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Kaspersky Total Security review

Top-notch security for all your family's desktop and mobile devices

Kaspersky Total Security
(Image: © Kaspersky)

Our Verdict

Total Security gives you top-notch antivirus protection, but not all modules live up to the same standard. Try it (and Kaspersky's fractionally more powerful Security Cloud), but check out competitors like Bitdefender and Norton 360, too.

For

  • Top-rated antivirus
  • Effective ransomware protection
  • Decent URL filtering

Against

  • VPN limited to 200MB per day
  • Many minor features are basic
  • Some slight niggles and problems

Kaspersky Total Security is a comprehensive security suite which includes just about everything you need to keep your family safe online.

There's top-rated antivirus, for instance. An intelligent firewall. Browsing protection blocks access to dangerous websites, parental controls help you manage your kids' device use, and banking protection stops others intercepting your financial details.

Some of the other tools aren't quite as useful as they sound. Kaspersky's Secure Connection VPN is included, but it's just the free version, which doesn't allow you to choose a location and is limited to 200MB of traffic a day. And although the suite includes a 'Cleanup and Optimize' section, it can't compare with the clean-up apps in Avira Prime, or even freeware such as CCleaner.

There's still a lot of power here, though, and many of the other bonus features are worth having. The Software Updater detects and installs missing patches, and an on-screen keyboard bypasses keyloggers. There is also a handy network monitor which shows what your apps are doing, an encryption tool that keeps your data safe from snoopers, and a file shredder capable of wiping confidential data to prevent it being restored.

Total Security is available on Windows, Android, iOS and Mac. The mobile editions don't have all the functions we've listed here, but have other abilities of their own, including (on Android) the option to password-protect apps and hide confidential calls and texts.

Pricing starts at $49.99 to cover five devices for the first year, $99.99 on renewal, and adding more devices and years gets you some discounts (a 10 device, three-year plan costs $167.98 for the first term, $449.97 on renewal).

Oddly, Kaspersky's Security Cloud suite has all the features of Total Security, and adds a few more (adaptive security, alerts for data breaches, plus it monitors apps accessing your microphone, and gives you 500MB/day traffic in the VPN), but is a very similar price for some licenses, and allows you to cover up to 20 devices. Compare Security Cloud and Total Security pricing for your preferred number of devices before you buy.

Although we're a little confused by Kaspersky's pricing policy, it's broadly comparable with similar products. For example, Bitdefender Total Security 2020 covers five devices for the same $49.99 in year one, $89.99 on renewal – that's a little cheaper long-term, but not enough to be a concern if you like Kaspersky's software.

Kaspersky Total Security

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

Setup

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 Total Security. This took a little while, but there were no hassles or complications.

Kaspersky's main Windows console is a simple launcher which displays your device security status, and presents users with eight tiles, each representing a module or function area (Scan, Password Manager, Protection for Kids, Safe Money banking protection, and so on). Tap a tile and you're able to view and use its various features.

This doesn't offer 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.

This more basic approach does bring some benefits, though. With no extra captions, buttons or lists, there's no chance of any confusion; it's all very easy to use.

And don't be fooled by Total Security's plain appearance – there's some very solid engineering underneath. We simulated various attacks malware might attempt to close key processes, stop services, play with Registry keys or delete files, but the app handled them all with ease, and our protection wasn’t compromised at any time.

Kaspersky Total Security

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

Antivirus

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 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 scanning tasks, reports on their progress and summarizes their 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 during their reviews.

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 Total Security scans don'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.

Scanning accuracy is more important, and we had no issues here, with the program immediately detecting even the least obvious of our test samples (a plain text file including a malicious JavaScript), and not raising a single false positive.

Kaspersky Total Security

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

Other features

Installing Kaspersky Total Security 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 have some problems, or you need a custom setup, you're able to tweak or implement custom rules for applications or packets.

Other networking tools aren't always as smart. Total Security 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, very informative.

Kaspersky Total Security

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

Kaspersky's URL filtering is on hand to keep you away from dangerous links. This blocked all our test URLs, displaying instead a message explaining the problem, but, conveniently, also gave us an option to say 'no, that's wrong, I want to visit anyway.' Works for us.

Total Security includes the basic free build of Kaspersky's Hotspot Shield-powered Secure Connection VPN. The underlying VPN isn't bad, but this edition is very, very limited.

Kaspersky Total Security

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

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 a server in the US, reducing performance and potentially preventing us accessing geoblocked UK sites we'd otherwise be able to visit.

And, oh yes, the service limits you to 200MB traffic a day. You could use that in a single browsing session without much difficulty.

Secure Connection still has some value for light use, maybe protecting mobile devices when you're picking up email via public Wi-Fi (the data limit is per device, not per account, so every licensed device gets its own 200MB). 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 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). 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.

Total Security includes a Spam Filter, but it's disabled by default. Turning it on gave us a clue why, as 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 accuracy didn't match Bitdefender's spam filter, so you'll probably be better off with a specialist antispam tool.

Kaspersky Total Security

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

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 top site – by which we mean the likes of eBay or Amazon – Total 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 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 appeared for just five seconds), spotted the option list, tapped a button and chose the Block option.

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 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 Total Security

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

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.

Total Security has plenty of smaller tools tucked away, but most of these are underpowered, and 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 Total Security still has a lot of worthwhile functionality, including the firewall, parental controls, along with the password manager at a push. 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).

AV-Comparatives

(Image credit: AV-Comparatives)

Protection

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 rating 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 Total Security had detected and removed a threat. 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 Total Security 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.

Final verdict

Kaspersky Total Security has one of the best antivirus engines around, and does a great job of shielding you from known and brand new threats. The rest of the suite doesn't quite match up to the top competition, though, and Kaspersky's own Security Cloud can give you a little more power for a very similar price.