Installing Security Cloud gets you leading-edge antivirus, browsing protection, a firewall, parental controls, a password manager, banking protection, a basic VPN, a software updater, encryption, secure file deletion, local backup and more.
While that's an impressively lengthy list, it's not quite as good as it first sounds. In particular, the VPN doesn't allow you to choose a location and only gives you 500MB of daily traffic, barely enough for 30 minutes of standard definition video streaming. Upgrading to the full VPN costs from $29.99 a year to cover five devices.
You'll get much the same features with Kaspersky Total Security, but Security Cloud has some unique technologies of its own.
The Kaspersky website highlights Security Cloud's '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.
Security Cloud is available on Windows, Android, iOS and Mac. All devices are managed through your web-based My Kaspersky console, so you might email an installation download link to someone, and view and tweak their security status once they're set up.
Although Security Cloud and Total Security share a very similar feature set right now, that may change over time. Kaspersky has said that when it does introduce new tools, they'll appear in Security Cloud first.
Kaspersky Security Cloud really wins out for its Family plan, though, where support for up to 20 devices costs only $112.49 in year one, $149.99 on renewal.
In comparison, Bitdefender Total Security 2020 covers up to 10 devices, but it's still priced at $54.99 in year one, $99.99 on renewal. That's cheaper coverage per device in year one, but more expensive afterwards.
Avira Prime is fractionally cheaper in the long term at $129.99 to cover 25 devices, but we would expect that – its antivirus is great, but the package can't quite match Kaspersky Security Cloud for security features.
Overall, Kaspersky Security Cloud looks like good family value to us, especially if you can use support for all 20 devices. But if Kaspersky Total Security is all you need, check out its pricing, too. Although it's more expensive in some situations, it can save you money in others, especially when you're only covering a small number of devices.
We began our setup from the 'My Kaspersky' web account console, entering an activation key and choosing an installation method. Options included downloading an installer directly, or from the app store, or sending an email to a friend or family member with a download link.
We took the download route, and waited as the installer set up Security Cloud. This proved a little more aggressive than the average antivirus installer, listing KC Software's SUMo (a free version of its software updater) as 'incompatible software' and demanding we uninstall it.
We're struggling to see a reason for this, as our copy of SUMo was the free build, which doesn't automatically update software or do anything even faintly risky. But we didn't want to argue, so uninstalled SUMo anyway, and the rest of the installation was hassle-free.
Kaspersky's main Windows console is a simple launcher which displays device security status, and presents users with eight tiles, each representing a module or function area (Scan, Password Manager, Protection for Kids, the Secure Connection VPN, and so on). Tap a tile and you're able to view and use its various features.
While this is very easy to use, there isn't the control or feedback you'll see with some competitors. Bitdefender 2020 enables running a Quick Scan direct from the launcher, for instance. Kaspersky requires you to open the Scan screen, then choose Quick Scan, for an extra click each time.
Avira's launcher is stronger on system status, for example displaying your VPN's connection status so it's visible at a glance. Kaspersky just displays its Secure Connection VPN icon, and you must switch to the app (or check the system tray icon) to see if you're connected.
Although it may not have some of the extras you'll see elsewhere, Kaspersky's launcher is undeniably simple and straightforward, and our checks showed that the package is well-protected from malware, too. We tried to close key processes, stop services, play with Registry keys or delete files, but our attacks had precisely no effect, and our protection wasn’t compromised at any time.
A click on the main console takes you directly to Kaspersky's Scan window. It has just about as plain and ordinary an interface as you'll ever see, but you'll know how to use it immediately: there's a sidebar with a list of scan types (Full, Quick, Selective or External Device), there's a Run Scan button, Schedule and Settings options are clearly visible, and that's about it.
The simplicity doesn't mean the Scan window is short on features, though. Click the Quick Scan option, say, and you don't just get a Run Scan button; you'll also see a summary of the last Quick Scan report you did. No need to hunt around for a separate Logs or History feature if you need to compare figures: the results you need are right there.
Kaspersky is great at handling simultaneous scans, too. If you need to scan a download while some lengthy system scan is running, for instance, most antivirus will open a second window or warn that you'll have to wait until scan #1 has finished. Here, Kaspersky just displays new tasks, reports on their progress and reports on the results all in the same window. Much more convenient.
Scans were fast, at least initially, with Kaspersky taking 16 minutes to check our test 50GB of data (around 440,000 files). That's around 30% faster than Avira and Bitdefender managed when we evaluated them.
There's not a lot of optimization, though, and even if we turned on a 'Scan new and changed files only' setting, subsequent scans still took around 9 minutes. Bitdefender 2020 behaved more as we expected during its review, checking only new and modified files, cutting its scan times to as low as 80 seconds.
Kaspersky Security Cloud scans didn't make a significant difference to system performance, though, so even if there's more background scanning than usual, you might not care very much.
Installing Kaspersky Security Cloud gets you an intelligent firewall which controls internet access and blocks network attacks, typically without ever hassling you with prompts or alerts. It worked without issue for us, but if you do encounter any problems, or you need a custom setup, you're able to tweak or set up custom rules for applications or packets.
Other networking tools aren't always as smart. Security Cloud raises an alert when devices connect to your wireless network, for instance, but these messages aren't always as helpful as we'd like. For example: 'Device connected to your Wi-Fi network: (null)' – uh, thanks.
