It's common practice for security suite vendors to offer three levels of protection: a standalone antivirus, an entry-level security suite, and a mega-suite with additional features. Recently we've seen the rise of another level, the cross-platform multi-device suite. Kaspersky's entry-level suite is itself a cross-platform offering, with support for Windows, Mac, and Android. To that suite's bountiful feature collection, Kaspersky Total Security adds a backup system, enhanced parental control, a password manager, and an excellent cross-platform parental control system, as well as data encryption and secure file deletion. Most of its components are great, some are good, none are bad. It's a winner.
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You can get a three-license subscription for $89.99 per year, but as with the entry-level suite, a five-license subscription costs just $10 more. Do you need more than five? For $149.99 per year you can install Kaspersky on 10 systems. Note that this specifically refers to the Windows, Mac, and Android security suites. You can install the parental control system and password manager on as many Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android devices as you like.
Like the antivirus and entry-level suite, Kaspersky Total Security got a minor makeover with this release. Its main window still displays two rows of four icons, but the icons and text have been flattened and simplified in the current edition, and the additional explanatory text below each icon is gone. The green banner at the top remains, indicating that the suite is operating correctly. If something needs attention, the banner turns yellow or red. Clicking the Details button both lets you know what's wrong and helps you fix it.
Getting the suite installed starts at the My Kaspersky online portal. Here you can download the installer for the suite and also download installers for Kaspersky Safe Kids and Kaspersky Password Manager. The portal also lets you email installation links, which is more convenient if you're installing on a smartphone.
Shared Antivirus Features
As with Kaspersky's entry-level suite, the antivirus protection in this mega-suite is identical to what you get with the standalone Kaspersky Anti-Virus. I'll keep my summary of antivirus features brief, since you can refer to that review for full details.
I follow test results from five independent antivirus testing labs and also note whether vendors have received non-scored certification from two additional labs. Kaspersky doesn't bother with the certifications, and has recently stopped participating in the RAP (reactive and proactive) test at Virus Bulletin. Three of the other four labs give Kaspersky their best possible scores across the board. Tests by the remaining lab, MRG-Effitas, are extremely tough, with the majority of products simply failing. From this lab, Kaspersky got one top score and one next-to-top score. In my aggregate scoring system, Kaspersky gets a phenomenal 9.9 of 10 possible points.
In addition to tracking scores from the major testing labs, I run my own hands-on antivirus tests. Kaspersky earned 8.4 of 10 possible points in the malware blocking test and 64 percent protection in the malicious URL blocking test. Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete (2016) earned a perfect 10 points for malware blocking. Norton and McAfee LiveSafe (2016) managed to block 91 percent of the malicious downloads. However, when my scores don't jibe with what the labs report, I give more weight to the labs and their massive testing resources.
For years I've used Symantec Norton Security Premium as a touchstone for rating phishing protection, reporting how badly other products lag behind Norton's detection rate. Webroot and Bitdefender Total Security 2016 scored slightly better than Norton in this test, but Kaspersky beat all competitors, with a detection rate 4 percentage points better than Norton's.
Kaspersky packs plenty of bonus features into the standalone antivirus. Notable among them are the bootable Kaspersky Rescue Disk and an On-Screen Keyboard designed to foil keyloggers, even hardware keyloggers. For full details about those bonus features, read my review of the antivirus software.
Shared Suite Features
Besides the features shared with Kaspersky's standalone antivirus, this suite shares quite a few elements with the entry-level Kaspersky Internet Security suite. I'll refer you to that review for the details on these shared features. Here's a summary.
The typical third-party firewall puts your PCs ports in stealth mode, making them invisible to the outside world. Kaspersky's designers stopped bothering with stealth mode years ago, reasoning that, since they can fend off all attacks, there's no need to expend resources stealthing ports. Firewalls also typically control how and whether other programs can use your Internet and network connections. Kaspersky eschews the confusing popup queries spewed by lesser firewalls, choosing instead to handle program control internally. Its Automatic Exploit Prevention fends off exploit attacks against system or application vulnerabilities, even zero-day attacks. And it didn't yield to direct attack in testing.
If your email provider doesn't filter out spam automatically, you should turn on Kaspersky's spam filter. It handles both POP3 and IMAP accounts and integrates with Microsoft Outlook, but you can use it with any email client. Controls are simple—just a big three-position slider for security level. In testing, it didn't slow the process of downloading mail, and it didn't discard any valid mail at all. It did miss 16.1 percent of undeniable spam, more than in last year's test, but that's still quite a decent score.
New for the 2017 product line, Secure Connection is an easy-to-use VPNt hat you can use to protect your network traffic when on untrusted networks. The version supplied with the suite gives you 200MB of traffic per day on unlimited devices. If you pay for a subscription, there's no limit on traffic, and you get to choose which country your server is in. However, the paid edition is limited to five devices.
Safe Money has been a Kaspersky feature for many years. When you try to visit a financial website, it offers to launch that site in the Safe Money browser instead, which isolates the transaction from other processes. A glowing green border identifies the Safe Money browser.
