Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014) review

The independent testing labs give top marks to Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014). It didn't fare quite as well in my own hands-on tests, but it's definitely a good choice.
Photo of Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014)

It’s not even September yet, and I’ve already encountered one antivirus with “2014″ in its name and another with an implied 2014. Kaspersky doesn’t use year or version numbers anymore; I’ll call their latest product Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014) to distinguish it from last year’s version. In addition to effective antivirus protection, it offers a number of useful bonus features.

G Data AntiVirus 2014 is the product that’s declared itself ready for the new year. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (2014) doesn’t actually use a year number, but it’s the latest version. Symantec has also eliminated version and year numbers; their new product line will show up in early September.

Installation Challenges
Kaspersky installed without incident on eight of my twelve malware-infested test systems. On seven of those systems, it reported active malware immediately after installation and asked permission to perform an advanced disinfection, followed by a reboot. In a couple of cases it requested another advanced disinfection afterward. This made for a lengthy installation process, but on several systems a later full scan found nothing, meaning that the initial disinfection did the entire cleanup job.

The WindowsUnlocker component of Kaspersky’s Rescue Disc foiled a ransomware threat that initially prevented installing the antivirus. On another system, the installer totally failed. On advice from tech support I employed a number of specialized tools and ran the Rescue Disc. Advice from tech support fixed collateral damage caused by the Rescue Disc; eventually I managed a full scan.

Kaspersky installed fine on one system but every time it launched, the process was immediately terminated by malware. Solving this required a number of tools, including a custom script supplied by tech support, but eventually I got the product installed and working.

I did run into some issues getting Kaspersky installed, granted, but all of the problems were solved by the Rescue Disc and other ancillary Kaspersky tools. On that basis, Kaspersky gets four stars for installation experience.

Good Malware Cleanup
Once I completed all of the installations I ran a full scan on each system and tallied up the results. I was a little apprehensive, because I had tested Kaspersky PURE 3.0 Total Security using the same malware collection a few months ago. I wondered if information gathered during that earlier test would give the antivirus an unfair advantage.

I needn’t have worried. The antivirus handled almost 90 percent of the malware samples exactly the same way the suite had, right down to the percentage of non-executable traces remaining. For those where the two products produced different results, sometimes one was better, sometimes the other. Why any difference? Most likely it’s because I applied different ancillary cleanup tools in the process of getting the two products installed.

Kaspersky detected 81 percent of the samples, the same as Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition (2014) and better than the 78 percent detected by Kaspersky PURE. It scored 6.1 points for malware removal, a fraction above Kaspersky PURE and a fraction below Bitdefender Free.

Best among products tested with this same malware collection was Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, with 83 percent detection and 6.6 points. The unusual cleanup-only Jumpshot tool detected more, 86 percent of the samples, but scored just 6.5 points.

For a full explanation of how I run this test see How We Test Malware Removal.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014) malware removal chart

OK Malware Blocking
By default, Kaspersky automatically handles any found malware using its own recommended actions. In a few instances, it found gray-area products, legal software that could be used in a malicious fashion. Only in those cases did it pop up asking me what to do; I always chose to delete the dubious software.

When I opened a folder containing malware samples, Kaspersky’s real-time protection wiped out almost 70 percent of them right away. I also tried it with a folder containing hand-modified versions of all the same files. The real-time protection missed three samples whose unmodified version it had caught, which is not unusual. Strangely, it also caught two modified samples that weren’t detected in unmodified form.

In any case, on-sight signature-based detection is just one layer of protection, so I proceeded to launch those samples that weren’t wiped out immediately. One way or another, Kaspersky detected 86 percent of the samples, the same as Kaspersky PURE and avast! Free Antivirus 8. However, Kaspersky PURE and avast! did a better job of blocking all malware activity, earning 8.5 points to Kaspersky Antivirus’s 8.2.

Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 10.5 and TrustPort Antivirus 2013, the best products tested with this same malware collection detected 94 percent of the threats. Ad-Aware scored 9.4 points for malware blocking, better than other paid and free products, while TrustPort managed 9.0. G Data and the free and paid Bitdefender products also took 9.0 points.

Kaspersky’s Web Anti-Virus feature aims to head off malware at the source by blocking access to dangerous URLs. I gave this feature a quick test by attempting to re-download my current collection of malware samples. Ignoring those whose URLs had gone dead, I found that Kaspersky blocked 75 percent of the URLs.

