Kaspersky is one of the biggest names in online security, yet didn’t quite deliver during our tests. This is a shame because Kaspersky Anti-virus is otherwise one of the best services on offer. Whether you should pick it is p to you, but we recommend you read our full review before making up your mind.
Kaspersky Anti-virus has long been a part of the best antivirus software. Its easy-to-use interface, slew of features and healthy support community are among the reasons it stays in the top tiers. Labs like it a lot as well, but we had trouble recreating the results in our hands-on testing.
In this Kaspersky antivirus review, we’ll put the well-known security software through the wringer, testing its performance in hands-on observation and comparing that to lab results. We’ll discuss features, pricing, user-friendliness, protection and support before giving our verdict.
We like Kaspersky for its usability and features, but our hands-on testing produced less than desirable results. That combined with the recent noise surrounding Kaspersky and its ties to the Russian government throws some chaos in what would otherwise be a straightforward assessment.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Easy to use
- Secure payment browser
- Included VPN
- Online privacy
- Strong lab results
- Weak hands-on results
- Performance impact
- Privacy concerns
Kaspersky is one of the more feature rich antivirus on the market, at least on Internet Security and up. The base Antivirus doesn’t come with anything outside of protection and, while it’ll save you a few bones, there are enough worthwhile additions to warrant an upgrade to a higher tier.
Internet Security, as we’ll reference many times, is the best choice out of the lineup. The homepage of the UI has quick links to Safe Money, parental control and privacy settings.
Safe Money is a secure browser similar to SafePay from Bitdefender. When you open a payment portal, Kaspersky will prompt you to switch over to the Safe Money browser to complete payment. You can add URLs into the application that will automatically switch over to the browser as well.
Internet and Total Security come with a limited version of a VPN. You have 200MB of data per day with the option to upgrade to an unlimited plan. We wouldn’t recommend it, though. Kaspersky’s VPN is powered by Hotspot Shield.
There are some other privacy features as well. Kaspersky blocks webcam access and online trackers to keep you anonymous. The interface shows the number of ad agencies, web analytics and more that have been blocked. Both features are optional.
Other notable inclusions are Privacy Cleaner which sweeps your files for any identifying data and the password manager for those with a Total Security plan. Unlike many antivirus password managers, this one made it on our best password managers list.
Kaspersky has an easy-to-use interface in its latest version. It’s not as customizable as Bitdefender, but manages a more modern look than Webroot. Unlike Webroot, however, Kaspersky comes with some performance issues.
The UI shows your computer’s status and some quick links to commonly used features. Among the list are scans, privacy protection, Safe Money, parental control and updates.
Of the list, scans and privacy protection are the features you’ll use most. Kaspersky has four different scan modes, full, quick, selective and external device.
Selective scans allow you to drag and drop files and folders into the interface instead of searching through a folder hierarchy.
Privacy protection is where you’ll find controls for webcam access and private browsing. Both features are disabled by default, so make sure you check inside if you want full protection. Kaspersky will display websites that have attempted to collect your data once you turn it on.
All other settings are found by clicking on “more tools” at the bottom of the UI. You’ll find settings for the VPN, quarantine, cloud protection and software updates. Oddly, the most useful settings, such as browser configuration and privacy cleaner, are hidden behind the “show more” button at the bottom of the menu.
The majority of this screen is taken up by a resource monitoring center. We used it to test how much of an impact Kaspersky was having on the system and didn’t like the results. CPU usage was around five percent while idling, and spiked over 40 percent during a scan.
We double checked with Windows’ hardware monitor, which noted CPU usage around five percent higher across the board.
Kaspersky doesn’t have the performance impact that McAfee does, but it’s still a slow down. It’s best to let scans run while you’re not using the machine as any CPU intensive task could mean a crash. Our tests were done with a beefy, eight-core processor as well, so expect more of an impact on lower end hardware.
We use hands-on testing and lab results to get an overall view of how an antivirus performs. In some cases, such as Kaspersky, the results differ. For that, we fall back on the labs, but our hands-on test should still be a variable, albeit to a lesser degree.
Amtso’s feature settings check for desktop antivirus is one of the tools we use. Kaspersky blocked four of the six tests, failing in cloud protection and download of a PUA (potentially unwanted application). It blocked a malicious download, drive-by download, compressed download and phishing page successfully.
We also tested Wicar’s 13 malicious URLs. Kaspersky blocked all the files from downloading, but only blocked 10 of the lot from loading the web page. The tests were done of Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, but Chrome’s built-in protection intercepted the pages first.
Labs have impressive numbers for Kaspersky. AV-Test shows a 100 percent blockage of 0-day malware attacks and widespread malware. It’s up over the industry average of 99.5 percent as of April.
