Kaspersky Anti-Virus review: is it safe to use?

Computer screen with kaspersky dashboard and app

Kaspersky Anti-Virus, a product of Moscow-based Kaspersky Labs, has enjoyed two decades of robust competition in the cybersecurity space. They have stood toe-to-toe with the Nortons, McAfees, and Avasts of the world.

Then, disaster struck—starting in 2015, major news outlets began breaking stories of collaboration between Kaspersky Labs and Russian intelligence organizations. Kaspersky antivirus software was implicated in facilitating espionage and cybercrime. Kaspersky was subsequently banned for use by the US government and the US military, banned from advertising on Twitter, and dropped from major retailers like Best Buy.

However, Kaspersky denies the allegations and has taken public steps to rebuild public trust.

So where do we stand? Kaspersky is still available for sale to private users in the US and other countries. Is it any good, and can it be trusted? Read my Kaspersky Antivirus Review to find out.

Kaspersky antivirus pros & cons

+ Pros:

  • Database regularly updated with the latest threats and viruses.
  • Little impact on memory and system performance.
  • System optimization available.
  • Excellent and reliable features.
  • TDSKILLER looks for bootkits and rootkits.
  • User-friendly.
  • 24/7 phone, chat, and email support.
  • Easy to change plans.

− Cons:

  • On the higher end of the pricing scale.
  • Unremarkable features in higher-priced plans.
  • Lowest-priced plan is for Windows only.
  • Low brand trust due to 2017 scandal.

Kaspersky security features

Malware protection

Kaspersky’s malware scanner has been tested as recently as fall of 2020 by major testing labs. It performed extremely well, capturing 100% of zero-day malware and 100% of widespread malware, with fewer false positives than closest competitor Norton.

SE Labs in London confirmed that this 100% record resulted from blocking the malware from being installed, rather than dismantling it once it had been installed. Only Trend Micro had a similarly perfect record, while top products like Norton and Microsoft allowed a few pieces of malware to be installed before neutralizing them.

Note that Kaspersky malware protection only applies to threats to Windows, which is why the base level of Kaspersky Anti-Virus only offers protection to computers running Windows.

Safe money

A premium feature of Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Total Security, Safe Money makes it easy to protect your identity and secure sensitive information when making an online payment.

It does this by launching a separate web browser for the transactions to take place. This browser is more secure than your average browser. It automatically checks the payment page against Kaspersky’s constantly-updated “trusted site” list.

Safe Money also checks the security of your connection and scans your PC environment for threats that could imperil the transaction.

Many users buy online with barely a second thought, but payment transactions on popular web browsers do get targeted for cybercrime. Sending money over a secured browser like Kaspersky Safe Money is not unreasonably paranoid.

Password manager

Kaspersky Total Security, the highest-priced plan, includes the full version of Kaspersky Password manager, allowing you to store unlimited passwords and vaults behind a master password.

Most internet users have many password-protected accounts, and internet security specialists recommend using a different gibberish password for every account. Since most people can’t memorize that many random strings of characters, password managers are an increasingly essential component of web browsing.

Kaspersky has developed a browser extension for Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox. When you install the browser extension and activate it with your master password, you can autofill passwords from your vault whenever you visit the relevant site on that browser.

Privacy protection

A premium feature of Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Total Security, Privacy Protection guards your browsing activities in a number of ways.

By default, Privacy Protection alerts you of attempts to collect your data—the way Facebook creepily knows what you have in your cart on Amazon and markets it to you, for example. The feature can also be armed to block data collection if you prefer to browse privately and not have your browsing history harvested for marketing.

Privacy Protection includes an intelligent ad blocker that doesn’t block ads when doing so would disable the website, as is the case with many banner ads.

Privacy Protection also includes a setting to block external access to your webcam by Peeping Toms. Note that popular apps like Zoom and Loom require access to your webcam, but these domains can be added to a “safe” list to selectively enable access to the webcam. 

Protection for kids

A feature of the highest-priced plan Kaspersky Total Security, the premium version of Kaspersky Safe Kids includes a GPS monitor to track the location of your kids’ smartphones. On the devices themselves, it blocks inappropriate content, text and call screening, social-network monitoring, YouTube blocking, YouTube search alerts, and app usage controls.

Safe Kids was not designed for iOS and doesn’t work as well on an iOS device as it does on Android.

Secure connection VPN

A premium feature of Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Total Security, Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN is easy to use and adequate as a basic VPN. Powered by Hotspot Shield, it offers a smaller range of locations compared to more competitive virtual private networks

Plans & pricing

Kaspersky Anti-Virus plan

Kaspersky Anti-virus plan pricing

Kaspersky Anti-Virus for PC has a base price of $29.99 to protect up to three PCs for one year, $59.99 for two years, and $89.99 for three years.

If you want to protect up to five PCs, you can do so at $39.99 for one year, $79.99 for two years, or $119.99 for three years.

