On March 15, 2020, the BSI German cyber security agency issued a hacking warning against Kaspersky, a Russian antivirus software. BSI fears that Kaspersky could be coerced by the Russian government to hack IT systems abroad — or that agents could be using the software to launch cyberattacks without Kaspersky’s knowledge. Kaspersky responded in a statement, maintaining its independence and claiming that the warning is politically motivated. Kaspersky’s data processing centers are located in Switzerland, the source code is available for inspection, and it is independently audited.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus has been around the block a few times since Kaspersky Lab released it more than 20 years ago. The company has learned a lot, too, and it shows. The security features Kaspersky offers are top-of-the-line perks, at a reasonable price. Kaspersky’s protection against malware is great, ranking at the top of the antivirus pack in our lab results.
Unfortunately, Kaspersky faces some issues with privacy that we’re not certain are fully resolved. It’s also lacking a few important customer support options. These issues have been holding it back from being the best antivirus.
In this Kaspersky Anti-Virus review, we’ll take a look at everything from its features to its security. We’ll run the scans, test its protection ourselves and go in depth into its history and privacy. After all that, we’ll give you our verdict on whether Kaspersky is an antivirus worth taking a look at.
If you’re still wavering, its 30-day free trial is a great option to determine if you like Kaspersky’s offerings.
Added information about the German government warning against Kaspersky.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Easy to use
- Secure payment browser
- Included VPN
- Online privacy
- Strong lab results
- Weak hands-on results
- Performance impact
- Privacy concerns
Alternatives for Kaspersky Anti-Virus
Kaspersky Anti-Virus is packed with features beyond the expected vulnerability-scan capabilities. With its robust parental controls, privacy settings and even banking protection, it stands up to its antivirus competitors in strength and flexibility.
Many small features that Kaspersky offers center around the concept of privacy. For example, Kaspersky provides webcam protection to keep your camera from being used against you. This is simply a notification that it’s in use by default, but it can also be used to block the webcam from being used entirely, unless you manually turn off the protection.
Another privacy-targeted feature is Kaspersky’s browser extension. By default, it monitors and tells you how many trackers are embedded into a page so you can keep an eye on it.
However, you can upgrade the browser extension through its settings to blocking all tracking. It also offers its secure browser through this extension.
Hidden in the menus is also a vulnerability scan, which will secure your device both at the operating-system level and on a program level. Malware can often infect a device through these exploits, so the vulnerability scan is a preventative measure.
On top of these protections, Kaspersky’s extension will analyze URLs and determine if they are safe, and it will also redirect you if it determines the website is malicious. It includes a small amount of ad blocking, as well, but check out our best ad blockers for great extensions that block it all.
Some of the most popular antivirus features are also included in Kaspersky Anti-Virus. It includes a firewall for maximum security, a password manager to ensure you’re not reusing passwords and even a file shredder.
One detail that falls flat is its file encryptor; with just 56-bit encryption, you’re far better off downloading the best encryption software and ignoring this feature.
Kaspersky offers a rescue disk, as well. This product can be put on a USB drive or a CD, and it will run a security scan upon booting the computer. This rescue disk is great for a fully infected computer.
Kaspersky VPN and Password Manager
A popular antivirus feature that Kaspersky purports to include is a free virtual private network, or VPN. This isn’t exactly accurate.
Although the program offers a link to Secure Connection, Kaspersky’s VPN solution, this product is entirely separate from even Kaspersky’s most expensive antivirus.
We can guide you to the best VPN providers to make up for this missing feature. However, if you want a service that offers the best of both worlds, be sure to read our best antivirus with VPN guide.
On the other hand, the password manager is included with Kaspersky Total Security. We found it to be a solid choice for password protection, but it fell behind some of its antivirus competitors in support and features. For an in-depth look at this feature, take a look at our Kaspersky Password Manager review.
Kaspersky Safe Money
Kaspersky really shines when it comes to its banking protection, beating out antivirus competitors, such as F-Secure (see our F-Secure review).
