Kaspersky is one of the world’s best-known antivirus companies, trusted by millions of people. But from 2015, there were questions about Kaspersky’s data collection practices.
Western media outlets claimed that Kaspersky had replaced staff members with Russian government employees, and that Russian hackers had used Kaspersky to steal US intelligence data. A few years ago, US government departments even banned the use of Kaspersky’s software on staff computers.
The scandal hurt Kaspersky badly. The company denies all these allegations, and it has taken steps to improve its transparency — for example, by moving large parts of its network out of Russia.
So the question many people are asking is:
- Is Kaspersky safe to use?
Here’s the answer:
- Yes, but…
In terms of malware and virus protection, Kaspersky is one of the strongest out there. It comes with some nice extra features, and it’s really easy to use. But before you use this product, there are a few important things you should know about Kaspersky’s “Cloud Protection” feature.
I’ve given Kaspersky a fair and in-depth review, focusing on how well it protects against malware, what extra features it offers, and how Kaspersky uses your data. Here’s what I found.
Kaspersky Antivirus Security Features
Kaspersky offers three paid plans in this product line. Here’s a basic run-down of each plan — if you want to see the feature sets in detail, head to the Plans and Pricing section below.
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus is a basic antivirus product for Windows. It offers real-time and on-demand protection against all types of malware, including viruses, spyware, and ransomware.
- Kaspersky Internet Security adds support for Mac and mobile, plus extra protection against cybercrime such as phishing scams and credit card theft.
- Kaspersky Total Security is Kaspersky’s top-of-the-range plan. It includes bonus features such as a password manager and parental controls.
For starters, Kaspersky’s real-time protection is great. It constantly scans the system for anything that might cause concern, and it performed perfectly in my tests, instantly blocking all the malware I threw at it with near-perfect detection.
My testing really highlighted Kaspersky’s powerful anti-ransomware protection. Ransomware is an especially dangerous type of malware that costs the world economy billions of dollars per year, so it’s great that the software is capable of handling this dangerous threat.
Kaspersky’s real-time protection is so effective that I actually had trouble running my ransomware simulation. So in order to get started, I had to temporarily turn off real-time protection.
With Kaspersky’s real-time protection paused, I was able to “infect” my computer. Then I ran Kaspersky’s Quick Scan.
Usually a “Quick Scan” doesn’t catch all malware in a system because it only scans certain areas. Kaspersky’s results, however, were seriously impressive — Kaspersky detected 15/15 ransomware files, with 0/2 false positives. This result is on par with the best of the industry — like Norton, McAfee, and Bitdefender.
Sometimes these scans can slow down computer systems so much that they’re unusable, but all of Kaspersky’s scans didn’t slow down my computer at all. I still was able to use my computer normally at normal speeds.
These are perfect results from Kaspersky, confirming that even the lowest-priced product provides excellent protection against all kinds of malware.
What’s particularly great is that Kaspersky provides its powerful ransomware protection across all of its plans. Detecting and removing ransomware is a big challenge for most antivirus programs. In fact, some antivirus companies — like Panda — reserve ransomware protection for their higher-paying customers.
Kaspersky Cloud Protection
With Kaspersky Cloud Protection, you can help Kaspersky in its battle against malware. Kaspersky claims that it can provide increased protection against harmful applications and websites by having your computer send data to Kaspersky, contributing to its antivirus research. The more data Kaspersky has, the better it becomes at detecting viruses. Kaspersky then instantly shares its findings with all Kaspersky users.
Sounds great, right? Well, there are certain privacy issues you should know about.
First, to turn on Cloud Protection, you must accept the Kaspersky Security Network agreement, which explains what sort of data Kaspersky will collect.
The agreement explains that, through its Cloud Protection feature, Kaspersky can collect your personal information, including:
- Which websites you’ve visited.
- Your computer’s unique ID number.
- The applications installed on your device.
The agreement also explains how to withdraw from the feature — but this explanation isn’t very clear:
Kaspersky should make it easier to disable Cloud Protection. There’s no option to opt out within the feature’s main interface screen. Instead, you have to go to the Settings menu and choose “Additional protection and management tools”.
