Nearly perfect protection, but with privacy concerns; Kaspersky Total Security Review
Moscow-based Kaspersky offers some of the highest-rated antivirus applications on the market. Kaspersky Total Security test perfect or nearly perfect in all unbiased industry tests, it works on a variety of systems, and it offers a wide variety of extras with a paid subscription.
However, there are a couple of areas where Kaspersky falls short of the mark. The first is in iOS offerings. There are a few tools available for iOS from Kaspersky—Security Cloud, Password Manager, Safe Kids, Safe Browser, Secure Connection, and QR Scanner—but no antivirus scanner.
Kaspersky also has a reporting feature, called Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), that takes liberal rights with what it collects and reports about not only the scans that Kaspersky antivirus products conduct, but also about your system and the data on your system that is examined by the application. This coupled with the previous allegations that Kaspersky has ties to the Russian government could be off-putting for some users.
With the above information out in the open, we tested Kaspersky Total Security ourselves to see how it measured up, and if it’s really worth using to protect yourself online. Read on for our findings.
Type of Protection/Security: Virus Definitions, Heuristic Monitoring, Firewall & More
If there is one clear advantage to Kaspersky Total Security, it’s that Kaspersky has protection covered. It doesn’t matter whether you need regular antivirus scans, heuristic monitoring for ransomware protection, a firewall to secure the perimeter, or protection for web browsing and online shopping. Kaspersky has you covered.
Total security comes with some of the highest-rated protection technologies available. According to test results from all the independent industry testing labs, Kaspersky Total Security scores perfect or nearly perfect every test cycle against known and unknown threats. When we tested it with our system, running Windows 10, not a single threat slipped past and in fact, a couple were uncovered that other antivirus applications missed. So, for basic security, Kaspersky gets top marks.
Total Security also comes bundled with an array of additional features that many users will find useful.
Types of Protection: Privacy Protection, Safe Money, & Parental Controls
Among the additional features that Total Security subscribers will receive are privacy and browsing controls similar to those found in most security suites, and a feature called Privacy Protection that lets users create lists of users to create lists of confidential contacts or block incoming text and call notifications.
A set of parental controls is also included that let users set safety levels for children, including monitoring internet usage and sites visited, using a GPS tracker on their devices, and determining which sites should be blocked from their child.
Internet privacy controls include private browsing and online transactions, as well as webcam protection. Interestingly enough, despite testing several other applications that claimed to have webcam protection, Kaspersky Total Security was the first to show visible warnings that the webcam on our test system was vulnerable. In one instance, we were warned that someone outside our network was trying to access the camera.
The Safe Money feature also keeps users’ online financial transactions safe from phishing and other attacks. Once this feature is enabled, Kaspersky protects users when signing into a bank website or a shopping payment system by ensuring the site is safe and by wrapping data that’s transferred in an extra layer of security.
For users concerned about internet privacy, financial safety, or parental controls, Kaspersky Total Security offers some nice tools and customization features that you may not find with other antivirus applications.
When it comes to the types of threats that Kaspersky protects your system against, it seems pretty much everything is covered.
Types of Protection: File Protections & Backup, With a Catch
Another nice feature of Kaspersky that you won’t find with some of the other antivirus applications on the market is a full contingent of file protection features. Data encryption allows you to encrypt specific files using AES encryption with a 56-bit effective key length. It’s not the strongest encryption on the market, but it is enough to ensure your files aren’t accessed by unauthorized users or cybercriminals trying to steal your data.
One thing about the data encryption that users should know is that encrypted data is stored in a data vault that requires you to select the file and folders you want to protect and then define the size of the vault you want them stored in. If your files outgrow that vault, you’ll have to create a new one. But you can have multiple vaults, so you should be able to protect anything you have.
There is also a file shredder that will completely obliterate any file that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands. The interesting thing with Kaspersky is that you have seven data deletion standards to choose from when you decide to use the shredder, and some of them are U.S.-military-grade shredder standards.
Finally, Kaspersky also offers an automatic backup capability so you know your important files and folders are always recoverable should the unthinkable happen. But there is one caveat: Kaspersky doesn’t provide any type of cloud-based storage for those backups. Instead, you can either use an FTP server or you must grant Kaspersky access to your Dropbox account, which makes us a little nervous, given the allegations of ties to the Russian government and concerns over some reporting features.
Scan Locations: Full Control Over What Is or Is Not Scanned
Like most high-end antivirus applications, Kaspersky gives you the ability to run several types of scans.
- A Full Scan will scan your entire computer.
- A Quick Scan scans the objects that are loaded with the operating system at startup.
- A Selective Scan allows you to scan specific files and folders.
- An External Device Scan can be used for connected portable drives of any kind.