For a full explanation of the way I test malware blocking, see How We Test Malware Blocking.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014) malware blocking chart

Impressive Lab Results
For the past couple years I’ve found that Kaspersky routinely scores higher with the independent labs than in my own hands-on tests. I definitely pay attention to these lab results; the labs have significantly more resources than I do.

ICSA Labs and West Coast Labs both certify Kaspersky’s technology for malware detection and removal; West Coast Labs adds Platinum Check Mark certification. Kaspersky also received VB100 certification from Virus Bulletin in nine of the ten latest tests.

I track three of the many tests performed by Austrian lab AV-Comparatives, the on-demand file-detection test, the zero-day proactive detection test, and the real-world dynamic test. In all three tests, Kaspersky earned the top rating, ADVANCED+.

AV-Test, based in Germany, rates products on protection against malware, light impact on performance, and overall usability (including few or no false positives). With six points available in each category, a product can earn at most 18 points. Kaspersky averaged 15.8 points in the last two tests, which is impressive. Only Bitdefender did better, with 17.0 points.

For a run-down on the labs that I follow and the tests they perform, see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014) lab tests chart

Accurate Phishing Protection
The same component that blocks access to known malware-hosting websites also serves to steer hapless users away from fraudulent (phishing) websites. However, Kaspersky does more than merely block sites it already knows to be fraudulent. It also applies heuristic analysis to unknown sites and blocks those that really seem fraudulent. The warning for heuristic detection is yellow, for known frauds, red.

For testing, I compare a product’s detection rate against that of Norton, whose antiphishing component consistently shows accuracy. Up to now, I have also compared the product against Internet Explorer 8′s SmartScreen Filter. However, I’m dropping that second comparison due to IE8′s lack of consistency. In my last 30 antiphishing tests, the difference between IE’s detection rate and Norton’s has varied wildly, from 19 percent to 67 percent and all manner of values in between.

Kaspersky’s detection rate came in just a single percentage point behind Norton’s, putting it in among that rare collection of antiphishing solutions that actually do a good job. For details on how I obtain super-fresh phishing sites and perform this test, see How We Test Antiphishing.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014) antiphishing chart

Substantial Settings
If you dig into the Settings dialog, you’ll find that you can change a lot of things about the way Kaspersky works. For example, you can tell it to ask you about every little thing rather than take its own recommended actions. In most cases, though, you won’t go wrong by just leaving every setting at its default value.

There are a number of settings devoted to maintaining system performance. By default, Kaspersky suspends scan tasks when on battery power, scans during idle time, and concedes resources to the system during the boot process. You might consider turning off that last behavior, as it “may affect the security level of your computer.”

I ran all my test scans at the recommended security level. You can set it to High for “dangerous environments” or to Low for “highest computer performance.” However, I’d suggest you only change that setting on advice from tech support.

Support and Tools
Access to tech support is built right into the program. Quick links take you to FAQs, tips, and forums. You can also send a system report to tech support if you run into problems, and there’s an option to enable a trace log if they so advise. Tech support can even fix problems remotely by sending you a fix-up script. It’s not quite as advanced as Norton’s in-product live chat and remote control support, but it gets the job done.

You’ll also find a useful collection of security-related utilities on the Tools page. Here you can create a Rescue Disk, either a CD or a bootable USB drive. You can identify and fix vulnerabilities in Windows and popular applications, wipe out traces of your computer and browsing activities, and fix errors configuration errors in Windows and in Internet Explorer, either accidental or malware-caused.

Labs Love It
Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014) is an effective antivirus tool, and it gets great marks from the independent testing labs. It didn’t do quite as well in my own hands-on tests, and getting it installed on malware-infested systems was a bit of a trial.

You won’t go wrong relying on Kaspersky for protection, but we’ve reserved the Editors’ Choice honor for three other products: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (2014), Norton AntiVirus (2013), and Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus 2013. Each of these does an even better job, in one way or another.

Tech Support Free email, IM, phone support during business hours
knowledge base.
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8
Type Personal, Professional

The independent testing labs give top marks to Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014). It didn't fare quite as well in my own hands-on tests, but it's definitely a good choice.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc