Opening our Security for Everyone series is BullGuard Internet Security 8.7. BullGuard has been a player on the home security market since 2002, promoting a solution based on the BitDefender antivirus engine with a focus on ease of use and efficiency.
BullGuard Internet Security 8.7 offers an integrated, subscription-based service in which you get not only the security software, but also a 5 GB online backup space. While the backup option is certainly good to have and useful, we did not include it in our review since we are only testing security features: the anti-malware and the firewall module. In this review I will share with you how this security solution really is and give you directions for where to buy it and where to download the 60-day trial version.
The installation was straightforward and no extra software was installed. After the compulsory reboot, BullGuard Internet Security 8.7 kindly offered us the possibility to create an account and register with them. It did not offer any immediately obvious Cancel button though, so I had to supply a valid e-mail address even if I was just testing the program. Nevertheless, my inbox is still spam-free: besides the typical Welcome e-mail, I did not receive any other message from BullGuard yet. One improvement area for the installation process is the fact that BullGuard Internet Security 8.7 doesn't disable your Windows Firewall or Windows Defender if they are enabled. You have to manually disable them prior to installing it. Otherwise you will have them all running in parallel and this can cause some conflicts.
When opening BullGuard Internet Security for the first time, you are greeted with a simple and clean interface which is easy to use unless you are bothered by the bright red color scheme. There is no wizard and there are no basic first steps provided to the user upon the first time start, which may leave a couple of uninitiated fellows in the dark. However, the default options are good enough and it's very easy to run a quick scan of the system.
Unfortunately, the resource consumption proved to be a very serious problem. On most 32-bit systems we tested, the resource consumption was decent with no glitches. However, on all three 64-bit systems where we installed the 64-bit version of BullGuard Internet Security 8.7, we had serious performance issues. On one of these systems, BullGuard Internet Security 8.7 constantly needed between 30% and 50% of an AMD dual-core processor. This led to problems when gaming, the sound playback in Winamp was full of glitches and hiccups, videos were no longer playing fluently, etc. Similar problems were identified on the other two systems, but not as bad. Even so, performance was sub-par and all computing tasks were executed at a slower pace compared to the 32-bit systems.
Ease of use and configuration
The only obvious reproach I have to make is the bright red color scheme; it is still hunting me. Otherwise, the interface is very clean and uncluttered: a toolbar on the left with buttons allowing access to each of the program's functions (anti-malware, firewall, backup, spam filtering and support), with the rest of the options grouped in a tabbed interface on the right. All options are easy to reach due to the uncluttered aspect of the interface, which makes it easy to locate anything at a glance.
BullGuard Internet Security 8.7 also offers a great separation between advanced and basic options. All basic options are immediately accessible, with the more advanced ones being carefully hidden under Advanced buttons. Configuring the program is also easy to do. There is not much extra customization besides what is obviously required, and all important settings are accompanied by a short description detailing its purpose and effect. Automatic updates are configured by default, and so are most of the features you would expect anyone to activate.
By default, the firewall asks the user for confirmation before allowing any data transfer from a program, and the more advanced firewall options (such as the logging tool, the activity monitor and the advanced rules) are carefully hidden behind an Advanced mode of operation. In Beginner mode, BullGuard Internet Security 8.7 simply offers an easy to use reject-ask-allow scheme for every program.
When it detects a program trying to send data over the network for the first time, it will display an informative and reasonably unintrusive alert that defaults to an answer of denial in 15 seconds, if the user does not select anything. At first sight this is a questionable choice, but the potential usability problems are solved by the fact that the answer is not definitive by default. If the user is not at his computer to allow the transfer, BullGuard Internet Security 8.7 will ask for confirmation at the next attempt.
There is also the option of keeping the firewall engine active after BullGuard Internet Security is closed. This option is disabled by default in order to avoid potential confusion: if it is activated and BullGuard Internet Security is closed, the engine will silently discard anything that is not explicitly allowed, and will not ask for input when it detects new activity.
Adding exceptions is very straightforward, but it is rarely required since BullGuard Internet Security will detect the first attempts of a program, and will not nag you after receiving a definitive answer.
BullGuard Internet Security 8.7 also handled usual situations in a simple and non-intrusive manner. Scans, ping floods and other similar script kiddie attempts were dully blocked and a small alert popped up in the lower-right, informing that the attack was neutralized. BullGuard Internet Security was also smart enough not to bite more advanced Denial-of-Service attacks, which are meant to cause excessive resource usage on the attacked machine and, eventually crashing it.
Antivirus and antispyware features
The default options offered by the antivirus and antispyware tool are comprehensive enough for good protection. By default, web monitoring is disabled, but this is not an issue for home users. Notably omitted by default are also the options of adding a signature to e-mail footers, marking the use of BullGuard Internet Security (a good decision, if you ask me), and the option of scanning inside e-mail databases. The anti-malware engine used by BullGuard Internet Security is BitDefender's, so I knew what to expect.
Scanning is reasonably fast and its deepness is customizable. Scheduled scans are run without interrupting the user, and the resource consumption is not so large as to disrupt usual activity. The scanning interface is profile-based: several profiles for a scan are pre-defined, allowing quick access to the options of scanning the entire computer or just the My Documents folder, for instance. The good news is that a user without much technical background will be immediately able to achieve most of his scanning-related tasks. The bad news is that defining a different type of scan is not immediately obvious: you have to define a profile first, then select it, then click scan. This is intuitive, but for previous users of other security programs it may be somewhat unfamiliar.
Active protection is extremely fast. When I downloaded a small infected file from the Internet, it was immediately located in the browser's cache before I even had the chance to press Save. Scheduling scans and updating signatures are very easy to accomplish: the options are in obvious places and are very efficient. Signatures are scheduled for automatic updating by default, but updates can also be done manually.
BullGuard Internet Security 8.7 impressed me with its ease of use and efficiency. With the exception of a few minor quirks, this security solution feels remarkably familiar. The Antivirus and Antispyware configuration screen is somewhat cluttered, but configuration can still be done without much trouble. This is all built on top of a very robust set of features.
However, the unfortunate management of computer resources on 64-bit systems ruins an otherwise useful piece of software. Due to the technical issues our team encountered, I cannot recommend this solution to all computer users. This is a buy for geeks only, which know what to do in case of performance issues.
If you want to try it out before you buy it, go to the 60-day trial download page. And remember: if you plan to use it on a 64-bit system, make sure you give it a trial before buying.
You can buy this product from Amazon UK (for European countries). Even though it says version 8.5 instead of 8.7, it will automatically update itself to the latest version, whatever that might be. You will get the installation CD and the right to use it for one year on three PCs, which is a pretty good deal. When you are buying from Amazon, we also receive a small affiliate commission which will help pay for some of our work on the site. A big thank you to all of you who are buying using these links.