On this screen, you can choose to decline the Kaspersky Network Security agreement.
Kaspersky warns against turning Cloud Protection off, claiming that it is “Required to support the application’s basic functionality”. However, this warning is highly misleading — Kaspersky works fine without Cloud Protection.
That said, Cloud Protection does help Kaspersky improve its product — which ultimately benefits all Kaspersky users. However, as someone who cares about privacy, I chose to turn Cloud Protection off after testing it.
Kaspersky Password Manager can generate strong passwords, save them in encrypted storage, and it can automatically log you into your online accounts.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus and Kaspersky Internet Security include the free version of Kaspersky Password Manager (which anyone can download from Kaspersky’s website). Unfortunately, this version only lets you store up to 15 passwords, which makes Kaspersky Password Manager Free a poor product.
I really can’t emphasize this enough: A password manager that only stores 15 passwords is practically useless. I guarantee that you have more than 15 passwords.
But the Kaspersky Total Security plan includes Kaspersky Password Manager Premium. Thankfully, this version lets you store unlimited passwords — and it works perfectly.
When you first use Kaspersky Password Manager, you need to choose a master password:
Once you’ve chosen a master password, you can enter your password vault where your login details are locked up in encrypted storage.
You can use your password vault to store important documents:
You can also store payment information:
Kaspersky Password Manager offers browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Internet Explorer:
I tested the Firefox extension. Kaspersky displayed a green key icon in my toolbar. When I visited a website, the Password Manager extension placed a grey key icon in any login fields on the page. I clicked the key icon, and the Password Manager logged me in automatically.
When you enter new login details, Kaspersky Password Manager will offer to store them in your password vault.
You can use the “Password Check” tool to test the strength of your passwords.
I’ve tested a lot of password managers, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well Kaspersky Password Manager works. It looks great and runs smoothly. The user-interface provides quick access to all features via its sidebar. This layout reminded me of another great password manager — 1Password, which is also a really well-designed piece of software.
However, Kaspersky Password Manager doesn’t offer many of the advanced features available with almost all of the best password managers on the market. For example — Dashlane includes an automatic Password Changer and Dark Web Monitoring, and LastPass includes Emergency Access and secure password sharing.
Kaspersky Password Manager is a good addition to Kaspersky Total Security — but if you purchase either of the other two Kaspersky antivirus packages, you only get the free version. Don’t bother upgrading just for this — there are better (and cheaper) password managers available.
More and more people are falling victim to financial cybercrime — mostly due to phishing, keyloggers, and banking Trojans. Kaspersky’s Safe Money can stop cybercriminals from stealing your payment information.
The Safe Money feature automatically detects if you’re about to make an online payment or use online banking:
The Protect Browser opens a new browser window with a green glow around it. For security reasons, the Protected Browser window turns off browser extensions and syncing:
Kaspersky’s Protected Browser runs on whatever browser you’re using. Other brands use a specialized browser, such as AVG’s Secure Browser, but I’m a creature of habit — I’d rather use Chrome or Firefox, so Safe Money gets points from me here.
With Safe Money, you can use Kaspersky’s On-Screen Keyboard when entering payment information. This stops keylogger spyware from recording your keystrokes.
Safe Money is an easy way to avoid financial cybercrime. It isn’t available with Kaspersky Antivirus, but it’s a much welcomed addition to Kaspersky Internet Security and Total Security.
Secure Connection VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) provides a private connection to a secure network. If you frequently use public Wi-Fi networks, you need to be using a VPN to keep your data safe from hackers. Another benefit is that you can connect to virtual locations around the world to access geographically-restricted content (like Netflix).
The free version of Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN comes with all three products in Kaspersky’s antivirus range. But what’s unfortunate is that even top-tier Kaspersky Total Security customers don’t automatically get access to the premium version of Kaspersky Secure Connection.
With the free version Secure Connection, you can only use 200 MB of data per day. This increases to 300 MB if you create a free “My Kaspersky” account — which is another example of how Kaspersky tries to obtain your personal information.
Another big negative is that you can’t select your virtual location with the free version — Kaspersky chooses it automatically. This is not good if you want to access online content from a specific country (such as the US version of Netflix).