We ran into two problems when installing and using Kaspersky. The first is that Kaspersky Total Security did not automatically run even a Quick Scan when first installed on our test computer. The initial scan must be kicked off manually. The second problem was that the first time we ran the Full Scan, it bogged our system down completely and we had to cancel the scan and schedule it to run when the system wasn’t in use. But there’s good news there, because you can schedule your scans to run when your system isn’t in use.
Subsequent scans seemed to run faster, but the full scan does cause some resource drain that heavy computer users will find frustrating. It is recommended to schedule scans during hours when the computer is not in use.
Scan Locations: Application Management and System Cleanup
Kaspersky Total Security includes management tools and a scan that many users will find helpful. The application management tools allow you to scan for out of date applications running on your system and automatically update them. Since this is one of the easiest ways for malicious attackers to gain access to your system, these tools are quite useful. You can also run a vulnerability scan to find out if any of your operating system attributes are putting you at risk.
There is also a set of tune-up tools that allow you to clean up unused and unwanted files from your system to free up hard drive space. Among these tools are a privacy cleaner that removes traces of your activity so you can’t be tracked online, and a browser configuration tool (that only works with Internet Explorer) to help you securely configure your browser to increase your protection online.
Unfortunately, these tools are only available with the Total Security product, and do not come bundled with the Anti-Virus or Internet Security products.
Types of Malware: The Best Coverage Money Can Buy
When it comes to the types of threats that Kaspersky protects your system against, it seems pretty much everything is covered. From excellent anti-phishing and anti-ransomware protection to near-perfect virus, Trojan, and worm control, you can’t go wrong with using this aspect of Kaspersky’s antivirus suites, and even the lowest-tier and cloud-based products offer this protection.
Industry testing through AV Comparatives, AV TEST, and other labs have proven time and again that when it comes to stopping threats, Kaspersky is the top of the line. Scoring perfect or near perfect in test after test, Kaspersky has the capability to stop whatever is thrown at it, from existing malware to Zero-Day threats, and in our tests, not one single virus slipped past Kaspersky’s real-time protection. We also experienced no false positives during any of the scans we performed, which means you don’t have to worry about accidentally deleting files that aren’t actually harmful and which may be needed by your system.
Kaspersky does an excellent job of protecting against all manner of internet threats.
Ease of Use: Not for the Faint of Heart
On the surface, Kaspersky looks fairly easy to use; and for the most part, it is. However, Kaspersky has some deep customization features that ordinary users may find a bit intimidating. For example, when using the data shredder, an average user may not understand the different standards available for destroying files.
So, while Kaspersky offers a Quick Delete option that uses an algorithm to write ones and zeros over the data twice to completely destroy any electronic trace, there are also other options. The GOST R 50739-95 is a Russian algorithm that replaces data with pseudorandom numbers, and the DoD 5250.22-M is a U.S. military-grade standard that rewrites data three times (but don’t let that fool you, because there have been instances where data shredded with this particular protocol have been restored). Several other data shredding protocols also exist, which could be intimidating to users that aren’t familiar with these technologies.
Also, some of the labels on Kaspersky’s dashboard might be a little confusing. Particularly the Safe Money and Privacy Protection labels. Users must dig deeper into those two categories of protection to learn more about what they do, and even then, some of the system descriptions aren’t definitive and can leave some users with lots of questions about what a function is or does and why the user might want to use it.
Update Frequency: Cloud-based, As Needed
Kaspersky typically updates virus definitions to users once or twice a day, and users taking advantage of the Kaspersky Cloud will have real-time access to new definitions as soon as they are available. Users also have a dashboard option to update the definition database at any time with a couple of mouse clicks. Clicking into the Database Update option also shows users when the last time updates were downloaded and installed, and control whether definitions are automatically downloaded and updated.
One interesting feature found on the Database Update screen that some users may find fascinating is the World Virus Activity Review link on the bottom right of the screen. Clicking that link will take you to a page on Kaspersky’s website that shows geographical maps of infections as well as lists of the Top Countries affected and the Top Infections that are circulating. The average user probably won’t have much use for this information, but it is interesting to see, and it will drive home just how at-risk your system could be, depending on what’s happening in a given geographical area at the current time.
Performance: Medium Resource Drains, Depending on Settings
Most users report that Kaspersky Total Security has little impact on their system, even during a full scan. Unfortunately, that’s not the experience we had as we tested Total Security on a Windows 10 computer while surfing, downloading, streaming, creating documents, and checking emails. We experienced significant drain during the first full scan on our test system.
