capsule review

Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 Security Software

At a Glance
  • Kaspersky Lab Internet Security 2009

    PCWorld Rating

    If Kaspersky wants to charge the highest price, the suite should have the best protection and a smooth, intuitive interface. It doesn't.

Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 was the most expensive security package we tested for "Paying for Protection," our 2009 roundup of nine security suites ($80 for three users as of 12/23/08). That cost might be justified if the package delivered top-notch performance and a smooth user experience--but it doesn't. Its overall malware-detection rate was below average, and the suite proved aggravating to use in several different scenarios.

In key detection tests, Kaspersky's suite picked out 95.6 percent of the samples in AV-Test.org's zoo of 654,914 pieces of malware. While that wasn't a terrible showing, most other suites we tested did better, with the top tier reaching around 99 percent. Kaspersky's performance made it sixth in this crucial category.

The suite did somewhat better in tests that measure how well security apps identify new malware. Kaspersky pulled in at fourth place, both in heuristic tests that used two-week-old signature files (with a 52 percent success rate), and in a test of the ability to warn about some aspect of a malware infection based solely on its behavior (60 percent). (Among the nine tested suites, the top scores for heuristic tests came in at 55.3 percent, while the best behavioral result was 80 percent.)

Kaspersky says it rewrote its core antivirus engine this year to produce a boost in scan speed, but both the Avira security suite and the Panda security suite beat it in on-access scan speed tests, which determine how quickly a suite can scan a file when your PC opens or accesses it. Only the Symantec Norton package topped Kaspersky for on-demand scans, which you kick off manually or set as a scheduled task.

This Russian-made suite proved better at adware blocking than it did at blocking more harmful malicious software, and its 98.1 percent detection rate earned it a third-place rank in the adware-detection category. But to realize that kind of performance, you may have to dig into the program and change some settings.

During our tests using default settings, Kaspersky was the only suite of the group that didn't block or warn us when we attempted to download a screen saver from Zango that contains well-known adware most people wouldn't want on their PCs. After asking Kaspersky, we discovered that to block it we would have had to enable checking for ‘other' adware, which isn't on by default. But it should be.

Other aspects of the suite could use a tweak, as well. When you enable parental controls, it sets every Windows user account--including yours--to use the ‘child' filter by default. And figuring out how to change that isn't intuitive by any means.

Also unintuitive is the Security Analyzer. For example, under the ‘Strongly recommended actions' heading, it displayed ‘Autorun from hard drives is allowed.' No other information described what that meant, or what changing the setting might do to your PC.

We give Kaspersky credit for attempting to use information from Secunia, a partner security company, to identify unsafe system settings, as well as software and operating system patches whose absence can create major security holes. After all, one of the best ways to keep your PC safe is to close holes and never allow malware to access your machine in the first place. But the Analyzer will leave you scratching your head with its system recommendations.

You'll also feel less than informed when you encounter program options such as ‘limit fragment buffering time', with a help description of ‘used to impose a restriction on the web object caching time'. Sure, most people wouldn't bother digging in to find such an option, let alone consider changing it--but if you do, good luck.

Kaspersky's suite includes an antispam feature that integrates with e-mail clients such as Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, and The Bat. But it doesn't have any options for backups.

Despite an attractive program interface, in the end Kaspersky's package comes across as somewhat unfinished: It needs better default settings and much better descriptions and help, and it could also use improved malware detection. Factor in the steep price, and Kaspersky's suite has little left that distinguishes it from competitors.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    If Kaspersky wants to charge the highest price, the suite should have the best protection and a smooth, intuitive interface. It doesn't.

    Pros

    • Detects OS and program security holes

    Cons

    • Expensive
    • Unintuitive interface
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