Review: Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 -- fast, lean, effective

The latest version of this increasingly popular suite offers a range of security tools in a low-load interface.

Fans of all-in-one security suites should take a serious look at the just-released Kaspersky Internet Security 2009, which includes modules for antivirus, antispyware, firewall and more, yet uses little enough system resources and RAM that it won't slow down or clog up your system.

Like many of its competitors, Kaspersky takes the "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to Internet security, and it largely succeeds. The software's sprawling features are well integrated via a single control panel with individual screens for anti-malware, system security, online security and content-filtering sections. The default settings for each module should work well for most people, but for those who like to tweak, the program offers considerable customization tools as well.

The list of protection methods offered by the software is very long indeed: antivirus, antispyware, a firewall, an intrusion-protection system, antiphishing, antidialer, antispam, parental controls, an ad banner blocker, application filtering ... and even more. Surprisingly, despite all these features, Kaspersky won't slow down your system. On my Core Duo 1.83-GHz laptop running Windows XP with 1GB of RAM, I experienced virtually no performance hit at all.

One potential problem with comprehensive security suites is that you can wind up spending as much time training the program, or answering its queries about how to handle potential threats, as you will actually using your computer. Not so with Kaspersky. By default, it handles notices and alerts on its own, taking what it deems the most appropriate action for the potential threat. You can tell it to ask how you would like to handle threats and potential threats, but you're far better off letting the software handle that for you.

Antivirus and antispyware

The heart of any security suite is its anti-malware protection, and here Kaspersky does a very creditable job. The antivirus engine has been redone from previous versions; it has new algorithms and can take advantage of multiple processors on a machine. Kaspersky claims a 50 per cent increase in scanning speed; I did not use earlier versions of the software, so I can't verify that claim. But the scans I did with this version went exceedingly quickly; after my initial scan, it took less than two minutes for all subsequent scans.

Another plus: The customizable scanner lets you pause and resume easily; you can even have it automatically reboot or shut down your system after a scan.

As installed, scans aren't on a schedule; you'll have to set those up manually. However, you can customize scanning in many different ways, and can schedule scans to a fine-tuned degree, even having the software do a scan after every signature update. Considering the frequency of signature updates, however, you'd be better off not setting it to work on that schedule.

Of course, speed and flexibility is one thing; effectiveness is another. Here again, Kaspersky does a very credible job. According to AV-Comparatives.org, an independent malware-testing site that measures the antivirus portion of the suite, Kaspersky's newest release measures up well. The site tested a beta version and gave it an "Advanced" certification, and also noted that it had a very low rate of false positives.

Keep in mind, though, that "Advanced" is not the highest level of certification. The highest level is Advanced+, a rating given to very few programs, including NOD32 Anti-Virus and AntiVir PE Premium. By way of comparison: McAfee received an Advanced, and Norton a Standard.

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