Upon investigation, we discovered the drain was related to a feature called Kaspersky Security Network (KSN). KSN is the reporting aspect of Kaspersky’s products, and when we investigated it, we were slightly alarmed by the default permissions that users grant Kaspersky when installing. Essentially, KSN collects and reports data about your system that the company says is used to improve security options. We found that reporting to be somewhat intrusive when reading through the Terms of Service associated with it. It felt like we were granting permission to Kaspersky to collect and report everything, including the kitchen sink.
We also found it odd that Kaspersky would not perform a security scan straight out of the box, but it did immediately begin collecting and sending data to Kaspersky. The load of this process was so heavy on our system it caused multiple browser crashes before we turned the option off. Thankfully, you can choose not to allow this feature during installation, or if you allow it and change your mind in the future, you can disable it in Kaspersky’s settings. We strongly recommend you do not enable the feature until you have fully read the terms of service associated with it.
Additional Tools: A Contingent of Additional Tools
Kaspersky Total Security and Kaspersky Security Cloud offer a wide variety of additional features and tools, from data shredders to automatic backups, system tune-ups, and much more.
The lower-tier applications don’t offer quite as much, with Kaspersky Anti-Virus offering only basic antivirus protection and performance enhancements. You have to jump to Kaspersky Internet Security to get the privacy and money protection capabilities. And parental controls, password management, and file protection are only available in Kaspersky Total Security and Security Cloud.
Type of Support: What You Need, When You Need It
One nice advantage of Kaspersky is that you can get the help you need when you need it. The Kaspersky website features a useful knowledge base that includes a community and how-to videos. If that doesn’t get you the help you need, you also have the option to speak to someone on the phone, use online chat, or use the email help system. The one drawback is that live support options are only available from 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. ET. If you’re a night owl, that short window of unavailability might be frustrating.
Price: One of the More Expensive Packages
Kaspersky is known for having some of the more expensive antivirus offerings on the web. From the basic Anti-Virus offering to Total Security and Security Cloud, you can expect to pay higher price for Kaspersky. But you’ll also get better protection with the highest industry scores. You can expect to pay anywhere from around $30/month to more than $150/month, depending on the type of protection you choose and the number of devices you want to protect. Even Security Cloud is expensive, but some introductory offers could bring your cost down a little for the first year. After that first year, however, you can expect to pay much more.
Kaspersky also offers a free, no-credit-card-required, 30-Day trial if you want to try it out before you buy it.
Competition: Kaspersky vs. Bitdefender
Kaspersky and Bitdefender are the two top-rated antivirus applications available on the market. Both offer excellent virus and malware protection, and both offer a host of free add-ons with the higher paid tier plans. Both Kaspersky and Bitdefender also have free offerings that are the antivirus engine only, which perform just as well as the antivirus engine in the paid versions. However, Kaspersky has a free Security Cloud offering that includes a VPN, Password Management, Personalized Security Alerts, and Online Account Monitoring.
The greatest difference we could find between the two is that Bitdefender did an automatic virus scan on installation and it did not bog down our system while scanning, where Kaspersky requires you to manually fire off the scan, and our experience was that it dramatically slowed our test system down during that initial scan.
On cost, Kaspersky and Bitdefender are neck and neck, but only because Kaspersky offers a discount to new users. The regular price for Kaspersky’s products is about twice the cost of Bitdefender’s. Kaspersky’s Security Cloud is also relatively expensive, even at the discounted price.
Finally, Kaspersky has a cloud of suspicion hanging over it caused by allegations of ties to the Russian government and concerns over the data that is collected and reported. Users can (and should) adjust these settings, however.
Stay safe online with one of the best antiviruses out there.
Kaspersky is one of the highest-rated antivirus applications on the market. It does an excellent job of protecting against all types of internet threats, and it has some deep customization features and additional tools that don’t come with other antivirus applications. However, the allegations against the company are concerning, so we would recommend that you familiarize yourself with the issues and be sure to triple-check your data sharing settings. If the best of the best is what you’re after, Kaspersky has the goods. If privacy is a concern, however, Bitdefender may be a better option for you.
- Product Name: Kaspersky Total Security
- Price: $49.99
- Platform(s): Windows, Mac, Android
- Type of License: Annual
- Number of Devices Protected: 5-10, depending on the plan selected
- System Requirements (Windows): Windows 7 or higher, 1 GHz processor, 1GB free RAM
- System Requirements (Mac): macOS 10.12 (Sierra), macOS 10.13 (High Sierra), macOS 10.14 (Mojave); 1GB RAM; 900 MB disk space
- System Requirements (Android): Android 4.2 – 9, Intel Atom x86 or ARM 7 and later, 150 MB free space in main memory
- System Requirements (iOS): Only Kaspersky Cloud available for iOS devices running iOS 11.x or higher.
- Control Panel/Administration: Yes
- Payment Options: Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, PayPal
- Cost: $49.99/yr to $167.98 yr