We’ve been more than satisfied with Kaspersky Internet Security in the past but are somewhat disappointed with the 2009 version. While it’s still a very good product, and this year’s model boasts entirely new antivirus and application-filtering modules, others (notably Norton) have finally caught up or passed it in both ease of use and effectiveness.
Installation and Setup
Getting Kaspersky 2009 up and running took longer than similar security suites—about 20 minutes total, including 5 minutes to install and reboot, then 8.5 minutes to download updates, followed by another reboot. At that point you can configure the various settings, such as parental controls and scheduling full scans (which are off by default). The interface is clean and more intuitive than last year, but as with Norton, the abundance of settings that you need to drill down to see made us wish for a wizard to walk us through the features.
Kaspersky 2009’s biggest new feature is the application filter, which assigns every program on your PC to a category: Trusted, Untrusted, Low Restricted, and High Restricted. Apps are categorized based on information from Bit9’s 6.5 billion–record Global Software Registry, while other programs are restricted based on rules and behaviors. An opt-in feature sends statistics to Kaspersky about the applications you’re running; if the company sees that a large number of users are running a particular program without incident, it can add it to the Trusted list. This is a similar approach to Norton Insight’s file-based white-listing, although taken from a different angle: Both help give the programs the intelligence needed to make decisions without bothering you, and speed performance. Kaspersky’s alert-irritation level is low, but not quite as low as Norton’s.
E-mail and IM malware protection and spam filtering are on by default, but we found too many good messages being blocked by the filter, so we disabled it; you’ll still be protected against malware that comes via e-mail. Kaspersky also has an anti-phishing virtual keyboard filter, but it’s not as good as the ones that come with Internet Explorer or Firefox, so you’re best off using your browser’s security. Kaspersky does warn you before connecting to unencrypted Wi-Fi hotspots, though.
While Kaspersky 2009 provides excellent virus and malware protection, scoring even slightly higher than Norton on Virus Bulletin’s tests, it suffers from relatively slow scans and updates. A scan that took 25 minutes in Norton took 45 in Kaspersky (repeat scans are faster), and the update servers just seem to be slow or overloaded. Downloads typically ran at a poky 4 Mbps over a 12 Mbps broadband connection. This impacts both installation and everyday updates, which took minutes to complete each time we booted up in the morning.
Kaspersky does offer frequent updates—every hour or so—so performance would probably be better if you leave your computer on and connected all the time; however, that’s not practical for laptop users who travel. With its security level set to Recommended, we didn’t notice any system slowdowns while surfing the Web or writing e-mail, but Kaspersky warns that performance could suffer if the security level is set to High. Regardless, we prefer Norton’s approach of having one level that works in the background when your CPU is otherwise idle.
On the other hand, Kaspersky 2009’s scan did warn us about vulnerabilites in Firefox, Java, and QuickTime, which Norton did not. We had the latest versions of all those programs, so there was nothing we could do about them. But if we didn’t have the latest versions, the alerts would have prompted us to seek out updates, which is a good thing.
For $79.95 (for three computers), Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 is a first-rate virus and malware detector, and has the intelligence to do it largely under the radar. However, compared with league-leading Norton Internet Security 2009, it takes longer to install, performance is not quite as good—taking nearly twice as long for a scan, for instance—and it has fewer overall features at a slightly higher price.