The package includes virus, malware, and ransomware blockers.

Kaspersky Internet Security plan

Available for Windows, macOS, or Android, Kaspersky Internet Security has an annual base price of $39.99 for up to three devices, $79.99 for two years, and $119.99 for three years.

For up to five devices, you will have to spend $44.99 for one year, $89.99 for two years, or $134.99 for three years.

Kaspersky Internet Security includes the same virus, malware, and ransomware blockers, but adds the following features:

  • Free VPN—a virtual private network to block attempts to geolocate you.
  • Privacy Protector—blocks webcam hijacking, blocks phishing, hides browsing.
  • Safe Money—encrypts all online transactions where money changes hands.

Kaspersky Total Security plan

Kaspersky Total Security, available for Windows, macOS, iOS, or Android, is $49.99 for five devices annually, $99.99 for two years, and $149.99 for three years.

Protecting up to ten devices with Total Security will set you back $74.99 for one year, $149.99 for two years, or $224.99 for three years.

Total Security includes all the features of Internet Security but adds the following features:

  • Safe Kids—blocks inappropriate content, includes a GPS tracker.
  • Password Manager—with inter-device syncing.
  • File Protection—backs up important files and images to PC.

Ease of use and setup

Kaspersky Anti-Virus is easy to install. Once you select and purchase your plan, a download link gives you access to the installer file. It walks you through a total of four screens. You have the option to participate in the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), as well as the option to install recommended settings.

Once installed, Kaspersky offers an intuitive, visually-appealing control panel with available features laid out as convenient tiles. Most features are available with one click, but if a feature is not available with your plan, you may be prompted to upgrade. A gear icon in the bottom left allows you to access settings.

A computer screen registers a green checkmark or a red x to tell you if your computer is protected or not protected, and recommended actions are accessible via a Details button. It takes just a few minutes a day to square away your device with Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Internet Security, or Total Security.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus application interface

Kaspersky mobile app

Kaspersky Internet Security is compatible with Android devices, allowing you to access Kaspersky VPN, Privacy Protector, and Safe Money on your Android smartphone or tablet.

The app is available for Android, as well as iOS, and offers smartphone or tablet access to Safe Kids, Password Manager, and File Protection.

Customer support

Kaspersky’s support center can be found at support.kaspersky.com. The page features a knowledge base with a search bar and tile navigation. Once you select products for “Personal” or “Business,” it takes you to a selection between a documentation center, a FAQ, and the knowledge base. Scroll down, and you will find “useful links,” including product support and security tips.

At the bottom, you have the option to check “Yes” or “No” as to whether or not the information was helpful. If you check “No,” it takes you to a feedback form… but not a contact form. 

To contact Kaspersky, you can select the FAQ and scroll to the bottom of the page. It includes a link to create a request through “My Kaspersky,” as well as a link to technical support. Here, at last, we find our tech support contact avenues, including an email form and a support phone line.

Tech support can be reached at 1 (781) 503-1820. There is also a chat support option. All support options are available 24/7.

Is Kaspersky Antivirus safe to use?

From a protection standpoint, Kaspersky Antivirus offers admirable protection from viruses, malware, and ransomware, protecting your devices as well or better than its top competitors—as you would expect with its higher price point.

But the taint of Russian espionage allegations remains, as do the bans by the US government, Twitter, and Best Buy. Kaspersky has been proactive in its attempts to rehabilitate its reputation… but when an internet security company is accused of being an avenue for espionage, proceed with caution. 

FAQ

Can Kaspersky be trusted?

Yes, in a sense. Kaspersky Labs became a lightning rod for criticism in 2017 over allegations by US and British intelligence organizations that the company had colluded with Russian intelligence agencies to facilitate espionage and data theft. Kaspersky denies these allegations, claiming that flaws in its own security were exploited by outside actors.

In October 2017, Kaspersky announced a “Global Transparency Initiative,” opening up its products and systems to third-party scrutiny in an effort to rebuild the brand. In May 2018, Kaspersky announced the relocation of key infrastructure, including data centers, out of Russia and to Switzerland. These moves suggest an active bid for public trust, but it’s still too early to tell whether Kaspersky can be trusted.

Why is Kaspersky banned?

On September 13, 2017, the US Department of Homeland Security banned the use of Kaspersky products by all government agencies in response to allegations that Kaspersky Labs had collaborated with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to use Kaspersky software as a tool for facilitating espionage and the theft of sensitive data. Kaspersky has denied these allegations.

Is Kaspersky good?

Yes. Before the Russian intelligence scandal, Kaspersky was a reputable name with 20 years in the industry. It has tested above-average or excellent in its ability to detect and block viruses, malware, and ransomware. It can be used with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android operating systems, making it a versatile antivirus solution. It is user-friendly, with appealing scanning options and privacy-protection features. All things being equal, it compares favorably with other top antivirus programs.

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