Tech news these days has been dominated by the threat of major computer security breaches and viruses (Heartbleed and Bash) and endless reports of major retail outlets not adequately protecting customers’ personal information (including credit card numbers).

That’s the bad news. The good news is that a couple of the top security software providers have decided to do something about it.

Symantec and McAfee announced new Internet security and virus protection products on Tuesday (Sept. 23) that could – – – and should – – – be the first line of defense against cybercriminals.

First, let’s take a look at a few facts:

According to the most recent Monthly Symantec Intelligence Report there have been more than 30,000 targeted attacks and 70 million Web attacks from January 2013 to August 2014, resulting in about 552 million identities being exposed. There has also been a 500 percent increase in ransomware (demands for money from the attacker to remove annoying programs and popups from your computer) attacks during that period.

Add to this the increasing threat to mobile devices, which both companies see as increasing at an alarmingly rapid rate. In fact, according to the February 2014 McAfee Mobile Security Report and McAfee’s Labs’ latest threat reports:

  • Eighty percent of apps track users and collect information
  • One of six app downloads may be “risky”
  • There were 3.72 million mobile malware attacks in 2013

Both companies have have taken different approaches to battle these attacks, with the hope of keeping our PCs and mobile devices safe.

Symantec has opted to combine all of its security products (there were nine) into one super virus, malware and scam basher. The new product, called Norton Internet Security, comes in two versions – – – Norton Security ($79.95) and Norton Security with Backup (89.95). The big difference is that Norton Security offers protection for five devices and Norton Security with Backup will protect 10 devices and include 25 GB of online backup space.

But what makes this product different from the others is that it operates in the cloud.

According to Jordan Blake, principal product manager, Norton Business Unit, moving Norton Internet Security to the cloud significantly reduces the demands on the PC and other devices and allows Symantec to update their threat database more frequently without constantly bugging us to download updates. It also allows them to make improvements in the software without our having to download new versions to our devices.

We’ve been using the new version of Internet Security for a few days and found that moving the software to the cloud also significantly reduced the slowdowns and so-called “drag” on our computers we had experienced with older versions.

In addition:

  • It found 90 cookies and malware threats that were undetected by a competitor’s product (not McAfee).
  • Installing it on our PC, phones and tablets was a fairly simple process: just access your Norton account, authorize the device and save
  • Unlike previous versions, you can hardly tell it’s running in the background
  • It works with all versions of Windows – – – from Windows XP to Windows 8.1

McAfee’s new product, called McAfee LiveSafe ($79.95), combines the features of all of the McAfee security products and adds a couple of new ones.

Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee, emphasized that the biggest difference between LiveSafe and the company’s other offerings is unlimited protection for important documents stored online (in a “data safe”) and access to a team of security advisers to help you with any problems.

Unlike Norton Internet Security, LiveSafe needs to be completely installed on your PC or mobile device, but its presence is hardly noticeable.

The version we used was very easy to install. All we had to do was set up a McAfee account online and hit download. We were also able to protect a smartphone and tablet and use what the folks at McAfee call a SafeKey to protect our passwords and personal documents.

Truthfully, other than the features listed above, both products are fairly similar. They both:

  • Scan websites to make sure they’re safe
  • Store passwords and logons for websites
  • Use advanced heuristics and SONAR technology to keep your computer and devices free from viruses and malware
  • Scan computers “in the background” without eating up valuable system resources

Which one you choose will, truthfully, depend on how much control you want to have over the software. Do you want it stored in the cloud where the developer can make changes without your input or do you prefer to authorize changes and updates and keep it on your PC?

The choice is yours!