Kaspersky Internet Security review: Perfect for power users
With plenty of tools and features to play with, this powerful suite goes far beyond blocking viruses
Kaspersky has received plenty of plaudits in years gone by, and this latest release sticks to the vendor’s usual winning formula. That begins with superlative protection: we’re accustomed to seeing this security suite rack up 100% scores in anti-malware tests, and in the latest independent tests it once again did just that.
Nor did Kaspersky throw the baby out with the bathwater, racking up a mere two false positives. That’s not quite as forensically perfect as Eset or F-Secure, but it’s still sharper than the average count of 6.6 (or 3.2 if you exclude Malwarebytes). Most encouragingly, Kaspersky did all this with an exceptionally nimble touch, achieving an overall system performance score of 92.4%. When tasked with scanning our external hard disk full of test files, it whipped through the 55GB in barely more than 90 seconds, silently quarantining our EICAR test file as it went.
On that basis, you might be picturing a stripped-down offering, but the suite incorporates a spread of additional security features. The “Safe Money” function cleverly takes the friction out of secure browsing, by automatically detecting when you click on a shopping or banking site and opening the link in a sandboxed browser window. An extension for Chrome, Edge and Firefox also warns you when sites try to harvest your data or track your activity, while a secure onscreen keyboard can be used to enter credentials, defeating any keyloggers that might have slipped through the net.
Software management is well covered too. An automatic software updater tool finds and flags any outdated applications that might lack the latest security patches, while the vulnerability scanner hunts through your programs and OS specifically looking for exploitable flaws. A separate Application Control window provides pleasing transparency into how Kaspersky has ranked your installed programs into different trust categories, and makes it easy to tweak if you want to boost the rating of a custom application, for example.
Additionally, there are a few clean-up features that can clear out old applications or leftover logs and caches that may contain personal data, as well as a built-in rescue disk builder that could save the day if a rootkit manages to get its claws deep into your system.
It’s buried away in the settings, but there’s even a custom firewall, with a clean interface that’s easier to configure than the standard Windows offering. Would-be sysadmins will love the network monitor tool too, which exposes all the details of what your applications and processes are doing online. See something you don’t like? You can block it with two clicks. It’s complemented by a decent reports module, which brings together extensive logs from the program’s modules, and offers search and filter options to help you zero in on specific events, items or timescales.
In short, Kaspersky provides a great breadth of security coverage and intelligence – and it’s absurdly affordable. A single-PC licence can be had from Amazon for a piffling £13 (so roughly £1 per month) and the three-device package is even better value at £20 per year. You can extend that to two years (and three devices) for an extra £10.
Just remember to avoid the automatic renewals and instead manually re-enlist when your year is up: if you let your subscription roll over, the renewal fee shoots up to £35 for a single device, or £45 for three.
Kaspersky is also guilty of the sort of in-product marketing we wouldn’t expect from a paid-for security suite. Occasional promotional messages are enabled by default – you have to delve into the settings to disable them – and taster editions of entire other products come bundled into the package.
In particular, we’re not delighted about the big button for the Safe Kids parental control module. This sits front and centre in the interface, but clicking it only activates the cut-down, free edition of the service. Similarly, the installer drops icons onto your desktop for Kaspersky’s Secure Connection VPN and Password Manager services, but these again are the free editions. To get the full parental control and password manager features, you need to move up to the pricier Total Security package – or sign up for costly subscriptions.
However, the features that are included do an excellent job of keeping you safe, with numerous dimensions of protection, enough depth to satisfy power users and a modest impact on performance.
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