Kaspersky is a trusted name in cybersecurity that has had its share of triumphs and scandals. They offer a number of products, ranging from bare bones free antivirus all the way to their highest tier product, Kaspersky Total Security, which we’ll be taking a look at today.
For many people, the draw of Kaspersky is it’s routinely mind-boggling lab scores. In controlled environments, third-party testing has shown the Kaspersky antivirus to be more effective than any other cybersecurity solution on the market. These lab tests have been brought into question, but the real world performance of this software speaks for itself, so we’ll dive right in.
Antivirus and Malware Protection
As with almost all computer security suites, the foundation of protection starts with simple anti-virus measures. The total security suite has access to Kaspersky’s database of known malicious software allowing it to quickly identify known malicious programs. You can set up the software to run scans at regular intervals, trigger a scan manually, or scan individual files if you have specific suspicions.
On top of the database of known offenders, the software also has a way to identify potentially suspicious or malicious activity or strings of code in a program. This allows the security suite to stop potential new threats before they can harm your computer. When your computer catches one of these potential offenders it sends information about it to Kaspersky where they can further analyze the code or program and determine what kind of malicious software it is, where it came from, and other important information. If you’re against your computer sending information back to its company there is a way to disable this feature.
The program also boasts System Watcher, which can identify and block malicious behavior and can even reverse malicious changes to your computer. Finally, the suite also has a Crypto malware Protection feature which backs up files that are susceptible to ransomware attacks. This allows the user to immediately restore any stolen or ransomed files completely circumventing the malware itself.
In lab testing and in real-world use these features combined are able to catch 99.9% of malicious software, including brand new ones that hadn’t been cataloged yet. What’s more is that it was able to achieve this with only about one or two false positives a year, which is far fewer than any other software on this level. For comparison, in the same environment, Bitdefender runs at around 90 to 100 false positives a year.
The Total Security software also includes options to both encrypt and shred your files. The encryption option makes it so that should someone get their hands on one of your important files, if you encrypted it they won’t be able to do anything with it. Encryption prevents users who don’t have the unique decryption key from making sense of any data in an encrypted file. The data shredder makes multiple thorough passes over your hard drive to ensure no scrap of data from a deleted file will ever be recoverable.
On top of protecting and monitoring the files you have on your computer the Total Security suite offers a number of ways to improve the security of your internet connection. For those who want to protect their privacy online Kaspersky bundles a virtual private network, or VPN, with their Total Security package. A VPN allows the user to effectively bounce their connection off of a server in another location to make it appear as though they are that server to whoever they are connecting with. This has a number of uses as it not only makes it so that your ISP or anyone else who might be watching won’t be able to see what you’re doing, but it also can allow you to access content as if you were in another country.
Unfortunately, the software only comes with a 200Mb plan, meaning if you want to use the VPN regularly you may have to upgrade to one of their more expansive VPN plans. Luckily, they offer an affordable unlimited data plan.
If you often make payments online or access your banking information then there is a feature in the Total Security suite called Safe Money that is effectively a hyper-secure browser designed for making purchases online. When activated the Safe Money browser forces the connection to be encrypted, only allows trusted websites to be accessed, shuts off any extensions, and even puts a keyboard on screen to evade keylogging software.
The security suite also replaces the standard Windows firewall with a vastly improved two-way firewall. The program also lets you turn off your webcam entirely, preventing anyone from seeing what you’re doing or recording your activity without you knowing.
For those with children who want to make sure they can safely browse the web as well, this software does have parental control features. The parental control tools provided are impressively extensive and can restrict computer usage or online time. You can also block online content by category such as “violent” or “adult”. To get the most out of this feature you can get a multi-device license for the software and install it not only on your home’s computers but even on your little one’s mobile devices. The included Safe Kids feature lets you monitor your child’s mobile communications and even know their location.
The Kaspersky UI is very pleasing to the eyes with a white and green theme that turns to red when a serious issue is detected. The home screen of the software shows several modules that allow you to manually trigger a scan or an update to the malware database. This is significant as these updates can sometimes be released more than once a day.
There is also a button to access general privacy protection settings as well as backup or restore of your computer’s data. Above this is a button to go into the Safe Money browser for secure payments. The last of the large buttons on the home screen is for the parental control features, which are password protected so your youngster can’t simply turn it off.
At the bottom of this screen is a smaller button simply labeled “more tools”. With such an unassuming name one may be persuaded to overlook this button, but behind this inconspicuous button lies tons of more advanced options for power users to optimize their system. From here you can access the features like shutting off your webcam or email scanning.
Compatible Devices and System Impact
One of the best things about Kaspersky is that their Total Security software can run on practically any device. It is currently supported on Windows from XP all the way to 10, Mac, Android, and iOS on both iPads and iPhones. They offer multiple device licenses, which allows users to take full advantage of the wide compatibility of the software and protect all of their devices.
The phone version is optimized to run on practically any phone, and the computer version has very lean requirements. On their website, Kaspersky says you will need 980Mb of storage space to install the program, but the final file size is closer to 200Mb. This is most likely to allow for future expansion of internal databases and to allow for backup directories to be stored in a secure location.
Overall the software isn’t very demanding on most systems and can be run in the background most of the time without interfering with multi-tasking, browsing, or basic workloads. The software can, on occasion, become a resource hog when a scan is started up or running during more intensive workloads.
For this reason, the software does include a gaming mode which can pause or delay scans while certain programs are running. This is very useful as the read speeds on most hard drives can’t handle a virus scan and loading in the large files found in video games at the same time. This can cause extra long loading screens or even artifacting as your computer struggles to find textures in the game fast enough to render them. It can also be helpful to turn on this gaming mode when you are doing more intensive work that requires lots of fast hard drive reads and writes such as rendering video or animations.
Quite a bit of controversy surrounds Kaspersky as a company. There have been allegations that some of their third-party lab testing is, in one way or another, manipulated to provide better results. While some of the lab tests show slightly better results than more commonly reported real world results, they’re not astronomically far off.
Additionally, the US government has recently expressed concerns over the reporting feature of the software. This is where it sends reports on potentially hazardous software back to the company. Because of this concern the US government is considering taking it off of its computers.
It is important to note that at installation the software asks you whether you want to turn this reporting feature off. Turning this off will not disable it’s ability to predictively deal with potentially uncatalogued threats. The software will still look for, identify, and take appropriate action when it thinks it’s found a suspicious program or string of code on your computer. Turning this off will only stop it from actually sending any information about what it finds back to the company.
Despite the controversy, this is hands down one of the most comprehensive security suites available. Its wide array of features makes it perfect for a wide range of people. If you plan to install the software and simply let it run this is perfectly fine. Without any intervention, this security suite is ready to rock and can offer sufficient protection for even very important work computers. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a software that can allow you to optimize your scans and system precisely how you want it there is ample customization and settings in the software to allow for this as well.