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Kaspersky Antivirus Review 2019 - Not an Antivirus, it's a Virus!

Our Verdict:

Kaspersky is one of the top names in security software… So why has the US government banned it, and retailers like Best Buy removed it from the store shelves for good? Is it those troubling reports of the company’s links to the Kremlin? The accusations that the developer aids state-sponsored hackers? The reports of data mining consumers’ information to send back to Mother Russia?

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Detailed Expert Review

Total Security is Kaspersky’s leading internet security and antivirus. Unfortunately, its developer is mired in controversy for its close ties to Russian intelligence services. I tested out its features to see whether I can still confidently recommend it for consumers.

Security

Kaspersky includes a very impressive antivirus engine that has earned praise from independent testing laboratories. Likewise, its Android and iOS tools have been highly rated within the mobile antivirus community. Its online banking tool has received a prestigious Browser Security Test rating form MRG Effitas and proven adept at eliminating even the most stubborn forms of malware.

It passed my own mixed virus/malware sample test with flying colors, effectively weeding out a dummy rootkit, trojan, and macro virus. The company has done a good job at making its antivirus and internet security tools available to as wide an audience as possible. Besides Windows, which is backward compatible as far as XP, Kaspersky also has a Mac version as well as tools for Android and iOS.

That may sound impressive, but that’s where my praise for Kaspersky’s antivirus product ends.

Security

More than 400 million users worldwide have been deceived into trusting Kaspersky—and I strongly recommend that you avoid becoming their next victim. As Israeli cyber-researchers uncovered last year, the Russians have exploited Kaspersky’s large user-base to devastating effect. The software appears to prowl through users’ files and folders for potentially useful information and then remit its findings back to the company’s headquarters. Although the company recently pumped a whopping $12M into a charm offensive that shifted its headquarters from Russia to Switzerland—and even opened a so-called “Transparency Center”—there are plenty of concerns about the company’s connections to Russian intelligence that remain unaddressed.

Here’s one example of how the company was caught red-handed: One National Security Agency (NSA) employee who had unsecurely stored sensitive work documents on his home computer had them scooped up by the program and sent back to the cloud for the program’s Russian controllers to inspect. It was only when the Israeli team notified their American counterparts of the data intrusion that the shocking truth about what Kaspersky really does became apparent. Given these revelations about Russian control over the company, it’s also difficult not to see its multi-platform offering and long backward comparability on Windows as anything other than an attempt to cast as wide a net as possible in terms of gathering user data.

Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) – Virus Protection Network Or Intelligence-Gathering Front?

For years, the developer has touted the advantages of its Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), a centralized security analysis center which claims to provide an early warning system for emerging cyberthreats.

In light of the recent revelations surrounding the company, however, KSN may really be a digital front operation for the Russian government where potentially useful user files are assessed. In fact, some tech researchers have gone so far as to speculate that KSN might actually function as a “Google search for sensitive information.” For anyone intent on using Kaspersky, I would strongly recommend disabling the KSN feature and with any other setting that remits information to the company. Any setting labeled “reporting” should also be carefully deactivated.

Features

My concerns about the program’s true nature notwithstanding, it’s difficult to argue with the fact that Kaspersky does provide some very granular scanning options that put a lot of control in the user’s hands. I liked the fact that I could choose whether to scan internal or external resources (like a USB drive). Some basic scheduling functionalities also provide users with some control over when to configure the scans to run—however, these were more basic than some other solutions I’ve investigated.

Features

Perhaps I’m being a little paranoid since these features are nice in theory, but I wouldn’t be comfortable giving Kaspersky access to anything more than basic system files and default-installed programs. Because of the very legitimate concern that the engine will siphon user data back to the company—and pass that information on to Soviet agents, I chose to disable scanning of all my cloud-connected and external volumes and strongly recommend that any privacy-conscious user do the same.

Other Tools to Avoid: Virtual Keyboard, File Encryption, VPN

Unfortunately, the scanning options are far from the only trap the Russians may have laid for unsuspecting Kaspersky users.

