can log in to the website and take control of their computer that way.
  5. I’ve done this and I highly recommend you already set up your relatives/friends who you think might need help) with Logmein before they need help. 😛 And write down their username/password combination to the Logmein website AND their Windows username/password combination too! Trust me, in S.O.S situations like this, anything that can go wrong, will.
  6. Go ahead and fix what’s broken.

Windows Remote Assistance

Short and sweet verdict: no installation process especially if they’re on the Windows operating system and requires a bit of attention to detail on the asker’s part. That’s *always* the tricky part when assisting people. That said:

  1. On Windows XP, go to this Microsoft knowledge base article. Please read the article which explains how to get access Windows Remote Assistance in-depth. Briefly, fire up XP’s Help & Support and look for the tool under the “Ask for help” section. When in doubt, search for “remote assistance”. For Windows Vista and 7, hit “start” and type “remote” and you should see this image:
    remote.png
    Quick Tip: Read this link to learn how to enable remote assistance on Windows XP. On Windows 7, right-click on the “My Computer” icon and go to “Properties”. Click “Advanced System Settings” and navigate to the “Remote” tab. Refer to this image for more:
    win7-remoteassistance.png 

    With Windows Remote Assistance on Windows 7, you have the option of saving the invitation file to a .msrcincident file which can be opened by PC’s running other versions of Windows or using Easy Connect which can only be used with another Windows 7 computer. I was not able to get Easy Connect to work with this persistent “can’t connect to global peer-to-peer network” message. Microsoft has a tool on their website called the “Internet Connectivity Evaluation Tool” which “checks your Internet router to see if it supports certain technologies.” See image below:
    remote-easy-con.png

  2. Anyway, get the asker/use to fire up Windows Remote Assistance and invite you using your email address with a time limit of ~ 4hrs (arbitrarily chosen). Get them to email you this file and once you have received & opened it, walk them through the expected prompts. In my case, I had pictures of what it would look like on the asker’s machine so that I could talk them through accepting my request to take over their computer.

Windows Remote Desktop

Short and sweet verdict: Involves advanced concepts like port forwarding, public IP addresses and such. 😛 I can’t speak too much on this and the biggest reason being I haven’t given it a serious shake to properly configure and gain access to a test system. On a private/home network, it’s easy, but on a public network behind an ISP, things are trickier. This FAQ by Microsoft on using Remote Desktop has pointers to helpful info and this article by TeamTutorials.com on setting up remote desktop does a great job of giving you a detailed walkthrough on using remote desktop. Good luck! 🙂

SharedView

Short and sweet verdict: involves the asker & you signing up for a Windows Live account, downloading & installing the software but otherwise easy-to-follow steps with some attention to detail.
I found out about Microsoft SharedView through reading Scott Hanselman’s list of tools he uses. I downloaded & installed it, but never got a chance to use it until a couple of days ago. It’s billed as a collaboration tools and thus, should serve very well as a means to work on a relative’s computer, no?

  1. If you don’t have a Windows Live account (if you have a Hotmail account, you’re good to go), go ahead and sign up for one. Get the asker to sign up for one as well.
  2. Download & install the SharedView program.
  3. Start a session. Refer to the image below (first image show what it looks like when I’m connected to the asker’s computer and the second image shows how to start a session).

sharedview.png
sharedview-1.png

As always, corrections and comments are welcome. For my personal home network, I use Logmein Free. For assisting others, I’ve used a combination of Windows Remote Assistance and SharedView. Your mileage may vary. There are other ways of assisting people remotely, but that’s beyond the scope of this “short and sweet” article. Thanks for reading! 🙂