This is our all-in-one roundup reviewing every Kaspersky consumer security solution for 2020. On this page, after our brief intro, you’ll find
(a) a full evaluation of the entry-level Kaspersky Anti-Virus, along with our reviews of the additional features incorporated with the rest of the range:
(b) Kaspersky Internet Security, and
(c) the top-end package Kaspersky Total Security, and
(d) a quick look at the advantages of the Kaspersky Security Cloud range
You can jump to the reviews of those individual products by clicking on the links in the bar at the top of this page, but bear in mind that this article is really designed to be read all the way through, as the features of Kaspersky Anti-Virus are also present in the higher-level security suites, of course.
Every PC needs quality antivirus protection, but that doesn't necessarily mean spending big money on the latest do-everything security suite. Kaspersky's starter consumer product is Kaspersky Anti-Virus, a straightforward package which focuses on the core security fundamentals only: antivirus to detect well-known and brand new malware, and malicious URL filtering to keep you away from dangerous links.
Steep discounting gets you a three-device, one-year Kaspersky Anti-Virus license for just $30, doubling to $60 on renewal – which is identical pricing to Bitdefender Antivirus Plus.
Extending that subscription can save a little cash, so for example a five-device, three-year Anti-Virus license is $120 initially, $240 on renewal. That's decent value for the first term, not so much afterwards; the equivalent Bitdefender Antivirus Plus license has no introductory discount, but it's only $150, potentially saving you a lot of cash in the long-term.
Kaspersky Internet Security extends Anti-Virus with a firewall, a secure browser to keep your online transactions safe, and protection from webcam hijacking. And it's not just for Windows anymore: Internet Security has apps for Mac and Android, too.
Much like Anti-Virus, Kaspersky Internet Security pricing is most competitive at the low-end, starting at a reasonable $40 ($80 on renewal) for a three-device, one-year license. A five-device, three-year license is less impressive at $135 initially, $270 on renewal. The equivalent Bitdefender Internet Security license is $170.
The top-of-the-range Kaspersky Total Security throws in Kaspersky's Safe Kids parental controls, a password manager for PC, Mac and Android, and a Windows backup tool.
This isn't the longest of feature lists, but then the suite is only marginally more expensive than Internet Security at $50 ($100 on renewal) to cover five-devices over a year, or $225 ($450 on renewal) to cover a family-sized 10 devices for a period of three years.
Kaspersky's Security Cloud range gives you all the same features, and a few more. Kaspersky's 'adaptive protection' technology offers intelligent help when you need it, for instance, warning you if a password you've chosen is too weak, or offering to enable its VPN if you're connected to an insecure network.
Prices are similar to Total Security, but the Security Cloud range has a couple of highlights.
Bargain hunters will appreciate Security Cloud Free, which offers capable antivirus protection for no charge at all.
And the Security Cloud Family product has an appealing license scheme which protects twice as many devices as Total Security (20 as opposed to 10) for almost the same price. Worth a look if you've got a lot of hardware to cover.
Kaspersky's installation process is simple, streamlined, and just about as speedy as we've seen. The trial download links are clearly highlighted on the website, and the installer is tiny. It asked us to accept the license agreement and automatically downloaded and set up the rest of the package.
We didn't have a license and hadn't given Kaspersky our email address, but the installer didn't care. All we had to do was tap an 'Activate Trial License' link and our Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2020 setup was ready to go.
(The program displayed a follow-up prompt asking us to connect our program to a My Kaspersky account, allowing us to view its status from the web. But this isn't necessary, and if you're not interested, you can simply close the window and carry on using the antivirus as normal.)
It's important that an antivirus can protect itself from malware, so we completed our initial checks by running some simple tests to see if we could delete or disable any Kaspersky files. The package does a good job of protecting itself, though, and our attacks didn't leave as much as a scratch on Kaspersky's armor.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus has been a leading security product for a very long time, so it's probably no surprise that there are no major changes in the 2020 release. Still, we did spot a few small but worthwhile additions in the 'What's New' page.
Kaspersky's product services now all communicate via HTTPS, for instance. Good news, though we're surprised that the firm wasn't doing that already.
The application monitors the strength of passwords when registering on new websites, alerting you to any problems.
Smarter self-protection includes the ability to restart the Windows Base Filtering Engine (a very important system security technology) if it's stopped.
Neat usability touches include the ability to downgrade to Kaspersky Free if the paid version expires, although apparently this isn't available in all regions (the Kaspersky site doesn't say who is covered and who isn't).
There are a few tweaks here and there in the 2020 release, then, but nothing that you'll notice, and certainly nothing that will change your security life.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus has a simple interface which displays your current protection status (a reassuring green tick, hopefully) and four main buttons for carrying out key tasks: launching scans, updating the database, viewing reports or opening an on-screen keyboard.
The Scan panel allows you to run quick or full system scans, as well as checking your external drives or whatever files and folders you specify. All this functionality requires more navigation than some packages, so for example it takes three clicks from the console to launch a Quick Scan, but the system isn't difficult to use and it's good to have these options available.
Scan speeds are marginally above average. If you want them to be faster, though, enabling an option to scan only new or changed files reduced our test scan times from 17 minutes to 24 seconds.
A simple scheduler is on hand to automatically run any scan type every day, weekday, weekend, weekly or monthly. Sensible configuration options allow the scan to be rerun the next day if the computer is turned off while it's in mid-flow, and you can minimize any performance impact by running scans only when the computer is locked, or your screensaver is active.
Experts will appreciate the level of control Kaspersky Anti-Virus provides over each scan type, including the areas of your system it checks, the type of files it examines, the detection engines it might use and what happens to detected threats (does Kaspersky disinfect the file, just delete it, or ask you what to do?).
AV-Comparatives' Real-World Protection tests aim to show how all the top antivirus engines perform against a range of known and brand new threats. The February-May summary report found Kaspersky at its usual best, first out of 16 with a perfect 100% detection rate and zero false positives, but the July-October report saw Kaspersky way back in 14th place with a poor 99.1% result.
That's a little disappointing, but other labs have a different view.
AV-Test's Windows Home User reports found no issues at all, with Kaspersky Internet Security blocking 100% of test threats in every 2019 test published so far (that's 10/10).
SE-Labs' October-December 2019 Home Anti-Malware Protection report was similar, with Kaspersky Internet Security beating 14 other contenders with 100% accuracy in every test metric.
This doesn't make the poor AV-Comparatives result go away, but it suggests we shouldn't draw any major conclusions from it, or at least not yet. We'll monitor further results in 2020 to see what happens next.
In the meantime, although we don't have the resources to begin to match the big independent testing labs, we don't want to take their verdicts entirely on trust, either. That's why we also put antivirus software through some smaller custom tests of our own.
We started by obtaining a list of 100 brand new suspect URLs from independent security testing company MRG Effitas. This is a tough test as many of the URLs are only hours old, but Kaspersky Anti-Virus still performed very well by blocking 74% at either the URL filtering or file level (Windows SmartScreen managed only 60% in comparison).
Finally, we pitted the program against a simple ransomware simulator of our own. Although this wasn't in any way sophisticated, it wouldn't be a known threat to Kaspersky, forcing the package to rely on its behavior monitoring.
We ran our test program and Kaspersky launched its System Watcher module to monitor the simulator's actions. It realized our program was dangerous almost immediately, terminating the process and deleting its file. The simulator was able to encrypt a handful of documents before it could be stopped, but even that wasn't a problem, as Kaspersky Anti-Virus also immediately restored the originals. These are great results, and show that the program can protect against even some brand new and undiscovered threats without difficulty.
There's more to Kaspersky Anti-Virus than malware hunting. A simple on-screen keyboard is always available to guard against the logging of usernames, passwords, account numbers and other confidential details. We pitted it against a couple of commercial keyloggers, and neither could record any of our keystrokes.
A Vulnerability Scan checks for missing security patches, poorly configured Windows settings, and more. This detected that autorun for removable drives was enabled on our test system, for instance, perhaps leaving us vulnerable to USB key-based malware, but we were able to fix the problem in a couple of clicks.
A Windows Troubleshooting Wizard looks for any non-standard operating system settings which might have been damaged by malware, and enables fixing them all in a single operation. This sounds like a good idea, but we're not sure how many issues it looks for, and it didn't find anything on our review system beyond the auto-run problem we knew about already.
The Browser Configuration Wizard also isn't as interesting as it sounds, because the module only looks for configuration issues with Internet Explorer. This is still the engine used by some applications, though, so even if you haven't used IE in years, finding and fixing any gremlins may help make you fractionally more secure.
The Privacy Cleaner can detect and remove various Windows and application records of your activities, from your browsing history and cookies to your Recent Documents lists, the last programs you've run, the folders you've opened, and more. It's a little more capable than the other extras – the tool was able to clean up Chrome and Opera traces, for instance, though not Firefox – but again, there are more capable freeware packages around.
The final item, Kaspersky Rescue Disk, is a bootable environment to help detect and remove deeply embedded threats which might stop Windows launching properly. This is a useful feature, but anyone can download it for free from the Kaspersky website, and all Kaspersky Anti-Virus does is link to the relevant web page.
Overall, Kaspersky's bonus features are weak, and can't match the best of the competition. Avast Free Antivirus includes the excellent Wi-Fi Inspector to detect wireless vulnerabilities, can check for password strength, and detect and update missing software patches. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus gives you a password manager, online banking protection and a built-in bootable rescue mode. You shouldn't buy any antivirus for the extras, but we would like to see Kaspersky offer a little more than it currently does.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2020 doesn't have the extras to match some of the competition, but who cares when you're getting one of the best and most accurate antivirus engines around?
Kaspersky Internet Security
Kaspersky Internet Security extends the Kaspersky Anti-Virus franchise, but only a little, with much the same features that you'd expect from any internet security suite.
There's a firewall, for instance, to block network attacks and decide which of your apps can go online. You also get a secure browser which aims to keep your online transactions safe, along with a spam filter to block junk mails, and there's protection from webcam hijacking.
Perhaps crucially, it's not just for Windows anymore: Internet Security has apps for Mac and mobile devices, too.
While we're struggling to get excited about any of this, these extras aren't expensive. A three-device, one-year license costs $40 for the first term, for instance, $80 on renewal, only a little more expensive than Kaspersky Anti-Virus Plus ($30 initially, $60 on renewal).
So, is Kaspersky Internet Security worth the extra cost? Let's find out.
Kaspersky sells Internet Security in part on its multi-platform support, with apps for Android and Mac as well as PCs.
The Mac app is a capable product which looks similar to the Windows build, with antivirus, malicious URL blocking, webcam hijacking protection and a secure browser to keep your online banking transactions safe from prying eyes.
The Android app also has some worthwhile features – automatic scanning, anti-phishing, anti-theft, an app locker – but it's not your only option. Sticking with Kaspersky Anti-Virus doesn't mean your Android phone has to be entirely unprotected, for instance; installing the free build gets you anti-theft and basic on-demand scanning, which should do a little to keep you safe.
On balance, Kaspersky Internet Security looks well worth the price premium if you've Macs to protect, or you're just looking to add Android support with minimal hassle.
But experienced users who already have a decent free Android antivirus app might not see as much benefit, especially if they can use Kaspersky's free Android offering as another security layer. If that sounds like you, run the trial version first, and see how it performs compared to your existing antivirus.
Installing Kaspersky Internet Security gets you an intelligent firewall which controls internet access and blocks network attacks. It almost never hassles you with prompts or alerts, a major improvement on some competitors (ESET's relatively dumb firewall might ask you to make its key decisions).
This worked without issue for us, but if you do have any problems, or you need a custom setup, you're able to tweak or implement custom rules for applications or packets. (If you've got the network expertise to figure out the low-level technicalities, anyway.)
Internet Security includes a Spam Filter, but it's disabled by default. Turning it on gave us a clue as to why, because it seems the filter works by passing information about each email back to Kaspersky's servers to get a 'junk' or 'legitimate' verdict. This seemed to slow down the process of collecting new emails on our test PC, and the level of accuracy didn't match Bitdefender's spam filter, so you'll probably be better off with a specialist antispam tool.
Safe Money is a secure, isolated browser which protects your financial details when shopping online. Although you can launch it separately, we found that wasn't necessary. Whenever we tried to pay for something at a popular site – eBay, Amazon, and so forth – Internet Security prompted us to open the link in Safe Money. We agreed, the payment page opened in a Safe Money window, and we handed over our cash in the usual way. (If you're not interested, you can tell Kaspersky not to bother you with Safe Money alerts ever again.)
A Private Browsing feature takes a more active role in protecting your privacy by blocking multiple types of web trackers (social networks, web analytics, ad agencies, web beacons).
A Webcam Protection module alerts you when apps access your webcam, and enables blocking them in future.
In our tests, this worked, but only for future captures, and only if you're paying attention. When our test app grabbed a webcam image, for example, Kaspersky didn't attempt to stop it. We had a chance to stop future captures, but only if we noticed the tiny notification (which was visible for just five seconds), spotted the option list, tapped a button and chose the Block option.
We prefer the approach taken by Bitdefender and most other suites, where a dialog appears when an app requests access to the webcam, and this isn't allowed until you specifically approve it.
Kaspersky does have a separate privacy bonus. Although it doesn't boast about it on the website, the suite detects and can block attempts to record audio, too. This is presented using an entirely separate alert system, which doesn't make a lot of sense – we think webcam and microphone hijacking attempts should at least be managed together – but that's a minor point: it detects the threat, and that's what counts.
A Software Updater module checks for missing patches, and correctly found and installed updates for Java and 7-Zip on our test PC. It's not quite as capable as Avira's updater, but it's worth having.
