[Editor's note: Kaspersky is currently shipping the 2015 version of this product, with improved features such as webcam protection and Wi-Fi security notifications. We look forward to reviewing the new version when we refresh this review site.]
Kaspersky Internet Security from Kaspersky Lab (Moscow, Russia) is a suite of impressive security products built around an extremely secure two-way Windows firewall. The product’s approach to security is inventive and comprehensive. Kaspersky Internet Security wins the TopTenREVIEWS Bronze Award because it includes a firewall software module that has accumulated an impressive list of awards and acquitted itself well in comparative tests at multiple independent research centers. Eugene Kaspersky, founder, studied mathematics and physics at Moscow State University when he was a high school student. The inspiration for the Kaspersky Lab business stems from Eugene’s discovery of a virus that infected his computer. He analyzed the virus and then wrote a disinfection utility.
The market for third-party personal firewall software for Windows stems from the early days of Windows XP, which included a firewall to protect from incoming traffic only. The Windows Vista firewall filters incoming and outgoing traffic and Windows 7 and 8 include a two-way firewall with lots of good features and configuration options. In order to compete with Microsoft’s ever-improving built-in Windows security, third-party vendors of firewalls for Windows are creating security suites with firewall and additional security modules. The standalone Windows firewall software market is morphing into a security-suite market. Vendors who continue to market standalone Windows firewall software products are addressing XP and Vista users as well as any Windows 7 and 8 users who haven’t yet realized that the Windows 7 and 8 firewalls are perfectly good alternatives to firewall products from third-party vendors. A firewall, however, is not a complete security solution.
In keeping with the current evolution of the security market, Kaspersky Internet Security is a two-way firewall and more. The firewall monitors every network connection to the computer. When the product detects a new network, the user can assign a status based on whether it is a public network such as the internet, a local network at home or in a corporation where access to files and printers is required, or a trusted network where it is safe to allow all traffic to flow unchallenged.
When subjected to port scanning by the Nmap Security Scanner, the firewall component in Kaspersky Internet Security scans, filters, blocks and stealths in an acceptable manner.
In addition to a firewall, Kaspersky Internet Security includes the standard features of many security suites such as protection from Trojan horses, viruses and worms. It also blocks adware and spyware and scans files, email messages and Internet traffic. The way in which the product scans for objects that might require quarantine and disinfection is to compare each object to entries in a database of malware with known signatures. If a new object appears, which is not yet in the database of known threats, the program analyzes the behavior of the new object. If the behavior conforms to objects that have proven to be malicious in the past, the product can classify the new object as suspicious, even if it is not yet registered in the known malware database.
Parents can define inappropriate content categories, prevent access to unwanted websites and define the time periods that children can be online. Kaspersky also secures wireless networks and virtual-private-network connections. The product blocks malware and phishing sites as well as keyloggers, and it protects against spam. The program automatically maintains a current threat-signature database updated via the Kaspersky Security Network (a global-threat monitoring system).
Kaspersky Internet Security goes above and beyond the call of duty in a number of ways. For example if a computer is already infected, the program can be installed to remove malicious software and restore the correct system settings. The product provides tools to create a rescue disk and it deletes temporary files and cookies to destroy traces of user activity. A safe-environment sandbox isolates applications and prevents them from accessing private data. Even though the program can block keyloggers, as an extra measure it offers a virtual keyboard so that users can enter logins and passwords without typing on the physical keyboard.
Kaspersky Internet Security has an excellent user interface that is beautiful and easy to navigate. There is a Safe Surf feature that alerts users to suspicious sites before they endanger any personal information. And there is a System Watcher, which is made to analyze system activity and even undo malicious actions in order to prevent permanent damage.
Users can control the appearance by selecting alternative skins, semi-transparent windows or animated taskbar icons. Designed for usability, the product provides automatic configuration during the installation process and setup wizards for many tasks. If the user gets too carried away with all of the configuration options and wants to start over, it is always possible to restore the product to its default recommended settings.
Charts and diagrams provide visual status reports. The user can create a disk to resurrect the system if malware is successful with a damaging attack. The rescue disk restores a compromised operating system and replaces encrypted data. The product updates itself hourly in order to have the latest threat signatures on hand. In order to block attacks designed to launch from USB drives, Kaspersky Internet Security disables any auto-run executables and allows the user to authorize a scan of the USB drive.
Scan optimization is an optional ease-of-use feature that increases the program’s speed by skipping files that have already been scanned and have not changed since the previous scan. Hackers often smuggle malware into compound files that take a long time for security software to unpack during the scanning process. Users can configure the scanning feature to unpack compound files in the background in order to increase scanning speed for improved ease of use.
Every facet of Kaspersky Internet Security is excellent. In the process of uninstalling the product the user receives the option to completely uninstall or to save some data that can be used in a later installation.
The user guide for Kaspersky Internet Security is comprehensive and written and organized such that security novices and experts can extract necessary information. It is obvious that Kaspersky Lab dedicated talent and resources to the development of the user guide.
Excellence in help and support extends to the online knowledge base, user forum and the enlistment of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to enhance Kaspersky’s customer-support reach. Email and telephone support are available 24/7. Technical support chat is available 12 hours per day on weekdays.
As the market for standalone third-party Windows firewalls dwindles in response to improvements in the Windows firewall, security suites such as Kaspersky Internet Security provide the comprehensive security features that necessarily augment the firewall’s role. The Kaspersky Internet Security firewall can scan, filter and block ports, and hide IP addresses. It can also defend against threats that are delivered via local area network or Wi-Fi. The product updates itself so that the user always has the latest version and, more importantly, the latest database of known threats.
The suite provides a complete protection package to prevent phishing, spam and malware. Instant messages are analyzed for threats and parental control features are strong. Although the product protects against keyloggers, users can choose to bypass the physical keyboard altogether and use a virtual keyboard whenever it is necessary to enter sensitive personal data.
The Kaspersky Internet Security suite stood up to our attempts to expose vulnerabilities using the Nmap Security Scanner. The excellence of the modules, the beauty and elegance of the user interface, and the completeness of the additional security features work together to position Kaspersky Internet Security among the best.
Kaspersky Internet Security resurrects pre-infected and unbootable computers.
If you are not satisfied with 24/7 telephone access to support and 12 hours per day access by online chat, we don't know what to tell you.
Kaspersky Internet Security is a mature, secure firewall inside of an excellent security suite.