Bitdefender’s most basic protection involves malware-signature matching. It compares software found on the computer with digital “signatures” of known malware. New malware signatures are pushed out to subscribers several times per day.
Bitdefender also scans the system’s hard drive and memory to find suspicious software, using behavioral analysis to determine whether unknown software is friend or foe. It analyzes email messages for malicious attachments and URLs for malicious websites, and can detect phishing emails.
You can start three kinds of scans: quick, full or custom. Quick and full scans can be started from the main interface window; most of Bitdefender’s competitors force you to go through two or three screens instead. You can also drag and drop a file or folder onto the Security Widget, a circle separate from the main interface that sits in the bottom-right corner of your computer screen. The Security Widget doesn’t otherwise let you start a scan.
For the most immediate threats, there’s Bitdefender’s free, downloadable 60-Second Virus Scanner, which can be downloaded for free. It has its own circular interface that you can click to start a scan.
Bitdefender Internet Security 2016 lets you scan according to three security settings — Permissive, Medium or Aggressive — that adjust what the software scans for, as well as the computer’s overall security stance. The Permissive setting blocks malware drivers and doesn’t let outsiders change files; while Medium adds all executable files to the block list; and Aggressive stops keylogging and any attempts to change the Internet Explorer home page and the desktop background image.
You’ll need to dig a little to find the scan-scheduling interface. You can set up daily, weekly or monthly scans, plus other iterations within a defined time period.
Or, you can let Bitdefender’s Autopilot automatically adjust its vigilance according to your computing style and the threats you encounter. Along with the three regular security settings, there’s a manually selectable one called Paranoid, but it doesn’t allow the use of Autopilot.
On both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, Bitdefender’s malware engine had a nearly flawless score in detecting sample malware in evaluations conducted in the spring and summer of 2015 by German lab AV-TEST. Whether the malware was well known or a previously unseen “zero day,” Bitdefender didn’t let any malicious items escape its gaze, chalking up detection scores of 100 percent on each evaluation run, and returning only one false positive for the entire batch. It’s too bad not all malware products are this thorough and effective.