Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 review

£40
Price when reviewed

It’s only July, but our forward-thinking comrades at Kaspersky Lab have already delivered their 2011 internet security suite. Expectations are high, as Kaspersky was once a regular PC Pro recommendation, but in the past 18 months it’s struggled to compete with stellar detection rates from Avira and Norton.

At first glance, that hasn’t changed: from a selection of more than 300 current malware samples, Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 (KIS 2011) positively identified an impressive 96%, but A-List champ Norton 2010 hit 99%, with Avira just a whisker behind on 98%.

Yet Kaspersky’s 2011 suite has a new ace up its sleeve. Although it didn’t recognise all of our samples, it noted that those it didn’t know were unsigned and not commonly found on other Kaspersky subscribers’ PCs, and quietly flagged them as suspicious. When we actually tried to run them, and they started trying to dig their way into our system settings, the software rightly intervened and raised the alarm. It’s a similar approach to the Insight and SONAR 2 systems found in Norton Internet Security 2010, but there’s no shame in that: arguably, it gives more credibility than a perfect detection score would.

Another new feature is “Safe Run for Websites”, which builds on the sandboxing system for applications that first appeared in the 2010 suite. Now you can run your browser in a protected mode – with a conspicuous green border – that prevents rogue processes from snooping on its traffic and cached data. Tell the software the URL of your bank and it will automatically open a “safe” browser whenever you go there.

The front-end of Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 is clear, if unexciting

The other 2011 additions are more prosaic, but could still be useful. A “system roll-back” tool promises to undo damage done by viruses – potentially handy if Windows System Restore is too blunt an instrument. A desktop gadget provides an at-a-glance status report, with two buttons that can be customised to provide instant access to your most-used parts of the interface. And an interesting addition is the GeoFilter, which can automatically block connections from certain countries – anticipating cyber-invasions from as-yet unknown directions.

Although these are all fine additions, they increase the complexity of what was already a very full package, with configurable firewall, email, web protection, identity protection, anti-spam, IM and parental control modules. The developers have made a visible effort to simplify the UI from last year’s showy design, but if we’re honest the new one simply looks drab – while remaining a labyrinthine affair, with tabs, dropdowns, links and buttons all over the place (there are more than 40 different things you can do from the front window alone). Power users may enjoy the wealth of options and features to discover and play with, but the familiar acronym certainly doesn’t stand for “Keep It Simple.”

On the upside, KIS 2011 can’t be accused of bloat in the conventional sense. On our 3GB test system, running Windows 7 Ultimate on a Core i7-920 processor, installing the software added just three seconds to the boot-time of a bare system, and raised the memory footprint by just 63MB – 80MB less than Norton.

Getting the best from this suite demands a degree of technical nous: the Safe Run features, for example, are useful only if you know when to activate them, and its myriad options are likely to overwhelm novices. You pay for that power too: G Data InternetSecurity 2011, for example, is both simpler and cheaper.

But for those who like their security software complicated and configurable, Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 is a great choice. Its signature scanning may still take only the bronze medal, but it makes up for that with impressive heuristics, a small system footprint, and all the knobs and levers you could wish for.

Details

Software subcategory Internet security

Requirements

Processor requirement 800MHz processor

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

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