Keylogging detection programs prevent the bad guys from recording and capturing every keystroke—whether virtual or digital. Keyloggers can capture a treasure trove of information including passwords, usernames, and messages typed in any program, so it’s vital to avoid them.

While most security suites work by detecting and blocking malicious programs, Kaspersky has chosen to provide a virtual keyboard for users to type on. In case that wasn’t clear, this means that the company can effectively digitally eavesdrop on your every online communication. For that reason, although Kaspersky is quick to say it maintains an online database of banking websites—and add that the purpose of the virtual keyboard is to avoid hackers intercepting financial data—I would strongly recommend against enabling this feature.

For the same reason, I would advise against using Total Security’s built-in file encryption functionality. The only truly safe form of file encryption is a system that you operate yourself. While Kaspersky may convince some users that its encryption tool secures their files, the company may have provided itself a backdoor decryption key and may be able to decipher users’ supposedly secured documents.

Parental Control That Lets the Russians Know What You’ve Been Up To Online

This is another Kaspersky feature that should be disabled. While the parental control tool contains many common and potentially useful features (such as locking down websites by category and creating whitelists and blacklists), I consider it too risky to use in light of the now well-established connection between Kaspersky and the Russian FSB.

Although many business clients need web filtering as part of their security software, even major banks have stopped enabling this feature of Kaspersky’s product. Based on concerns from the UK intelligence agency GCHQ, multinational bank Barclay’s has ended its arrangement with Kaspersky—despite the fact that at one time it had provided the software to over 250,000 of its customers.

Why? While web filtering can help protect minors from inappropriate content, this security tool needs access to browser histories in order to generate reports. There’s no guarantee that the information will be used strictly for intended purposes.

Don’t Trust Kaspersky Secure Connection

Total Security customers also get the Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN. Using a VPN is a good idea whenever you’re connecting to a network that may be unsecure like a public WiFI hotspot, but I cannot recommend using this one.

Although VPN traffic is encrypted between the user’s computer and the VPN server, the VPN operator does retain the ability to decrypt the connection and read both the packets and DNS requests. Instead, use a reliable third-party tool that isn’t operated by a company with suspected connections to Russia. By the way, Kaspersky Secure Connection is limited to just 200MB per day, an insufficient amount for many people.

“Safe” Money, Backup and Restore

Two final components of the suite are Safe Money, which is enabled by default, and Backup and Restore. The first feature works by disabling screenshot tools whenever you use an online banking or e-commerce website, and it provides a dedicated secure browser environment for connecting to these websites. I tested the tool out by accessing a full online banking URLs and found that the feature worked as expected.

“Safe” Money, Backup and Restore

Ease of use

Total Security is not the easiest antivirus solution to install and use. After downloading the large file, I had to manually approve the program through Windows’ User Access Control (UAC). Definitions also had to be downloaded following installation. I had to manually initiate the first definitions update, although the UI did display a prompt for this.

Kaspersky also hasn’t made the tool rookie-friendly. Although some may appreciate the detailed options provided throughout the program, I often found them to be confusing. When I wanted to test out the data deletion options, for instance, I was given eight different options for which “data deletion method” I wanted to use. Although some users will specifically want the VSITR standard instead of the Bruce Schneier Algorithm, for example, the vast majority of users will be confused.

Ease of use

It was also an intrusive piece of software. The “protected browser” feature occasionally popped open without any action on my part, and the notification icon was constantly prompting me to take action. Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer users will face prompts to install the Kaspersky Protection browser extension. This clutters up search result pages with multiple security rankings that the company has assigned to the URLs. This can identify potentially harmful websites before clicking on them, but I prefer when the warning and blocking process takes place in the background.

Finally, Kaspersky Total Security is certainly not the lightest product on the market in terms of its impact on system resources. My system felt noticeably slower running it, and when I checked in Windows Task Manager (without any scans running and with the UI at the dashboard), the program was consuming 5% of my total available CPU. When running a deep scan, the use of RAM and CPU can easily climb beyond 20%. Kaspersky is not the best choice for a computer with older hardware.

Support

While Kaspersky provides a fairly comprehensive array of support options it is a case of quantity, not quality.

Many users have reported difficulty getting the company to offer refunds and comply with simple billing requests. In my own experience, the support representatives did not go the extra mile to address my query about how to configure internal-only scans.

I encountered the same unhelpful attitude from both the live chat and telephone support representatives. Although they did guide me to the correct support resources, they were not willing to engage on a more step-by-step basis. Ticket response times were also on the slow side of the industry average.

In terms of the non-personalized help channels, I also didn’t find these particularly helpful. The knowledge-base is full of basic troubleshooting and simple step-by-step guides, but a company of Kaspersky’s size could have invested more documentation with better use of multimedia.

Users should also be aware that Kaspersky technicians will sometimes offer to resolve user difficulties through gaining remote access with Teamviewer. In light of the legitimate security concerns raised about the company, I can’t recommend this.

Pricing

Kaspersky is one of the most expensive solutions on the market, particularly at the single device level. Although users can save money by opting for the five-device plan, I don’t believe that it represents very good value for money.

Its redeeming price feature, though, is the thirty-day free trial, which is certainly one of the more generous periods on the market. Given that there are large parts of the software to avoid (including money protection, parental control, and password management), most users will find better value for money elsewhere.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus Kaspersky Internet Security Kaspersky Total Security

Kaspersky Products & Pricing

Kaspersky Anti-Virus
Kaspersky Internet Security
Kaspersky Total Security
Operating System
Security
Performance
Simplicity
PC, Mac & Mobile
Privacy
Money
Safe Kids
Passwords
File Protection
Trial
Price $23.99 $31.99 $39.99
Read More Read More Read More

Bottom Line

Kaspersky may have a decent scanning engine, but at this point, the suspicion that the company is being controlled or manipulated by the Russian government remains very strong. The majority of its features are potential privacy threats to even the average user.

Check the top 3 alternative antivirus programs

Kaspersky User Reviews

43 65
Based on 108 reviews in 26 languages 1.6
Language
You can trust the Community! Companies can't ask us to delete or change user reviews.
Apr. 24, 2019
T. A. Morse
T. A. Morse
United States
5.0
Kaspersky is great, and Ms. Zacks' review is a hatchet job
Windows User
I don't remember reading a IT-related review written as maliciously as this one. My experience with Kaspersky Antivirus is fantastic. Before Kaspersky, I have used several free av programs (Avast, AVG, Avira, etc). Then I switched to Kaspersky Free Antivirus, and it was obvious to me that Kaspersky is superior. Now I use Kaspersky Total Security, and it's great. It's easy to use, light on resources and offers many additional features (VPN, firewall, protected browser, password manager, etc).