Kaspersky Safe Money is a secure browser that you can use to access banking websites or enter your payment information. If you try to access these websites in a normal browser, you will be prompted to use Kaspersky’s protected browser.
You can also create a list of bookmarks in your desktop application. By doing so, you can exclude certain sites from the protected browser or block them from loading, if you are unprotected.
The protected browser will keep your banking and payment information safe to prevent potential malicious software online. Kaspersky even includes an on-screen keyboard to thwart any keyloggers that may get your password through your keystrokes.
Kaspersky Safe Kids
The parental controls that Kaspersky offers are intense, going far beyond simple web filtering like its competitors, such as Sophos Home. It comes with a free app that can be installed on your child’s device and is managed through the Kaspersky website.
Once you’ve got it installed, Kaspersky will give you more information about your child than you’ll ever need. You can track their location and block websites via name, category or simply block all access to the internet altogether.
If your child is blocked from accessing a website, you will be notified and you can even give them permission for that particular website in real time. On top of web filtering and internet security, Kaspersky offers the ability to monitor and limit your child’s screen time.
These intricate security tools allow you to have a great deal of control over what your child is accessing on their internet browser, as well as what apps they’re using. Throughout its UI, Kaspersky recommends the best ways to take advantage of all this information.
However, if you feel that it’s necessary to lock down a device entirely — making it unusable until you can get to it again — you will have that ability using these controls. Kaspersky will even notify you if your child has left a designated geofenced area, or if they search for something questionable on Google.
Kaspersky Antivirus Features Overview
- : Three PCs, ransomware protection
- : Three devices, banking protection, webcam protection, parental controls
- : Five devices, password manager, backup and restore, advanced parental controls
Kaspersky focuses on adding features, rather than devices, as you pay more money. However, it does offer different plans from three devices all the way up to 10 for each tier, with similar price adjustments regardless of which plan you are on.
The most basic tier, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, is a barebones application. It includes the malware protection you would expect from any antivirus program, but none of the privacy, banking or parental features offered by higher tiers. At nearly $60 per year, Kaspersky Anti-Virus isn’t really worth it.
The next level up is Kaspersky Internet Security. This tier offers basic parental controls, with features such as web filtering and blocking computer games at a particular time. It also includes the stellar Safe Money-protected browser and a host of privacy protection.
Kaspersky Internet Security is a great choice for people looking for maximum antivirus security without breaking the bank.
The final tier, Kaspersky Total Security, includes a few of the most luxury features that Kaspersky can offer. It provides full parental control, including geofencing and device locking. It also includes its free built-in password manager and encrypted file storage. Kaspersky Total Security is the whole package, and its cost reflects that.
Choosing a tier really depends on what features you need, but Kaspersky Internet Security is a good sweet spot. You’ll get the best of both worlds, though, if you download a choice from our list of best password managers and use encryption software with a longer, more secure key..
However, if you need the robust parental controls with geofencing and device lockdown, the extra cost may be worth it. Kaspersky Total Security does have a 30-day free trial, so don’t hesitate to give it a try.
Kaspersky is well-designed. It manages to look slick and minimalistic without hiding every aspect of the program behind menus, and it’s easy to navigate and use. With so many features, though, it was a bit hard to find each one.
Installation was very straightforward and simple, with little to no roadblocks, although it does require an email address for its website-based tools. The only problem we faced was its download page being incompatible with Google Chrome. Using Internet Explorer to download it was strange, as the parental web filtering is clear that it only works on Google Chrome.
Once it is installed and set up, the dashboard is easy to figure out. The top third of the screen is an overview, letting you know if there’s anything that needs your attention.
Underneath that, there are eight clearly separated categories. Every feature is either managed through one of these links or can be launched by clicking one of them. Although almost all the highlights of the program can be modified through the Kaspersky application, some features have their own application.
Kaspersky also makes sure to go into great detail on what each part of the antivirus does. The “?” symbol in the title bar is a complete rundown of everything that the program offers, and in each setting there are in-depth explanations of each security feature.
Although there are settings for every single feature Kaspersky offers, they are set up by default in a way that makes sense. For example, when we tested the parental controls, Kaspersky automatically set up web filtering for the most commonly blocked websites. Everything is set up so that you can just turn it on and be protected.
Kaspersky offers a few security scans by default: full scan, quick scan, selective scan or external device scan. These are more than enough options for most people, although not quite at the level of Avira’s scan options (read our Avira review). A selective scan allows the user to scan individual files.
An interesting detail here is that you can run more than one security scan at the same time. This is very uncommon in antivirus software and not something you’d do very often, but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless.
We ran a quick scan and a full scan to test its speed and impact on our test computer. Both scans were faster than average, with a quick scan taking less than one minute and a full scan taking just two and a half hours.
Both security scans had about the same hit on our computer’s performance, with roughly a 15- to 20-percent increase in CPU usage. This sometimes spiked up to 30-percent more on the full scan. Although this won’t make a computer unusable, it’s certainly noticeable and nowhere near as low-impact as competitors, such as Webroot (read our Webroot SecureAnywhere review).
We used a dual-pronged approach to testing Kaspersky’s security. First, we tested some common exploits using our own devices. Second, we went over its lab results from AV-Test, AV-Comparatives, and MRG Effitas to see how it stacks up against the competition.
Although it’s important to get your hands on the software and kick the tires, the gold standard of security is with third-party lab tests. For this reason, we put more weight on them in our antivirus scoring.
Kaspersky often participates in lab tests, so its security results are very up to date. In AV-Test’s December 2019 report, it pitted Kaspersky against a number of other antivirus programs. Kaspersky excelled at everything they threw at it.
It blocked 100 percent of zero-day attacks and widespread malware, with no false positives at all. Kaspersky was also faster than the industry average in every usage aspect except for launching popular websites, where it was slower by about 5 percent. This is an improvement from its April 2018 test, where it was 7 to 8 percent slower.
Kaspersky was especially fast when it came to installing frequently used applications, with a huge performance upgrade from its 2018 test. Clearly it has been making major improvements during the past few years, which is good to see.
AV-Comparatives also ran Kaspersky through tests in October 2019. Kaspersky’s results in its performance test were very good, beating out almost every antivirus except for ESET NOD32 and McAfee (take a look at our McAfee Total Protection review).
The protection test was a bit less impressive. Although Kaspersky blocked more than 99 percent of all malware, AV-Comparatives still did not give Kaspersky its highest security ranking. This isn’t necessarily a huge issue for Kaspersky; it’s more of a statement about how strong the antivirus field is right now in malware protection.
MRG Effitas Banking Simulation
Kaspersky really stood out when it came to MRG Effitas’ security analysis. In its unforgiving banking simulation, Kaspersky was one of the few antiviruses that was certified for online banking. About half of the antivirus programs tested for this certification pass.
In addition to the certification, MRG Effitas also simulated “event hijacking” in banking. This means that a malicious user has compromised your banking or payment website, intercepting payment details and sending them to their servers instead.
Kaspersky was among the three that successfully defended against this attack. Only competitors such as Norton were on the same level as Kaspersky (check out our Norton Security review).
Our hands-on testing used the AMTSO security check tools to test the most common forms of malware. Kaspersky passed with ease. This is especially impressive when it comes to the phishing page, which very few antivirus programs block.
Next, we tested a series of common browser exploits using WICAR. Out of the 13 exploits, Kaspersky blocked all of them. This is an exemplary result, matching what we’ve seen from almost all the lab testing.
Kaspersky and Russian Concerns
Kaspersky is in a unique position when it comes to privacy concerns. In 2017, the United States government chose to stop working with the company due to concerns that the antivirus has connections to the Russian government. This connection would risk leaking user data, as Russian law is much less protective of this kind of data than the United States or Europe.
Since then, the company has taken a number of steps to assure its users that it is not connected to the Russian government. It has opened two “transparency centers” dedicated to allowing trusted partners to look over its source code, and it is planning to open two more in the near future.