Kaspersky's URL filtering is on hand to keep you away from dangerous links. This blocked all our test URLs, instead displaying a message explaining the problem (Security Cloud found this was a dangerous site), but, conveniently, also gave us an option to say 'no, that's wrong, I want to visit anyway.' Works for us.
Kaspersky Security Cloud includes the basic free build of its Hotspot Shield-powered Secure Connection VPN. The underlying VPN isn't bad, but this edition is very, very limited.
There's no option to choose a location, for example – the client allocates one automatically.
This location may not be where you expect. When we tested in the UK, the VPN connected us to servers in the Netherlands or Germany, potentially preventing us accessing geoblocked UK sites we'd otherwise be able to visit.
And, oh yes, the service limits you to 500MB traffic a day. At roughly 15GB a month, that's more generous than most, but you could still use it up in a single browsing session without much difficulty.
Secure Connection still has some value for light use, maybe protecting mobile devices when you're accessing public Wi-Fi (the data limit is per device, not per account, so every mobile protected gets its own 500MB). And it's not unusual for security vendors to limit VPN use in suites; Avira and Bitdefender do exactly the same. But there are exceptions, and for example Norton 360 Deluxe gives you a full VPN as well as its antivirus and other tools.
Kaspersky's Password Manager is a decent mid-range tool 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). 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.
Security Cloud includes a Spam Filter, but it's disabled by default. Turning it on gave us a clue as to why, because it seems that 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 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 and isolated browser which protects your financial details when you're 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 – Security Cloud 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 Privacy Protection module alerts you when apps access your webcam, and enables blocking them in the 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 appears for just five seconds), spotted the option list, tapped a button and chose the Block option.
Although we didn't review them, the other privacy tools looked more interesting. Account Check watches your website logins and lets you know if your details may have been exposed in a breach, and Private Browsing blocks multiple types of web trackers (social networks, web analytics, ad agencies, web beacons).
Kaspersky's Hard Drive Health feature alerts users to failing storage, letting them move their data before it's lost. Or at least, that's the idea. Kaspersky showed us a pop-up warning that our SSD health had worsened, was now rating a critical 0% and failure could be imminent.
That could easily panic non-technical users – hey, it scared us a little – but our own tests showed this was nonsense. Windows' own check gave us an 'OK' status (run "wmic diskdrive get model,status" at a command line) and the veteran CrystalDiskInfo said the drive's health status was good, with a score of 92%.
A Software Updater module was more useful on our test system, detecting missing security patches for Java and 7-Zip. It doesn't give you the control or functionality of Avira's patch manager, but it's well worth having.
A basic backup tool enables running simple local backups. It's designed to be easy to use, for example allowing you to back up all your movies in very few clicks, but there are freeware tools which do much more. Some security suites go further, too; for example, Norton Security Deluxe's mid-range plan includes a professional online backup tool with 50GB of cloud storage.
Security Cloud has plenty of smaller tools tucked away, but most of these are even more limited, more about padding out the feature list than anything else. A Clean and Optimize section has a few small clean-up and tweaking options, for instance, but they're so inferior to competitors like CCleaner that we're struggling to see why they're included at all.
Kaspersky Security Cloud still has a lot of worthwhile functionality, including the firewall, parental controls, and maybe the password manager. But despite the length of the feature list, the quality tails off dramatically towards the end, and other suites win out in some areas (Norton 360 has an unrestricted VPN and an online backup tool, Bitdefender 2020 has an excellent antispam tool).
- We’ve highlighted the best antivirus software
Kaspersky has always had above average results from the independent testing labs, and 2019 shows the company doing better than ever.
AV-Comparatives' Real-World Protection Test assesses the performance of 16 top antivirus engines against common and brand-new threats. It can be a tough benchmark, but Kaspersky made first place in the February - May 2019 summary report with a perfect 100% protection rate and zero false positives.
AV-Comparatives also has a small anti-phishing certification test covering six providers (Avast, Avira, Bitdefender, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Trend Micro). Bitdefender topped the list with 98% detection, Trend Micro followed with 97%, but Avast and Kaspersky made equal third, blocking a decent 94%.
AV-Test's June 2019 Windows Home User test results were just as impressive, with Kaspersky Internet Security blocking 100% of results in all tests and scoring maximum points for Protection, Performance and Usability.
To complete the review, we ran a custom-developed ransomware simulator on our test system. Kaspersky hadn't seen our code before, effectively making it a brand-new and undiscovered threat. Would its behavior monitoring be up to the task?
We ran our simulator, and nothing happened for a few seconds. But then an alert told us that a threat had been detected and removed. Our simulator managed to encrypt just six files, but Kaspersky handled that, too, rolling back our simulator's actions and restoring the original files only a few seconds later.
Our simulator is extremely basic and there's no guarantee Kaspersky Security Cloud will block other ransomware in the same way, but this was still a great result, and puts Kaspersky alongside Bitdefender for excellence in ransomware blocking and recovering lost data.
Kaspersky Security Cloud has an excellent antivirus engine and does a great job of protecting users from even brand-new threats. The rest of the suite doesn't quite have the power or polish of the top competition, but it's still worth a closer look.
- We’ve chosen the best internet security suites in this roundup