New in this edition, Software Updater works in the background to identify important applications that aren't fully up to date. In most cases it can apply the updates for you automatically. All you need to do is click Update all. Software Cleaner, also new, scours your system looking for programs with sneaky installation behaviors, hidden programs, and other probably unwanted software, and offers to uninstall them. It also finds programs you hardly ever use.
Trusted Application Mode locks down your system by suppressing all programs that aren't among the 1.6 million trusted programs in Kaspesrsky's online database. Application Control warns you before permitting suspicious changes to things like browser settings; digging deeper lets you control what programs launch at startup. Webcam access control and a tool to catch sneaky installers that jam unwanted crapware onto your PC are among the other suite-specific bonus features.
Kaspersky Safe Kids
Parental control in the entry-level Kaspersky suite is unchanged since last year. Those who spring for Kaspersky Total Security get parental control handled by Kaspersky Safe Kids. It's a very good parental control utility; please read my review for full details. Note that Kaspersky Safe Kids (for iPhone) is an Editors' Choice for iOS-based parental control.
Safe Kids doesn't impose any limits on the number of children or devices it manages. You start by creating a profile for each child using the My Kaspersky online console. Next, you install it on every Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android device in your household, associating a child profile with each. In the case of Macs and Windows boxes, you can associate a profile with each user account.
You can set Safe Kids to block access to websites matching 14 content categories, or you can have it simply warn the child (and notify you if your child ignores the warning). This isn't a static database. The content filter analyzes pages in real time. In testing, it permitted access to a short-story site in general, but blocked erotic stories on the site. I did find that Safe Kids, like the basic Kaspersky parental control system, doesn't lock down secure anonymizing proxies when used in off-brand browsers. If that's a concern, parents can prohibit the browsers category in general and then make exceptions for the ones the kids use.
That application-blocking feature is pretty elaborate. You can block 14 app categories, or block access to specific applications. You can even put time limits on certain apps. It's also possible to limit the use of each of the child's devices, with the option to block access when time's up or just display a warning.
Parents can log in to the Web console to check the child's current location (or rather, the location of the child's mobile device. There's also an option to define geofences, identifying where the child should be at specific times of day. You get a notification when they cross into or out of those spaces. Extensive alerts and detailed reporting round out this impressive parental control package.
Kaspersky Password Manager
Like Safe Kids, Kaspersky Password Manager is a cross-platform tool. It syncs your saved passwords across all of your Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. Read my review to learn the nitty-gritty details, or you can just read my summary here.
On installation, the password manager prompts you to create a strong master password, something you can remember but nobody else would guess. It also offers to import any passwords stored insecurely in Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer, and optionally turns off password capture in Firefox and IE.
Password management works as expected. When you log in to a secure site, Kaspersky offers to save your credentials. When you return, it fills in what it saved. You can also pick from a browser menu of your secure sites to visit a site and log in. If you have a lot of saved sites you can organize them into groups, or simply use the built-in search function.
You can create one or more identities, storing personal information and separately record credit cards and bank accounts. When I reviewed this product last year, I found that it would not fill Web forms in Windows using that saved information. Since then, the form-filling feature has been removed.
Kaspersky does let you save secure notes and application passwords, but it lacks other advanced features like two-factor authentication and secure sharing. It handles basic password management tasks well enough that it wouldn't make a lot of sense to pay separately for a standalone password manager. But you might consider relying on one of the best free password managers.
Backup and Restore
Secure online backup is a common feature in high-end security suites, but the way it's handled varies widely. Some suites don't give you anything you couldn't get for free from Mozy or IDrive. Others, Norton and Webroot among them, offer 25GB of hosted secure storage. Kaspersky takes an unusual approach, letting you link its backup to a folder on your Dropbox account. Note that the files aren't encrypted in any way. They're protected only by the security of your Dropbox account. That being the case, I'd advise enabling two-factor authentication for Dropbox.
A wizard walks you through the process of configuring a backup job. You start by choosing which files to back up. If you accept the default configuration, it backs up everything in your Desktop and Documents folders, and their subfolders. You can also create backup jobs for pictures, videos, or movies, or create a custom backup job.
Next, you choose the backup destination. As noted, this can be your Dropbox account. You can also back up to any local, removable, or network drive, or to an FTP server. However, backup to optical media isn't supported.
By default, your backup job runs on demand. You can choose instead to have it run daily, on weekdays, on weekends, or on a weekly or monthly schedule. Some backup tools include elaborate scheduling systems to, say, run a backup on the third Wednesday of every month. Kaspersky keeps it simple. You can choose the day of the week for a weekly backup, but monthly backups always run on the first of the month.
Restoring files is equally simple. You start by choosing the backup set you want to restore, then select the files and folders you want restored. The default is to restore them all. You can choose to restore them to their original location or restore to a new location, retaining the folder structure. By default, the restore operation prompts you before overwriting an existing file, but you can set it to always overwrite, never overwrite, or keep both versions.
Subsequent backups only upload changed files, naturally. And Kaspersky retains multiple versions. If today's edits accidentally scrambled an important document, you can restore yesterday's version. Overall, it's a simple, effective backup system, and linking with Dropbox lets Kaspersky avoid having to maintain a fleet of online backup servers.