AV-Test found a performance hit while launching popular websites, though. Kaspersky slowed by 20 percent, almost double the 12 percent industry average. It was faster than the industry average during application installs and file copying, however.
AV-Comparatives found similar numbers. During its evaluation of Kaspersky from February to June, AV-Comparatives found the antivirus 99.7 percent effective. This is a trend for Kaspersky, as it hasn’t dipped below 99 percent in over seven years.
It didn’t have as many performance issues as AV-Test did. Kaspersky received an advanced+ grade, the highest possible one, for performance, file detection and malware removal.
We’re especially impressed with MRG-Effitas’s findings, though. Its harsh banking simulation brought two-thirds of the programs evaluated to their knees. Kaspersky was in the successful group and still managed to block 100 percent of malware in a live botnet.
Kaspersky’s lineup of plans makes comparisons tricky. For instance, Antivirus is the same price as Norton Basic but comes with fewer features. That said, Kaspersky comes with a minimum of three devices for the software where Norton only comes with one.
It’s a tradeoff that, if you have multiple machines, should be worth it.
Antivirus is a PC-only application that protects three to five devices. It’s the basic antivirus package, scanning your machine for malware, providing real-time protection and protection against phishing. The only notable inclusion here is ransomware protection.
Internet Security is the sweet spot of the range. You have three to five devices, but now with support for multiple operating systems. A three device plan is perfect for a single user, where a five device plan is better suited for families. This plan is where parental controls are introduced.
Total Security comes with two extra features: a password manager and file encryption. The password manager is worth $14.99 alone so an upgrade is worth it. If you use another password manager and don’t care about encrypted backups, Internet Security is still the better choice.
We have a few issues with the pricing, though. Antivirus should have a single device plan, as the application is Windows only. There’s currently not a paid option to protect a single machine in Kaspersky’s lineup and we think that’s where Antivirus should live.
Likewise, we wanted to see more devices on Total Security. Premium security packages like this and McAfee Total Protection are best suited for families. While all ten slots may not be occupied, five devices is cutting it short.
For a single Windows machine, Kaspersky Free is your best bet. You get the core tenets of the program including protection from malware, phishing and spyware without flipping a dime. For a more advanced security setup, Internet Security provides great value for the money.
Kaspersky and Russian Concerns
We don’t usually address privacy in our antivirus reviews as it isn’t relevant to most software. Kaspersky, on the other hand, requires some attention. Multiple reports have surfaced of Kaspersky having ties to the privacy-unfriendly Russian government, and at least one of those reports shows the government using Kaspersky to gather intel on federal systems.
Kaspersky claims it has “never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyber espionage efforts.” It’s unclear whether this is a case of Kaspersky spying on its users or Russia-related hysteria, but it’s unlikely we’ll get a clear answer soon.
For the time being, it may be wise to shy away from Kaspersky if you live on U.S. soil. Best Buy has removed all antivirus products from the shelves and the antivirus is banned in federal offices.
Assessing Kaspersky as an antivirus is tricky. There are privacy concerns and our hands-on testing producing less than ideal results. Still, independent lab results consistently praise this antivirus for its protection and performance. Putting more weight on lab results, we think Kaspersky is still a fine choice.
Kaspersky focuses on DIY support with a knowledgebase and community forum. Direct support is lacking, though. Paying users can request support, but there’s no clear method of contact outside of that.
The knowledgebase breaks up topics by product and then by category. There are separate areas for each operating system as well, meaning you’ll have to sift through a long list of articles before finding what you need. We’d like if Kaspersky condensed topics to a single article where multiple operating systems can be covered with less clutter.
Articles themselves are good, though. Any troubleshooting guide is clearly laid out with the cause of the problem and potential solutions, and tutorials have step-by-step instruction. There are no screenshots, however.
The forums are alive and healthy. There are topics for home and business products, as well as security news. For advanced users, there’s a beta testing section of the forum as well.
Direct support is the issue. All correspondence takes place over email and you have to request support in the first place. As Kaspersky has grown beyond its DIY roots into a home and business antivirus solution, a clearer method of contact is needed.
Kaspersky has a long tradition of strong antivirus that’s easy to use and feature rich. The latest lineup of security software is no different, adding new features like a password manager while maintaining a clear dedication to desktop security.
Nothing is all good, though, and Kaspersky’s shortcomings are more concerning than others. Privacy questions still need answers and our hands-on testing produced mixed results. Kaspersky is among the elite in antivirus and, thankfully, the list is long enough to shop around.
We don’t want to deter you from Kaspersky with our opinions on privacy. That’s your choice. If you need to find a better fit, make sure to look through our antivirus reviews.
Also let us know your thoughts on Kaspersky in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.