When you're shopping for a new appliance, you probably look for one that gets a good rating from consumer research agencies. When you're shopping for an antivirus program, you want to see excellent scores from the independent antivirus testing labs. The labs uniformly rate Kaspersky Anti-Virus at or near the very top, giving it the best aggregate lab score I've seen. The 2017 edition doesn't ace all of my hands-on tests, but given the vast resources the labs can bring to bear on testing, their results hold more weight than my own small-scale tests. Kaspersky remains an Editors Choice this year.
Compare Similar ProductsCompare
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2016%displayPrice%
McAfee AntiVirus Plus (2016)%displayPrice%
Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus (2016)%displayPrice%
Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security 2016%displayPrice%
Avast Pro Antivirus 2016%displayPrice%
Daily Safety Check Home Edition%displayPrice%
Emsisoft Anti-Malware 11.0%displayPrice%
ESET NOD32 Antivirus 9%displayPrice%
F-Secure Anti-Virus 2016%displayPrice%
Panda Antivirus Pro 2016%displayPrice%
Avast Free Antivirus 2016%displayPrice%
AVG AntiVirus Free (2016)%displayPrice%
Panda Free Antivirus (2016)%displayPrice%
A year of Kaspersky protection covers up to three PCs and lists for $59.99, though special offers often yield a much lower price. Typically, you make your purchase online, then log in to the My Kaspersky portal to download and install the product. Don't forget to let it download the latest antivirus signatures. Note that volume discounts are available. A five-PC license lists for $79.99, and a ten-PC license for $129.99.
The program's main window still uses a light green and white color scheme, but its layout has changed a bit since last year. Four large icons let you scan for malware, update the signature database, view reports, or open the on-screen keyboard. However, they're now bigger and arranged in a two-by-two matrix, where they used to be in a single row. The top banner still represents security status. If there's a problem, it turns bright red. Clicking the Details button lets you quickly fix whatever is wrong.
A full antivirus scan of my standard clean test system took 24 minutes, which is quite good. The average for current products is 43 minutes, with Microsoft Windows Defender 4.9 and a few others taking more than an hour. Clearly this initial scan performed some degree of optimization, as a repeat scan finished in just four minutes.
Labs Love It
Most of the independent testing labs that I follow include Kaspersky in their testing, and, as noted, they uniformly rate it at the very top. I track five different tests performed by researchers at AV-Comparatives, among them static detection, dynamic protection, and performance. In every test, Kaspersky earned Advanced+, the highest rating. Of the products I cover, only Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2016 has equaled that feat.
AV-Test Institute rates antivirus tools on three criteria, protection, performance, and usability, assigning up to six points for each. Kaspersky earned six points for protection against malware, six points for low performance impact, and another six for usability, meaning that it didn't flag valid programs or websites as malicious. That sums to a perfect 18 points. Avast, Norton, and Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security 2016 managed 17.5 points.
Earlier this year I started tracking tests by MRG-Effitas. This lab's tests are unusual in that quite a few of the tested products just flat-out fail. Kaspersky and Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus (2016) were among the few to pass a test specifically focused on financial malware.
This lab's 360 Assessment exposes test systems to several hundred in-the-wild malware samples and rates how well they protect on their own, without any user interaction. To get Level 1 certification, the product must completely prevent every sample from installing on the test system. If some of the samples manage to run initially but get eliminated within 24 hours, that's worth Level 2 certification. Anything else is a failure. Kaspersky dropped from Level 1 to Level 2 in the latest test, but that's still very good. Symantec Norton Security Premium and Webroot were among the few others to receive this certification.
Kaspersky doesn't participate in the certification programs offered by West Coast Labs and ICSA lab, and hasn't appeared recently in the RAP (Reactive and Proactive) test by Virus Bulletin. Dropping the RAP score actually raised Kaspersky's rating in my aggregate score chart to an impressive 9.8 of 10 possible points. The labs are clearly impressed by Kaspersky's technology.
Hands-On Test Results
As initially configured, Kaspersky handles found malware without any user intervention and refrains from deleting "probably infected objects." For testing purposes, I turned these settings off, so I could see what it was doing.
When I opened my folder of malware samples, Kaspersky went into action, deleting those it recognized on sight as malware. The process took a while, because it first attempted disinfection on each item, quarantining it only if disinfection failed. It wiped out 71 percent of the samples at this stage.
