Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2019 is the latest generation of Kaspersky Lab's popular and reliable malware-hunter.
The package uses multiple techniques to keep you safe from harm. The core antivirus engine detects and blocks malware before it can touch your system; System Watcher uses behavior monitoring to spot even brand new, undiscovered threats; and there are separate layers to protect you from network attacks, dangerous email objects and malicious and phishing links.
A scattering of bonus features includes Kaspersky Secure Connection, a simple VPN based on Hotspot Shield. You can use this for free without registration, but a horribly low transfer limit of 200MB a day means you'll struggle to find a use for it. Upgrading to unlimited traffic costs a minimal $4.99 (£3.80) and might be interesting for some, but you don't have to buy Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2019 to use Secure Connection, and we wouldn't let it influence your antivirus choice.
There are no revolutionary changes in Kaspersky's 2019 release, but it does include several worthwhile enhancements.
A more intelligent behavioral model uses machine learning to detect threats from their behavior without requiring rules written by malware analysts.
Improved Windows integration can leverage Windows 10's own security tools to improve protection against a whole range of attacks.
New detection tricks allow Kaspersky to block outgoing requests to known malicious servers.
Elsewhere, adware is now detected and deleted by default, interface tweaks make it easier to see your protection status, and just about every area of the package has been optimized to run faster, and use fewer resources.
One thing that hasn't changed significantly is the price. Kaspersky Anti-Virus costs an average $32.50 (£24.99) for a one PC, one-year license, but add devices and extend your subscription and a five device, two-year license costs only $104 (£79.99), a low $10.40 (£8) per device year.
During the review, the trial build offered us a further 50% discount on our first license. We don't know who gets this or how long it might last, but if you're planning to buy the package anyway, it might be worth installing the trial to check this out.
If you need to protect multiple platforms, Kaspersky Total Security could be a smarter choice. It offers more features and protects PCs, Mac and mobile devices, yet is only marginally more expensive at $65 (£49.99) for a three device, one-year license, or $143 (£109.99) to protect five devices over two years.
Whatever you're after, all Kaspersky consumer products have 30-day trial builds available, free to download and use, with no payment details required.
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, 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 2019 setup was ready to go.
Well, not quite ready. The dashboard warned us of an issue, which turned out to be that the signatures and program files needed to be updated. Most packages do that automatically on installation, but having full control isn't necessarily a bad thing, and we were able to launch a full update with a click.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus had grabbed around 275MB of hard drive space, and was running two core processes requiring a relatively lightweight 90MB RAM while running in the background.
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 in Kaspersky's armor.
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.
Kaspersky claims the new release is faster than ever, and our tests suggested the same, with both Quick and Full scans running faster than average on our review system.
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 run the next day if the computer is turned off while it's active, 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 control Kaspersky Anti-Virus provides over how 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 it disinfect the file, just delete it, ask you what to do?)
This has all kinds of benefits. You could speed up Quick Scans by telling the program to check only new and changed files, for instance, or you could extend Full System Scans by having them look at specific network folders. There are risks, as optimizing scans for speed can reduce your protection, but again, it's good to have this power available if you need it.
What you don't get, unfortunately, is the ability to create entirely new scan types of your own. That's a better way to work, as for instance it would allow you to create an 'Ultra Quick Scan' with the absolute minimum of checks, while leaving the Quick Scan untouched, so you could choose whichever was appropriate. Avast and Avira allow this, and it's a real plus for experienced users, but Kaspersky leaves you with the built-in scan types only.
There's more to Kaspersky Anti-Virus than scanning, though. A simple on-screen keyboard is always available to protect the logging of user names, 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 systems 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 issues may help make you 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 not bad, but again, there are more capable freeware tools around.
The final item, Kaspersky Rescue Disk, refers to 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 2018 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 gets 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.
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 July 2018 report placed Kaspersky in first place out of a field of 18. It was the only package to achieve a perfect score, where it both blocked 100% of the test threats, and didn't raise a single false alarm.
Results can vary month-by-month, so we also checked AV-Comparatives' February to June report, a summary of 5 tests. This time Kaspersky came 4th out of 18, fractionally behind Trend Micro, F-Secure and Bitdefender. It still performed well, though, with 99.7% of threats blocked, and only a single false positive. Trend Micro and F-Secure blocked marginally more threats, but they also raised 38 and 111 false alarms, respectively, suggesting they're far more likely to cause you hassles on a day-to-day basis.
AV-Test's June 2018 Windows tests were even more positive about Kaspersky's engine, with the company scoring full marks for protection, performance and usability. Only Avira and McAfee (from a field of 18) were able to match Kaspersky's score.
We don't have the resources or review time to begin to match the big testing labs, but 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 600 brand-new suspect URLs from the website scanning company, Quttera, then running a test program to see how many would be blocked by Webroot SecureAnywhere, and Kaspersky Anti-Virus. This is a tough test as many of the URLs were only hours old, and few had been proved malicious, so anything either package might detect would be a plus. Webroot SecureAnywhere's score still looked low with only 38 blocked, but Kaspersky Anti-Virus effortlessly outperformed it by blocking 61 sites.
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 documents files 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 brand new and undiscovered threats without difficulty.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2019 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?
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