Kaspersky Antivirus Review
By now, we’ve all heard horror stories about computer viruses or malware that destroy important files and steal identities. While we’ve tried our best to protect our devices over the years, hackers are always one step ahead. That’s why we’ve reviewed the leading antivirus software options on the market, including Kaspersky Anti-Virus. We conducted extensive testing on our 2014 Lenovo ThinkPad, and we’re ready to report back on what we found.
Company Background: Security Concerns?
First things first—let’s address the elephant in the room. We think it’s important to note upfront that Kaspersky Lab’s reputation is not squeaky clean. Some background information: the company itself, founded in Russia in 1997, is a global leader in identifying emerging Internet security threats and malware. They’ve even identified hacking plots run by governments. But, in recent years, we’ve seen disturbing allegations of ties between the company and the Russian government.
Kaspersky’s Alleged Russian Ties
Rumors about Kaspersky started spreading back in 2012 when Bloomberg pointed out a pattern of new hires with connections to the Russian military establishment.1 In 2017, the U.S Department of Homeland Security banned the use of Kaspersky software by any federal agency, and Britain followed suit shortly after.2 Twitter has banned Kaspersky Lab from advertising on the site, and Best Buy even stopped selling the company’s products.3 And the U.S argues that Kaspersky hacked into an NSA contractor’s laptop through its software back in 2015.4
Kaspersky has denied ties with the Russian government and claimed that the bans are the result of U.S-Russia tensions. While that point is hard to prove, we found it reassuring that last year, Kaspersky moved its data centers holding non-Russian data from Russia to Switzerland.
Exposure of User’s Browsing Data
In 2019, journalists pointed out that the way Kaspersky protects users online, by injecting a snippet of code into URLs, could allow other companies to track a computer’s browser traffic for advertising purposes.5 We don’t think this is a reason to shy away from Kaspersky, though—advertisers work hard to find our data wherever they can. And more importantly, Kaspersky updated its code so that individual computers can’t be tracked. If it still makes you nervous, you can adjust your settings to opt out of the code insertion.
What Did Kaspersky Find?
But what exactly was Kaspersky doing during all of those scans? Quite a bit, as it turns out. The software was looking for:
- Viruses (including complex botnets and bootkits)
- Network attacks
- Phishing emails
It’s worth noting that Kaspersky Anti-Virus doesn’t offer a firewall, child controls, or password storage, though those are all available in other computer security packages like Internet Total Security. But for the purpose of finding and stopping any nasty computer bugs, Kaspersky Antivirus’s coverage was both comprehensive and reassuring.
Testing Kaspersky for Viruses
But how could we know if the software worked if we just got lucky and didn’t have viruses on our computer? We decided this was a question we could answer. We intentionally downloaded five dangerous files containing adware, spyware, malware, and more—but don’t worry, we didn’t open them! Since there are all kinds of threats out there, we wanted to use these same files across all of the antivirus software that we tested to see how they performed. Kaspersky Anti-Virus passed this test with flying colors. In fact, it was one of only two software out of the 40 we tested to detect all five viruses.
Testing Kaspersky for Malware
Just to be sure our results were right, we also looked at independent lab data from A.V Labs. This test, which was conducted on an Android, showed that Kaspersky had 100 percent detection of known malware and achieved 99.9 percent protection against them. Clearly, Kaspersky is more than decent when it comes to its core functions of detecting viruses and malware.
Purchasing and Installing Kaspersky
We thought purchasing Kaspersky was straightforward, and its sales tactics were certainly less aggressive than some competitors’. The company’s website lists a number of options for computer security for both home and business, following the upsell model that so many companies share these days. It highlights three options—Kaspersky Anti-Virus, which we picked; Kaspersky Internet Security; and Kaspersky Total Security. Unsurprisingly, the most expensive option (Total Security) is “recommended.”
For our purposes, though, Kaspersky Anti-Virus offered plenty of functionality, so we went ahead and purchased the product at an introductory offer of $29.99 for a year. We were pleasantly surprised to see that Kaspersky also offers a 30-day free trial that—rare in the world of subscriptions—doesn’t require a credit card. While we were ready to go ahead and buy the software, we thought that was a compelling offer for a customer on the fence.