I observed an interesting feature when I launched the remaining samples. In a couple of cases, Kaspersky reported suspicious behavior after the malware was installed and running. It offered to roll back the malicious program's activity and perform advanced disinfection. Each time it wiped out every trace of the malware. A similar detection and rollback feature is a mainstay of the way Webroot handles unknown processes.
However, the real-time protection didn't react at all to several of the samples, giving Kaspersky an overall detection rate of 84 percent. It scored 8.4 of 10 possible points in this test, lower than several other products tested using the same sample set.
My malicious URL blocking test uses a daily feed of malware-hosting URLs supplied by MRG-Effitas. I launch URLs from the current day's feed and observe whether the product blocks all access to the URL, wipes out the downloaded malware, or does nothing. I keep at it until I've recorded data for 100 URLs.
Kaspersky blocked 65 percent of the samples, almost all of them by steering the browser away from the dangerous URL. That's not a great score. Avira Antivirus Pro 2016 blocked 99 percent, all at the URL level. Norton and McAfee AntiVirus Plus (2016) came in second, with 91 percent.
Some antivirus products don't participate in lab testing, making these hands-on tests my only way of rating their effectiveness. Others do equally well with the labs and in my own tests. Year after year, Kaspersky blows it out of the park with the labs, but doesn't do as well in my tests. It's puzzling, but given the huge amount of resources the labs can bring to bear, I defer to their results when there's a difference.
The same browser plug-in that blocks access to malware-hosting URLs also serves to keep users from falling for phishing sites, fraudulent sites that try to steal login credentials for sensitive websites. However, it proved vastly more effective against phishing than against malware-hosting URLs.
For this test, I scour the Web to find newly reported fraudulent sites, many of them too new to have made it onto phishing blacklists. I launch each URL simultaneously in five browsers, one protected by the product under testing, one by Norton (a long-time antiphishing winner), and one each by the built-in security in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. I discard any that don't load properly in all five browsers, or that aren't actually phishing sites.
Because the URLs are different every time, I report the product's success relative to that of Norton and the three browsers. Almost every product I've tested lags behind Norton, and quite a few can't even beat the built-in browser protection.
Bitdefender and Webroot did slightly better than Norton in this test, but Kaspersky beat them both. Its detection rate came in 5 percentage points higher than Norton's, the best I've seen.
See How We Test Security Software
Some antivirus products just stick to the task at hand, with few extras; F-Secure Anti-Virus 2016 is an example. Others, like Kaspersky, add quite a few security-related bonus features.
One bonus in particular gets top billing—the On-Screen Keyboard. The first time you click its icon, featured prominently on the main window, it needs a restart for full functionality. Thereafter you can invoke it any time to enter passwords without the possibility of capture by a keylogger, even a hardware keylogger.
You access the rest of the bonus tools by clicking the main window's More Tools button. From the resulting menu, you can view files in quarantine, check the status of the Kaspersky Security Network online, or create a Kaspersky Rescue Disk. The rescue disk can clean malware that prevents you from accessing Windows or launching the regular Kaspersky malware scanner. Wise users will create a rescue disk right away and stash it against future need.
When you choose Vulnerability Scan, Kaspersky performs two rather different system checks. It reviews your Windows configuration to report settings that aren't the best for security, with the option to fix them. Don't like what it did? You can roll back the changes. It also looks for applications that don't have the latest security patches. Unlike the Software Updater in Kaspersky's full security suite, the Vulnerability Scan leaves you to manage necessary updates yourself.
A couple times during my hands-on testing, the Microsoft Windows Troubleshooter popped up and offered to change system settings that might have been tweaked by malware. You can also launch this scan at any time from the More Tools menu. There's a certain amount of overlap with the Vulnerability Scan; for example, both offered to turn off AutoRun for various drive types.
The Privacy Cleaner wipes out various traces of browsing and computer use, and the Browser Configuration Checker looks for problems with your Internet Explorer configuration (it didn't find any on my test system). As with the other bonus scans, you can roll back changes made by either of these.
Still a Winner
The fantastic scores awarded to Kaspersky Anti-Virus by the independent testing labs far outweigh its uneven performance in my hands-on tests. Its malware scan is fast, and it includes numerous security-related bonus features. If an unknown program exhibits malicious behaviors, the antivirus can roll back that program's actions completely.
Kaspersky is an Editor's Choice for standalone antivirus protection. It shares that honor with Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, McAfee AntiVirus Plus, and Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus.