Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2009 review
More approachable than ever, with excellent malware detection in an affordable package
Kaspersky AntiVirus has been our AV product of choice for over a year, and for this new version the Russian security specialist has wisely refrained from tinkering too much with the established formula.
The most obvious change is the updated interface. It's cleaner and simpler than earlier versions, with just a few buttons and some pretty graphs showing things like number of infections detected and network activity during updates. For less experienced users, it's Kaspersky's most approachable version yet, with expert features hidden away under a "settings" button.
There are some changes under the bonnet too. Nothing dramatic, but Kaspersky 2009 boasts an updated virus-scanning engine, which is designed to make use of multiple CPU cores to speed up security scans. It's also the first version of Kaspersky to use whitelisting: the company has licensed a whitelist from enterprise security specialist Bit9 to help it skip over legitimate applications without wasting resources on scanning them.
Thankfully, these new features haven't bloated the package's footprint. Kaspersky AntiVirus 2009 added just one second to the time it took our test system to boot to the Vista desktop, though hard disk and CPU activity continued for a further 19 seconds. Once it was up and running it added 46MB to our RAM footprint - pleasingly small by the standards of commercial AV packages.
Of course, the most lightweight scan in the world is pointless if it lets malware slip through the net. But in our tests Kaspersky kept its crown thanks to its excellent detection results: against a selection of current malware it caught every single dialler, hijack and trojan. It missed only three samples, none of them critical: two were free applications that launch unwanted pop-ups, and the third was a child-protection package that could, in theory, be used for malicious spying.
Note, however, that by default Kaspersky AntiVirus doesn't scan for all potentially unwanted programs - to get these results we had to manually enable full scanning for adware as well as malware.
If you stray into something the software doesn't recognise, it can send unknown samples to the company's labs, to help them keep their protection as up-to-date as possible. It can include "extended statistics" too, such as details of your system and other software you're using to help with analysis.
Both features are optional, though - Kaspersky recognises that not everyone wants to share their experiences with Moscow.
So is Kaspersky the perfect antivirus package? Not quite. Its detection may be excellent, but dig into the options and the interface becomes somewhat quirky. Drop-down menus, for example, change their contents depending on which other options are selected - a terrible idea from a usability standpoint.
The extensive configuration options can be obscure, too: as with earlier versions, you get tick-boxes for options such as "iSwift" and "iChecker" but no hints as to what they mean (they're different ways to recognise when a file has changed since it was last scanned).
It feels pushier than before, as well. The move to a year-based version system, rather than the straightforward version numbers of old, suggests they're hoping to get users onto an upgrade conveyor belt. And we couldn't help but notice the information panels within the interface detailing various extra features in the full Kaspersky Internet Security suite. All told, it feels like Kaspersky hasn't worried as much as it might about the user experience.
|Software subcategory||Internet security|
|Processor requirement||300MHz Pentium or equivalent|
Operating system support
|Operating system Windows Vista supported?||yes|
|Operating system Windows XP supported?||yes|
|Operating system Linux supported?||no|
|Operating system Mac OS X supported?||no|