Once we purchased the license, the download went right through and took under a minute, even on our laggy computer. Unlike some other tiered-price software, we were glad to see that Kaspersky did not immediately try to upsell us. Best of all, there wasn’t a pop-up in sight.
Our Experience Using Kaspersky Anti-Virus
Kaspersky Anti-Virus has a simple, clean interface focused mainly on its primary job of checking for viruses. It’s broken into four main sections: scan, database update, reports, and on-screen keyboard, and it also has links to settings and additional tools. We’ll run through them from the most simple to the most complicated.
We were impressed by the inclusion of an on-screen keyboard, a feature that addresses a vulnerability most people don’t know they have. Hackers are starting to use keylogger programs to scrape personal data, like Social Security numbers or credit card details, as people enter that information into websites. Kaspersky has come up with a clever solution with its On-Screen Keyboard, a clickable image of a keyboard that comes up on the screen. We ordered yet another bottle of hand sanitizer by clicking on characters on the keyboard image, leaving no keystroke traces for hackers to find. We found this process pretty tedious, but it’s nice to have the option in case you spot something phishy.
Just as it sounds, Kaspersky’s Reports section showed us details on the software’s scans of files, web traffic, network threats, and more. That’s also where we found data from one of Kaspersky’s more advanced features, System Watcher. While we thankfully weren’t the victims of a malware attack while testing the product, System Watcher provided us the ability to roll back the impact of a malware attack, like remote file locks.
The Database Update section was just as straightforward. It let us know that the software was up to date with all of the latest information about threats, and was set to automatically update at regular intervals. We had the option to set it to refresh at certain times, but we thought it was best to leave the recommended auto updates in place. It’s also possible to run a manual update.
Onto the most important part! The scans section is the meat and potatoes of this software. The scan menu offered a host of features, the most prominent of which is the Quick Scan. This scan, which we ran right away, took seven minutes. It focused on the areas on our computer most susceptible to viruses and malware. If it found anything troubling, the software would run a full scan of every single piece of information on the machine.
While our quick scan didn’t find anything on our computer, we decided to run a full scan manually, even though Kaspersky noted that it “may take a while and slow down your computer.” In our experience, that’s putting it mildly—the full scan took hours (we started it in the mid-evening and were in bed before it finished) and our computer, which was already on the older and slower side, basically ground to a halt. This was definitely disappointing, though we can’t say Kaspersky didn’t warn us. Surprisingly, everything came back clean!
Our Advice: Starting full scans at night minimizes disruption from a slowed-down computer.
Other scanning options include Selective Scan, which we used to check out individual folders and files, and a removable drive scan to protect against any dangers on a USB or hard drive. We set each type of scan to run on a schedule of our choice (options included every hour, every week, or every time the application is launched). After our experience with the full scan, we appreciated that Kaspersky offers the option to set the software to only run when the computer is idle so it won’t slow down important work. We ultimately set the software to run a Quick Scan every day and a Full Scan once a month at a time when the computer wasn’t being used.
Despite the ease of changing the settings, we were surprised that the default setting on download was for manual (on-demand) for both basic and full scans. Though a warning stated that Kaspersky didn’t recommend leaving it set to manual, we wouldn’t have found that information had we not checked the settings. We found this strange. A number of other settings are enabled by default (like deletion of malicious tools and automatic launch of the software at computer startup). We did notice, however, that the “Background scan” mode, which scans sections of the computer like the system memory every six hours, was switched on by default. That’s a start, but it’s not enough for total protection. Kaspersky should probably make the scheduling settings more clear so that newer anti-virus software users don’t inadvertently leave their computers unprotected.
As a whole, we found Kaspersky Anti-Virus to be very customizable. We especially loved the fact that there is a setting called “Gamer Mode”. This mode automatically postpones scheduled scans if the computer is running an app like a game in full-screen. As avid gamers, we hate being interrupted by pop-ups or slowed down by programs running in the background, and we can report that we weren’t interrupted at all during our test period.