It’s pretty disappointing that Kaspersky doesn’t include the premium version of Kaspersky Secure VPN with any of its plans. Other brands are more generous. For example, Panda limits VPN data to 150 MB per day on most of its plans, but it includes unlimited access with its top plan, Panda Dome Premium.
Limitations aside, Kaspersky Secure Connection works really well. For example, it recognized when I connected to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network:
And you only need one click to connect to the VPN:
Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN is also very fast. This is no surprise — it’s powered by Anchorfree Hotspot Shield, one of the fastest VPN providers on the market (also used by Bitdefender and Dashlane).
If you don’t already have a VPN, Kaspersky Secure Connection is a perfectly fine choice. However, because you have to pay to upgrade anyway, it’s not a good reason to buy a Kaspersky antivirus package.
Kaspersky Privacy Cleaner is included on all pricing plans. The Privacy Cleaner feature lets you delete “activity traces” from your computer.
Your computer, mainly your operating system and your web browsers, continuously keeps records of your activity. There are good reasons that your computer logs your activity, so that’s nothing to worry about. However, hackers can find ways to access this information.
Privacy Cleaner clears your browser history, temporary files folder, and the prefetch cache which stores copies of previously-viewed web pages for quick access.
Other actions are more obscure, such as clearing your Microsoft Paint history. You may want to do this if you share your computer or are planning to lend it to someone, but otherwise, you probably won’t need to do this.
One cool feature of the Privacy Cleaner is that Kaspersky lets you roll back any previous changes you may have regretted making, so there’s no risk of accidentally deleting something you really need.
In general, Kaspersky’s Privacy Cleaner offers a great level of detail. Other antivirus products, such as Avast, have similar features, but they often focus exclusively on clearing browser data. Kaspersky goes way above and beyond other antiviruses here. If you’re concerned about privacy, you’ll appreciate Privacy Cleaner.
Kaspersky Antivirus Plans and Pricing
Kaspersky’s product range is a little confusing. There are two main product lines for Kaspersky home users, which I’ll call “Internet Security” and “Security Cloud”.
This review is about Kaspersky’s “Internet Security” products:
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus
- Kaspersky Internet Security
- Kaspersky Total Security
These are all premium products, available on annual subscriptions. There are price points for 1, 3, or 5 devices on each package. You can contact Kaspersky if you want more to cover more than 5 devices.
There’s no free product in this product line. However, an older free product, Kaspersky Anti-Virus Free, has been repackaged as Kaspersky Security Cloud Free.
I’m not reviewing Kaspersky’s Security Cloud product range here, but it’s worth checking out Kaspersky Security Cloud Free. It shares many features with Kaspersky Anti-Virus — but it’s free!
Good Basic Protection: Kaspersky Anti-Virus
Kaspersky Anti-Virus provides basic virus protection for Windows PCs only. Features include:
- Real-time protection against all types of malware — including viruses, ransomware, and spyware.
- Quick, full, custom, and scheduled scans.
- On-Screen Keyboard.
- Cloud Protection.
- Privacy Cleaner.
- Vulnerability Scan — detects security weaknesses such as outdated applications.
- Rescue Disk — creates a handy antivirus application on a USB device.
- Microsoft Windows Troubleshooting.
- Password Manager Free.
- Secure Connection VPN.
This is an excellent basic package if you’re looking for a lightweight, easy-to-use Windows antivirus product. However, you will miss out on some important internet security features that the other, more expensive plans provide.
Most Value for the Money: Kaspersky Internet Security
Kaspersky Internet Security adds support for Mac, plus premium access to the Kaspersky Antivirus Android app. It also adds some internet security and privacy features, including:
- Safe Money.
- Webcam Protection.
- Private Browsing browser extension that blocks ads and tracking cookies.
- Advanced Anti-Phishing Protection — integrates with your browser to identify suspicious URLs and search results.
These extra tools help protect against online privacy threats such as phishing, spyware, and intrusive tracking cookies.
Kaspersky Internet Security’s “Anti-Spam” feature is turned off by default for EU users due to privacy law. It sends incoming mail to Kaspersky’s servers to check whether it’s spam.
I tried Anti-Spam using Microsoft Outlook and found that it slowed things down significantly. Features like Anti-Spam aren’t really necessary anymore — your email provider probably does a decent enough job of filtering out spam.
Kaspersky Internet Security is only a modest price increase but contains some pretty important extras. It’s a particularly good choice if you frequently shop or bank online.
Not Worth the Upgrade: Kaspersky Total Security
Kaspersky Total Security adds the following features:
- Safe Kids Premium. Blocks adult content, helps track your kids’ internet use and allows you to locate them via GPS.
- Password Manager Premium. Stores unlimited passwords.
- Backup & Restore. 2 GB online storage via Dropbox.
- Data Encryption. Lets you create a secure storage area on your hard-drive for sensitive files (Windows only).
There are a few serious issues with this plan. It’s unfortunate that Kaspersky feels that some of these extra features belong in its highest-priced plan, when they aren’t really worth anything.
For example, Backup & Restore is literally a standard 2 GB Dropbox account, except you access it via Kaspersky’s interface.
Including this feature with a top-tier product is kind of insulting — Dropbox gives 2 GB of storage away for free to every user. Compare Kaspersky’s offering to Norton 360 Premium, which offers a massive 75 GB of secure storage.
Then there’s Data Encryption, which is really no different from the “Encrypted File Service” feature that comes included with Windows 10.
So what are you left with? Kaspersky Password Manager and Kaspersky Safe Kids. These are good features, but you can purchase either of these as standalone products anyway.
The best value plan is Kaspersky Internet Security. Kaspersky Total Security provides very little extra and is probably not worth the upgrade.
Kaspersky Antivirus Ease-of-Use
Kaspersky says its latest edition is 15% faster and installs twice as quickly. And it’s noticeable — the software felt very light on my system’s resources and didn’t noticeably slow down my computer at all, even when scanning.
You can’t decline these agreements if you want to install Kaspersky. However, there are some additional agreements that are optional — but you may not realize this at first.
For example, you need to agree to the Security Network Statement to activate the “Cloud Protection” feature.
The same goes for Kaspersky’s Marketing Statement. I don’t want to receive marketing emails from Kaspersky, so I declined this.
This brings us back to how hungry for your data Kaspersky seems to be. It’s also a reminder that you shouldn’t simply press “Accept” or “Next” over and over when installing a software product!
Kaspersky’s interface is attractive and simple. Here’s the main screen for Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Kaspersky’s cheapest product:
Kaspersky Anti-Virus only shows you the features that are available to you. Even though this is the bottom-tier product, there are no blacked-out features or upgrade prompts.
For comparison, here’s the main screen for Kaspersky’s top-tier product, Kaspersky Total Security:
Kaspersky makes every product feel complete. Buying antivirus software often feels like buying half a product. For example, TotalAV and AVG both display various features unusable unless you upgrade. Kaspersky’s approach is much cleaner.
That said, I would like to see a “dark theme” (TotalAV is a good model for this) and clearer privacy choices. However, Kaspersky is one of the best-designed antivirus applications I’ve used — both for its interface and its performance.
Kaspersky Antivirus Mobile App
The Kaspersky Antivirus mobile app is only available for Android. Kaspersky offers a free iOS app called “Kaspersky Security Cloud”, but this is quite a different product and I didn’t test it as part of this review. It also didn’t make it onto my list of the best free antivirus apps for iPhone.
Kaspersky Antivirus for Android offers the following free features:
- On-demand malware scanning.
- Anti-theft tools:
- Locate you phone via your My Kaspersky account.
- Wipe your data.
- Trigger an alarm.
- Take a photo of anyone who attempts to use your phone.
- Lock your phone if someone removes the SIM.
- Lock your phone if someone tries to uninstall Kaspersky Antivirus.
This is a fairly good range of free tools, but without real-time protection, it’s not enough to get Kaspersky onto my list of the best free antivirus apps for Android. For a free Android antivirus app, consider Bitdefender Antivirus Free or Avira Antivirus instead — both of which offer real-time malware protection.
The full version of Kaspersky Antivirus for Android is included with Kaspersky Internet Security and Total Security. It offers the following bonus features:
- Real-Time Protection. Fights against all types of malware.
- App Lock. Lock specific apps behind a PIN, fingerprint, or security pattern.
- Internet Protection. Protects you from phishing scams and malicious websites.
Kaspersky’s other mobile features are available through separate apps. For example:
- Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN
- Kaspersky SafeKids: Parental Control & Kids GPS
- Kaspersky Password Manager
I tested Kaspersky’s Antivirus app on a Samsung Galaxy S10e running Android 9.
First, I tried out Kaspersky’s real-time protection. I installed two test virus files on my phone. Unfortunately, Kaspersky didn’t detect these viruses. To compare that, when I tried Samsung’s default virus protection (powered by McAfee), it detected both of them.
I then ran a full scan of my phone, which took just 22 seconds. Thankfully, the scan detected the two virus files:
Next, I activated the Internet Protection feature. Disappointingly, it seems Kaspersky’s Internet Protection only works on Chrome.
However, Internet Protection prevented me from accessing a phishing website:
Next, I tried the App Lock feature:
I chose to lock Facebook Messenger. But first, Kaspersky needed me to grant the app some permissions:
Then, I chose a PIN and that was it… Facebook Messenger is now locked! Kaspersky’s App Lock works perfectly. However, it’s worth noting that other apps like Avira Antivirus for Android provide this feature for free.
Overall, while the free version of Kaspersky Antivirus for Android isn’t great, the inclusion of the premium version with Kaspersky Internet Security is a good reason to consider getting this plan. But the failure of its real-time protection feature leaves me a little uneasy.
Kaspersky Antivirus Customer Support
Kaspersky offers support via:
- Email (submitted via web form).
- Live chat (9am – 10pm, 7 days a week).
- Phone (9am – 10pm, 7 days a week).
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter).
- Community forums.
This is an excellent range of support options.
That said, Kaspersky’s FAQs are poorly organized. It was very difficult to find answers to my questions using the “search” function.
To test out Kaspersky’s 1-1 customer support, I first sent an email request via the contact form:
Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for a response to this email. It’s been 5 days now — I’m not holding my breath.
Next, I tried live chat. I asked how to turn off the “Cloud Protection” feature. Kaspersky’s agent was helpful and polite and offered to email me a solution.
I got my answer 8 minutes after the agent closed our chat session:
There’s a small problem with this approach to customer support. If I can’t make these instructions work, I’ll need to log back into live chat and seek further advice. Not a big deal — but I’d rather have an expert talk me through my problem, step by step.
Kaspersky obviously puts a lot of resources into customer support, and it’s great to have such a broad range of support options. However, the FAQs are a mess, and I’m still waiting for a response to my email.
Is Kaspersky Antivirus Safe and Effective?
What matters most about an antivirus application is how well it protects your device from malware. Kaspersky gets top marks in this respect, as my own testing confirmed — it destroyed my malware samples with ease (except, disappointingly, on mobile).
Kaspersky excels at the basics. But if you want a comprehensive cybersecurity package, Kaspersky Total Security is a poor option. Some extra features, particularly Backup & Restore, are practically worthless. If you’re looking for an antivirus with great extra features, consider Norton 360 Deluxe, instead.
Kaspersky’s privacy practices are also an issue. You might not buy into the media narrative around Kaspersky being a Russian spy agency or care how much of your data Kaspersky can access — but providing users with transparency and control is crucial.
If you’re looking for a lightweight, powerful, no-fuss antivirus solution, Kaspersky Anti-Virus is an excellent option. The mid-range plan, Kaspersky Internet Security, offers some worthwhile extras (particularly Safe Pay) that make it worth the upgrade.
As for the most expensive plan, Kaspersky Total Security — save your money. You can get most of its extra features for free.
What I Like:
- Powerful anti-malware defenses.
- Lightweight and efficient.
- Well-designed and easy-to-use.
- Some excellent internet privacy features.
What I Don’t Like:
- Poor value top-tier plan.
- Worrying data collection practices.
- Password manager is useless on lower price plans.