Kaspersky has long been a favorite of security experts and tech enthusiasts worldwide. Kaspersky began to pursue online threats in 1997 and earlier this year celebrated their thirteenth anniversary. They consistently rank among the best in detection and removal, although they have occasionally been criticized for an overly complex interface. With this latest installment in the Security for Everyone series, we will look at the newly released Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 product and choose for ourselves if form and function are more together than apart.
Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 comes in a bit heavy at just over 100 MB. The size of the download, however is made up for by the ease of installation. You do have the option to change the installation settings but there is really very little reason to do this, if any at all. Before you know it, the installation is done and your desktop is adorned with a shiny new gadget just begging to be clicked. This is the first security suite I've reviewed that includes a desktop gadget. The gadget will be a nice addition for many people, however it doesn't do much for me. The only time I see the desktop is when the PC is turning on or shutting down. The gadget does provide quick access to the main Kaspersky interface, Reports and Safe Run for Applications.
The main interface is attractive and appears easy to follow. It can be found by clicking on the gadget, double clicking the system tray icon or searching from the start menu. There are numerous options available from the initial screen alone and clicking on just about anything presents more options, none too overwhelming at first glance and the more advanced among them starting a wizard to walk you through individual tasks. As you might expect, the main functions of any security suite are quickly accessible within one or two clicks. These include the ability to kick off a scan and identify when the last update was performed. Other compelling features are only a click away within the Safe Run, Tools and Parental Control areas. We'll dig into these features in the next section.
It's also good to see quick links to Quarantine and Reports in the header area of the main interface. These links are apparent throughout the application. Nothing can be quite as frustrating as needing to quickly recover a file that has been wrongly identified as a threat and finding yourself digging through screen after screen to find and release it. It would appear Kaspersky understands this as well.
Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 has done a fine job of staying out of my way thus far. There have not been any intrusive pop-ups, initial updates and scans have started and ended without prompting and, surprisingly, the warm glow of the gadget is a bit comforting. The initial impression is good, however; I am looking forward to digging into the more compelling and new features in the next section.
Ease of Use and Configuration
As with previous versions of Kaspersky's antivirus and antispyware applications, Kaspersky leaves little to the imagination when it comes to available settings. The number of advanced options is such that anyone desiring to fine tune the program to their specific needs will not be disappointed. Options exist around application privileges, network port mapping, file scanning details and many many more. The image below shows just a glimpse of the level one can pursue when defining application rules.
The good news regarding the vast number of options is I have encountered few instances where adjusting them was really required outside of pure curiosity. This bodes well for the novice user as the default configuration appears to be sufficient.
The 2010 version of Kaspersky Internet Security introduced the Safe Run for Applications feature which was very well received, and rightfully so. The option to run an application in an isolated and protected space is one we could all benefit from and continues to persist in this latest version of Kaspersky's security suite. This option can be activated from the desktop gadget, by right clicking the system tray icon and from the main interface via the Safe Run section. Once activated the Safe desktop is loaded and accented visually with a green border.
With Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 the Safe Run options have been expanded by introducing Safe Run for Websites. Selecting this option will open your default browser in its own protected space with the familiar green border. With more and more of what we do on our computers existing online this is a welcome addition and alternative to the heavier Safe Run for Applications.
Parental Control was introduced in the 2010 suite. In 2011 Kaspersky has kept the same basic options but expanded on them greatly. While there may be a plethora of options, accessing them does not requires wandering into the main program settings as in the previous version. This isn't your typical parental control. Imagine sending your child, or grandchild, out into the world with not only a parent to watch over them but a few body guards and a member of the secret service as well. Kaspersky covers the expected items like Web Browsing and Computer Usage with controls around when usage is allowed, how long one can browse online, restricted sites and so on. They've also added application control which can explicitly block access to certain applications or simply limit its use. A couple of final options, not enabled by default, are Private Data and Word Usage.
With Private Data and Word Usage Kaspersky can monitor for the entry of specific bits of information like credit card numbers, addresses, eye color, obscenities and anything else you'd like to be aware of or block. In this day when stories of identity theft are becoming common place this level of control and monitoring is welcome to see, when the need for it isn't so alarming.
Occasionally a system can become infected to the point Kaspersky, or any other security solution, will not run properly. When this happens it's often necessary to boot to a secure shell where the system can be scanned and cleaned appropriately. Kaspersky offers a Rescue Disk utility to fill this need. A good proactive security tactic is the identification and resolution of application and operating system vulnerabilities. You guessed it, Kaspersky has a very effective vulnerability scanner as well.
Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 does a nice job with visual cues. If a critical feature is disabled or an update has not been performed in some time the prominent gadget and application colors are changed to reflect the situation. In basic terms, green is good, yellow indicates a warning and red means something has been identified that requires your immediate attention.
I'm impressed with the changes in Kaspersky Internet Security 2011. The interface has improved from the perspective that it no longer requires navigating into the advanced settings to modify every feature. This new approach is certainly admirable and should keep from scaring away the novice user.
The Kaspersky firewall is accessible from the Online Security section found in the Protection Center area of the main interface. Here you can access the firewall settings, disable it or open the help documentation.
The firewall settings are grouped into three main areas: Application rules, Packet rules and Networks. Application rules let you define how an application interacts with the network. Kaspersky sets some default application access based on whether or not the vendor is trusted but you do have the option to define these settings yourself. Packet rules are those that apply when certain network conditions are met. The important thing to be aware of is packet rules have higher priority than application rules. You may also change the status of a network which in turn adjusts the default setting related to application and packet rules.
Kaspersky must be doing something right with the default firewall configuration. A Nessus and nmap scan produced very few results and none that bore the kind of information an attackers script might exploit. The alert displayed below is the only one encountered during my testing and was the result of a very intrusive scan. The lack of nagging prompts lends credibility to the strength of the auto detection engine. It also doesn't hurt that none of my applications were crippled due to being falsely classified.
As with other areas covered so far, the firewall settings will likely be overwhelming for the novice user. The truth though is they likely won't need to access them as the default protection is more than adequate without constantly reminding you that a firewall is actively protecting your PC.
Antivirus and Antispyware features
Kaspersky has been known for having a very good virus and spyware detection and removal rate. This tradition continues with Kaspersky Internet Security 2011.
Diving into the settings you'll find areas dedicated to File, Web, Mail and IM scanning. Within each section you'll find sliders for adjusting the security or scan level. You'll also find the option to enable or disable heuristic scanning. Heuristic scanning has been around for quite some time now and has proven very effective in identifying and isolating new threat like activity.
The web anti-virus settings has a couple of compelling features beyond the normal fare. Geo Filter helps you avoid websites from some of the most infected regional domains (according to Kaspersky Lab data). Within the Online Banking setting you'll find an interface which allows you to define any site where you might input confidential or sensitive data. If Kaspersky sees you are attempting to access a site you defined as containing confidential data you will be encouraged to switch over to Safe Run for Websites. Another feature that goes a long way toward protecting your identity.
AV-Comparatives, an independent anti-virus tester, has given Kaspersky their highest rating the last two years and have ranked them within the top 5 most effective solutions.
Real strides have been made to simplify the Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 interface. The deep application settings can still be easily found and I'm certain existing Kaspersky customers wouldn't want this any other way. Grandma, however, should not feel intimidated as the settings are not a required area of entry as in previous versions. The default protection provided is at a very high level and the lack of any false positives, during my testing, makes Kaspersky a wise consideration in any desktop security scenario. The verdict is a definite "Buy for Grandma!". Good work Kaspersky!