Kaspersky Internet Security can download and install the free edition of Kaspersky's Safe Kids, a parental controls module. This version only covers the most basic features, though, with options to limit access to websites and restrict device usage by time. Its more advanced features – checking your child's location on a map, monitoring social media accounts, reporting on your child's activities – are reserved for the Premium version.
Internet Security has various smaller tools tucked away, but most of these are underpowered, and they are more about making up the numbers than anything else. Still, there's plenty of protective power here, with multiple layers combining to reduce your exposure to attackers.
Looking at the suite from an overall perspective, Kaspersky Internet Security doesn't add anything especially compelling to Kaspersky's consumer feature list. Firewall? We'd expect one with any security suite. Spam filter? Well, okay, but it's average at best. Secure browser? Welcome as an option, but we suspect most customers prefer to use their regular browser with some quality security add-ons and extensions.
Still, the firewall is effective, the additional Android and Mac protection is worth having, and this all builds on Kaspersky's excellent antivirus engine. Kaspersky Internet Security might not be exciting, but it's still a quality product which does a lot to keep you safe.
Check out Kaspersky Security Cloud and Total Security too, though – they have more power for little extra cost. We will cover those next…
Kaspersky Total Security
Kaspersky Total Security is a comprehensive security suite which builds on Kaspersky Internet Security with some useful additional features.
Kaspersky's Password Manager is a decent mid-range effort which enables generating, managing and syncing your passwords across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. With features like auto-filling for addresses and credit card details, along with a secure photo gallery, it's more capable than the password managers you'll get with some competitors (Avira's is far more limited, for example). But there are issues, too – many more advanced features aren't available on the mobile apps, for instance – and it can't match specialist password managers like Dashlane.
Kaspersky's Safe Kids is a smart parental controls module which delivers all the core features you'd expect (filtering unwanted web content, restricting time spent on particular activities or using a device) with useful social media monitoring (watch changes to your child's Friends list, look for posts where they're mentioned). Well worth having.
A basic backup tool lets you run simple local backups. It's designed to be easy to use, for example allowing you to back up all your movies in a few clicks, but there are freeware tools which do much more. Some security suites go further, too; for example, Norton 360 Deluxe's mid-range plan includes a professional online backup tool with 50GB of cloud storage.
Much like Kaspersky Internet Security, there's no 'must-have' feature here. But if you'll use Safe Kids, and maybe you'd like a password manager without having to go hunting for it separately, Total Security looks like a reasonable choice at $50 ($100 on renewal) to cover five devices over one year, or $225 ($450 on renewal) to cover a family-sized 10 devices over three years.
But if you need more, then keep reading – Kaspersky's consumer security range has more to offer yet.
Kaspersky Security Cloud
Baseline antivirus, one mid-range suite, one high-end – those are the typical consumer security offerings for most vendors. But for reasons we don't entirely understand, Kaspersky also has a separate Security Cloud family with some extras of its own.
The Kaspersky website highlights Security Cloud's main benefit as 'adaptive protection', where the service automatically adapts how it works to suit your needs.
If a site you use regularly is breached, for instance, you'll be warned to change your password. When you're out and about, it'll automatically enable the VPN or launch a secure browser to protect your credit card details. Or if there's not a lot going on, it'll clear up system junk or optimize your device for the best performance.
There are a handful of other extras, though they didn't always work for us. A 'hard drive health' feature warned us that our hard drive condition had worsened, for instance, leaving us wondering if this was something important – maybe our drive was about to fail.
However, specialist tools, Windows event log checks and other low-level investigations revealed absolutely no problems at all. That might not be a big deal if you're an experienced user, willing to look into this kind of issue yourself. But it's easy to imagine how less technical types might be left scared that their hard drive is on the verge of giving up the ghost, and they might even spend money on new backup measures 'just in case'.
At the low-end of the range is Security Cloud Free. It's the core Kaspersky antivirus engine with most of the features from the paid tools, and Kaspersky's adaptive technology thrown in. (Kaspersky's blog post on the package covers the fine details.)
For the commercial products, Kaspersky Security Cloud Personal is essentially Total Security plus adaptive protection, while Kaspersky Security Cloud Family supports up to 20 devices on a single license.
It's the extra licensing options that are Security Cloud Family's major advantage, especially if you have a lot of hardware to protect.
A Kaspersky Total Security 10-device, one-year license costs $75 for the first term, $150 on renewal, for instance. But Kaspersky Security Cloud can protect up to 20 devices for fractionally more at $90 in year one, and the same $150 afterwards.
It looks like Kaspersky Security Cloud could be a smart choice in the long-term, then, depending on your hardware situation. But if you're in doubt, keep in mind that there are separate 30-day trials of every product we've mentioned, as well as a Security Cloud Free build you can use forever, so there's plenty of opportunity to find out what works for you.
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