Data Encryption and File Shredder
Kaspersky's antivirus should fend off any data-stealing Trojans, but your files could be vulnerable to a less-subtle attack, like a coworker sitting down at your desk while you go for coffee. That's where Kaspersky's Data Encryption comes in.
To get started with the encryption feature, you create a data vault, an encrypted storage location that holds your sensitive files. When the vault is open, it looks just like a disk drive. After you lock the vault, its contents are totally inaccessible. Bitdefender and McAfee, among others, offer a similar feature.
The vault wizard lets you drag and drop files or folders to be encrypted. Next, you choose a name for the vault and a location for the file that represents it. At this point, you set the vault size, which can't be changed after vault creation. Finally, you enter a password for opening the vault. As you type, Kaspersky rates password strength. Don't lose this password, as there's no way to recover the files without it.
Of course, copying files into the vault does nothing to protect the unencrypted originals. As a final step, Kaspersky offers to securely delete the originals.
You can also use the File Shredder tool to securely delete arbitrary files and folders, preventing forensic recovery of sensitive items. By default, this tool overwrites files once before deletion. You can choose from a number of other secure deletion algorithms, some performing as many as seven overwrite passes, but for anything but world-shattering secrets, it's probably unnecessary.
Some Impact on Performance
The modern security suite avoids putting a drag on system performance by keeping all of its components integrated into one smoothly running system. This suite breaks that mold, with its separate installation of Safe Kids and Kaspersky Password Manager. Indeed, while the average suite occupies around 400MB of disk space, Kaspersky Total Security weighed in at 865MB, as determined by measuring free disk space before and after installation.
According to my tests, it does affect performance more than the entry-level suite. On my first round of testing, its boot-time numbers were terrible, because at each boot both Safe Kids and the password manager popped up asking me to set their initial configuration. I halted the test, got those components configured, and tried again. Averaging repeated measures of boot time from before and after installing the suite, I found it took 42 percent longer for the computer to fully boot up, or about 32 seconds longer. The entry-level suite added just 18 percent.
To measure a suite's effect on day-to-day file management activities, I time a script that moves and copies a large file collection between drives. I also time a script that repeatedly zips and unzips that same file collection. Both Kaspersky suites exhibited no performance drag at all on the zip test, and both added 29 percent to the time for the file move/copy test.
Even though Kaspersky is on the low side in the chart above, that doesn't mean it has a serious effect on performance. Yes, it slowed the boot process, but you probably don't reboot more than once a day. On the flip side, other products have done much better in this test. Webroot in particular had no measurable effect on any of my three tests.
See How We Test Security Software
To install Kaspersky's protection on your Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, you log in to the online My Kaspersky portal. The downloads page lists all of the components that are available as part of your license, with links to download an installer for the appropriate operating systems. You can also send these download links to an email address, which is probably easier than navigating My Kaspersky on a smartphone.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac isn't as feature-rich as the Windows edition. Certainly it doesn't compare to Kaspersky Total Security. It does include antivirus and a Network Attack Blocker. Safe Money, phishing protection, and webcam protection are among the other shared features. Safe Kids and Kaspersky Password Manager are fully available and functional on the Mac platform. Installing the security suite uses one of your licenses; the other two components don't.
Android fans can use one license to install Kaspersky Internet Security (for Android), which PCMag's Max Eddy found to be good, but not great. Read Max Eddy's review for the full details. In summary, the Android app's malware and phishing protection are very good. Antitheft features go beyond simple remote locate, lock, and wipe, adding the ability to snap a mug shot of the thief. The app can block unwanted phone calls, and notify you when someone swaps out the SIM card. As with Mac installations, you can install Safe Kids and Kaspersky Password Manager on as many Android devices as you like.
Like many security vendors, Kaspersky doesn't offer an antivirus or security suite for iOS devices, but you can install Safe Kids and the password manager on all of your iOS devices.
Kaspersky Total Security has something for all your devices, be they Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS. It's definitely a cross-platform multi-device suite, though iOS users only get parental control and password management. The password manager won't match its top competitors, and the spam filter slipped a little this year, but most of the many suite components are excellent.
It does get a bit pricey for full coverage; a 10-device license lists for $149.99 per year. Symantec Norton Security Premium protects 10 devices, including iPhones and iPads, for $89.99 per year, and throws in 25GB of secure hosted online backup. Its parental control system is on par with Kaspersky's. That same price lets you protect unlimited devices with McAfee LiveSafe, and McAfee also includes a password manager. Kaspersky Total Security is a very worthy contender, but Norton and McAfee are our Editors' Choice honorees for cross-platform multi-device security.
However, Kaspersky boasts an amazing collection of extremely useful security features. It's a rock-solid mega-suite on Windows, definitely comparable with Editors' Choice Bitdefender Total Security. Kaspersky joins Bitdefender as a security mega-suite Editors' Choice winner.
Note: These sub-ratings contribute to a product's overall star rating, as do other factors, including ease of use in real-world testing, bonus features, and overall integration of features.