Russian government's meddling into other countries political systems is currently one of the greatest threats to freedom, democracy and peace in the world. But claims of Kaspersky Lab being a front for FSB are not proven. Until hard evidence for such...Show More
Mar. 15, 2019
Greg Freeman
Greg Freeman
United States
5.0
Aviva Lies
Windows User
So much irrational hatred of the Russians it's sad. China is the real enemy and the real hacker !!! I've run Kaspersky for 10yrs now and NO viruses or other malware. No hacks of my computer and No data breaches. And let's just say even if Kaspersky was gathering intelligence of the Russians (Which it is Not) what does the Kremlin care about the average citizen ??? Absolutely nothing !!! Who does the U.S. Govt. hire to protect it's systems and hack others ? People convicted of hacking that's who ! So if the Russians are such great hackers then obviously their the best to also protect you from hacking !!! And if they did do all the hacking the U.S. claims they'd have to be too stupid to hack anyone because they apparently don't know how to hi...Show More
May 8, 2019
Stephen Stratford
Stephen Stratford
United Kingdom
5.0
A biased and xenophobic review.
Windows User
You fail to mention that Kaspersky also has an user forum. I've used both Norton and Kaspersky products (not at the same time) and they are both excellent products. As the Technical Director of the UK's NCSC stated in December 2017 (See report at https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/blog-post/managing-supply-chain-risk-cloud-enabled-products) it is far more complex that just a blanket ban of excellent product A from bad county X. Kaspersky's products have consistently excellent reviews from numerous institutions in various countries. You just adopted a lazy, biased approach to your review instead of actually looking at all the evidence instead of just blindly reprinting articles from various newspapers.
May 15, 2019
Chris Stam
Chris Stam
Germany
5.0
The best
Windows User
Do you believe that Russia is spying on U.S.? It's true.Do you believe that U.S. is spying on Russia? It's true.
Do you believe that U.S. and Russia are spying on their citizens? It's true.
There must be no fanaticism and we must not participate in the political games of governments,media and perverse journalists,we must have an open mind.Now we comment on Kaspersky and the users want to learn about.Kaspersky is the best protection ever and completely protects the computer from any threat and infection,no other antivirus can achieve this so effectively.However,Kaspersky has a single disadvantage,significantly slows the computer.Only for that reason I don't use it anymore.
May 20, 2019
John Klein
John Klein
United States
5.0
BS review
Windows User
I will put it plainly , Zacks is either a brainwashed simpleton or a paid propagandist . This review is complete nonsense ( Rachel Maddow, is this you ? ) . Even the US government used Kaspersky up until the anti Russia propaganda war started . Kaspersky is number one in the world , I have been using Kaspersky Internet Security for years , it has never failed me . . There is no controversy except for the manufactured controversy by people like Zacks and out government , Kaspersky is absolutely trustworthy , read other reviews , you will see what a sham this so review is .
May 8, 2019
Dexcello
Dexcello
Finland
5.0
This woman knows nothing
Windows User
Do not listen to this tech illiterate SJW woman. Kaspersky is among the best AV's you can buy (they do have free version too). This is just lame attempt to play the Russian conspiracy card (BTW SJWs, Mueller already proved your fake news nonsense wrong). Either this woman is a paid shill, or she simply is so gullible as to believe the baseless accusations. The real reason the US government is so mad about Kaspersky is because the software was able to find US government developed malware and the US didn't like it so they want the product banned.
Mar. 25, 2019
Ricky
Ricky
Indonesia
5.0
The strongest antivirus ever that I used
Windows User
Why does this writer judge Kaspersky as bad as it is because he only hates Russia ??? It seems that this writer is very racist. I first used Kaspersky, got very good protection and did not affect computer performance at all. For the problem about KSN it might actually function as "Google search for sensitive information" that was not a problem at all for me because the collection of user data is usually needed for security analysis.
This blog only defames Kaspersky actually. Many other web sites that assess Kaspersky are very good or perfect.
Feb. 12, 2019
Peter
Peter
Germany
4.0
Сsak dicsérni tudja
Windows User
A Kaspersky Internet Security-t használom, csak dicsérni tudom! Már 7 olyan vírust, böngészőeltérítőt és trójait talált, amiket a G-Data észre se vett.

--
Ez az értékelés eredetileg angol nyelven íródott, a magyar felhasználók kedvéért fordítottuk le.
May 16, 2019
Kosova Republic
Kosova Republic
United Kingdom
5.0
im tired of this
Windows User
well it's always US and Israeli cyber-researchers. Political review, some fool as that trump
I'm sick and tired of this crap, you think US don't spy and i don't want to talk about israeli maggots.
It's the same with Huawei mobile phones, they are banned in US, the reason is that noone will buy Iphone shitty phones.
You go Kaspersky your the best security, not some US internet security that they force you to buy some crap internet security.
Jul. 11, 2019
Justin Coffman
Justin Coffman
United States
5.0
What kind of insane tripe is this review?
Windows User
No one has provided any evidence to substantiate these claims. Kaspersky, on the other hand, has taken drastic steps to increase transparency and accountability. This is paranoid, jingoistic pandering at its worst.
Transparency and Trust – We pride ourselves on being the only site where users can freely contribute and share their reviews on any antivirus with other community members. When you visit an antivirus site we link to, we sometimes get affiliate commissions that support our work. Read more about how we operate.