In addition, Kaspersky has moved a great deal of its data to Switzerland. This protects Kaspersky from any Russian laws that may compel it to reveal customer data. The European data is completely transferred, but American and Canadian data will be moved this year.
SOC 2 Audit
In addition, Kaspersky has released a SOC 2 Type 1 audit of its privacy systems. To understand the weight of this audit, it is important to understand what it covers and what it does not cover.
A SOC 2 Type 1 audit consists of assessing an organization’s controls. It does not include any analysis on whether they are properly followed. A SOC 2 Type 2 audit is more stringent, including everything from a Type 1 audit and an assessment of the controls in use over a period of time. It’s common for an organization to get these assessments consecutively.
At this point in time, the company has not released a Type 2 report. We contacted the company to ask about this, and a representative assured us that it is in the company’s long-term plans to take this next step in security.
For Kaspersky, its protection score is a combination of third-party lab testing, our hands-on experience and its privacy concerns. We’re not fully convinced that its privacy controls are enough with the company’s ties to Russia.
However, its lab tests and our hands-on experience were both stellar and, if not for its privacy concerns, Kaspersky would make a run for most secure antivirus.
Kaspersky’s support options seem like they’re built for business customers without feeling outdated, like ZoneAlarm (see our ZoneAlarm Antivirus review). This can be a good thing with its array of web security tools. The knowledgebase — the first line of defense when a user comes across an antivirus issue — is split up by product.
The support forum is also very active, with both Kaspersky employees and dedicated customers replying within a day to any issues. We found it strange, however, that the forum offered every menu item in both English and Russian. Kaspersky asks your language when creating your account, so it seems trivial to check that setting before deciding which language to show.
Kaspersky’s web-based antivirus tools are a unique feature of Kaspersky’s customer support. If you’re not near one of the devices that you have the antivirus installed on, you can use its support page to scan individual files for viruses.
There is also a section on ransomware removal, which is especially helpful if all of your devices are infected with ransomware and you can’t access the Kaspersky desktop application. Before you get to that point though, check out our ransomware protection tips.
If you need to talk to an actual human to resolve your issue, Kaspersky also has email support. Although it isn’t 24/7, we sent in a ticket on a weekend evening and received a response the next day, so the hours aren’t simply 9-to-5 on weekdays, either.
Kaspersky offers Twitter support and, strangely enough, Facebook support. Kaspersky also offers a phone number, but it implies that you should only use it for issues with purchasing or subscribing to the service, unlike competitors such as Bitdefender (see our Bitdefender Antivirus review for more).
All in all, Kaspersky’s support is solid and it will answer your questions reliably and relatively quickly. The wide spectrum of ways to contact support means you may not even miss the options it lacks, such as live chat and phone (check out our Trend Micro Antivirus+ review for an antivirus that excels in this area).
Kaspersky is a mainstay of the antivirus world, and we can see why. Its protection from malware is top-notch, plus it is simple to navigate and is packed with security features. However, its lack of a free antivirus plan means that getting those features will cost you (check out our best free antivirus roundup).
We are also still worried about the outcome of its privacy concerns. Kaspersky’s actions so far have been reassuring, but not definitive. This leaves room for doubt, which is unnecessary when you can simply use an antivirus that doesn’t has these concerns.
Although the privacy concerns knock Kaspersky Anti-Virus out of the running for best antivirus software, it’s definitely a solid choice for its features and banking protection. What do you think about Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Kaspersky Internet Security or Kaspersky Total Security? Let us know in the comments. As always, thanks for reading.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus FAQ
- Kaspersky has been dealing with the fallout of its ties to Russia for years. Although we still wouldn’t fully trust its security, it’s gone a long way to assure users that their data will be protected and treated well.
- Kaspersky Safe Money has been certified as a top-tier banking solution by MRG Effitas. This is an uncommon achievement and ensures that Kaspersky Safe Money is safe to use with your banking information.