Tip: Click the gear icon at the bottom of the app or the icons next to each of the scan options to customize the scan schedule.
We also appreciated that the software automatically postponed its tasks when the computer was running on battery or the CPU and when the disks were running at high loads, reducing slowdowns. And we were grateful that Kaspersky allowed us to easily opt out of seeing special offers or receiving advertising from the company within the app. All in all, the app provided an experience that we found straightforward and customizable, and we appreciated the simple, easy to navigate design.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus Pricing
While Kaspersky offers several different levels of protection that combine antivirus with capabilities like VPNs and child settings, here we’re focusing on the straight antivirus offering (but if you want to learn more about VPNs, read our VPN guide or our list of the best VPN options).
We paid $29.99 for one year of Kaspersky Anti-Virus, which covered both our Lenovo ThinkPad and two other computers. That price is a first-time customer deal, though, so we’ll be sure to keep an eye on the renewal, which costs $59.99.
|Number of Devices/ Duration of plan||Price|
|1 year/3 devices||$39.99|
|2 years/3 devices||$59.99|
|3 years/3 devices||$89.99|
|1 year/5 devices||$39.99|
|2 years/5 devices||$79.99|
|3 years/5 devices||$119.99|
As you’ll see on our Kaspersky pricing page, this price is a little below several major competitors, which, combined with Kaspersky’s skill at detecting viruses and malware, makes it a compelling choice.
Note: Kaspersky offers a 30-day free trial of each of its security packages—no credit card required!
Kaspersky Anti-Virus Customer Support
While we didn’t have any real problems with our software, we did have some questions about how to maximize its effectiveness on our computer, so we checked out their online support page. Like many companies, Kaspersky first asked us to review their FAQs before moving further. The page also linked to a robust customer discussion section, where we found questions and answers about all sorts of viruses and problems. But we were glad to find that, unlike some products, Kaspersky did offer a way to reach an actual human being if necessary.
Kaspersky offers three options for this kind of help: online chat, support tickets, and phone support. All three are available 24/7, though Kaspersky asks that non-time-sensitive items go to a ticket and the phone is reserved for real emergencies. Since our curiosity probably didn’t meet that bar, we didn’t call—but we were glad to know it was available.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus App
While we tested Kaspersky’s Windows app for this review, it’s also available for Android and iOS devices. In the Google Play Store, it’s listed under Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus: AppLock & Web Security, alongside a shiny 4.8 customer rating. With a 4.7 rating, the iOS app can be found under the name Kaspersky Security Cloud & VPNWare on the App store. While we only tested the desktop app, those reviews are certainly a strong sign that the phone versions are also well-designed.
How Much Information Does Kaspersky Collect?
- Phone number
- License information
- Product stats (length of scans, etc)
- Threats detected
- Information about installed programs
- Information about devices
- URLs visited
- Emails (all content)
- Wi-Fi data
- Operating system alerts
- Information provided to Kaspersky tech support
- Expiration date and last four digits of the credit/debit card used for purchase
- Statistical information about browser type
- Interactions with Kaspersky website
- Stolen device data
Be prepared: Kaspersky Anti-Virus needs at least one RAM of memory and at least 1,500 MB of storage space on a PC.
We won’t lie; we continue to have concerns about Kaspersky’s potential ties to the Russian government, though that isn’t as likely to affect individuals as it is companies or governments. But it’s hard to argue against Kaspersky’s performance. It outdid nearly all its competitors in testing, and its ability to roll back damage from malware is certainly attractive.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus is a good match for people who:
- Want the best performing virus scans on the market
- Prefer a greater level of control over the timing and details of scans
- Value affordable pricing
It’s probably a bad fit for people who:
- Don’t want to risk any data exposure to foreign governments
- Want to commit for less than a year
Bloomberg. (2015). The Company Securing Your Internet Has Close Ties to Russian Spies
The Guardian. (2017). AUS government bans agencies from using Kaspersky software over spying fears.
Reuters. (2018). Twitter bans ads from Russia's Kaspersky Lab.
The Wall Street Journal. (2017). Russian Hackers Stole NSA Data on U.S. Cyber Defense.