Many security suite product lines form a simple progression, at least on the Windows platform. It goes like this: basic antivirus, entry-level suite, feature-rich mega-suite, and cross-platform multi-device suite. With ESET Multi-Device Security 10, you can install the antivirus or entry-level suite on Windows, but not the mega-suite. It also offers a choice of antivirus or suite on macOS devices. As for Android, you can install mobile security, parental control, or both. In fact, this suite shines under Android more than it does under Windows or macOS.
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For $84.99 per year, you get six licenses to install ESET protection on your Windows, macOS, and Android devices. At the $99.99 per year level, you get 10 licenses. Kaspersky offers a bit less for $99.99, just five licenses. For $89.99 per year, Norton gives you 10 licenses plus 25GB of hosted online storage for your backups, and McAfee LiveSafe lets you protect all your devices, without limit. ESET's pricing fits right in with these products, and the fact that you get six licenses at the base subscription rate makes it a better deal than many. Also, the previous edition's requirement that one-half of your licenses go to Android devices has been lifted.
To start, you click a link in the activation email, which also contains your license key. In most cases, you'll start by installing ESET on a Windows device, but the download page offers you the choice of Windows, macOS, or Android. Additional installations require either the activation code or the username and password supplied along with the activation code. