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Sour on the Suites

In a perfect world, we wouldn't need multiple layers of online protection. In an almost-perfect world, a single security suite of products from the same vendor would suffice. Unfortunately, none of the suites we tested vigilantly watched all vulnerable areas. For instance, none of them were proficient at recognizing and eradicating spyware.

Overall, though, Trend Micro's PC-cillin Internet Security 2004 was the best of the suites, with the top antivirus scanner and one of the best firewalls. Combining it with the free Spybot Search & Destroy provides a good measure of security for just $50. For even stronger spyware protection, you can get Lavasoft's Ad-aware 6 Plus. (All three programs worked together without conflict in our tests.) PC-cillin's firewall is a good choice for most users. If you can spend more money and effort to bolster your support, disable PC-cillin's firewall and install ZoneAlarm Pro 4.5. (A basic, free version of ZoneAlarm is also available.)

Regrettably, none of the suites in this review had a top-notch antispam utility, but some stand-alone products performed quite well. To find out more, see "Spam-Proof Your In-Box."

Mary Landesman is an antivirus researcher and consultant, and serves as the antivirus guide for About.com. Andreas Marx of AV-Test directed all firewall and antivirus lab testing.
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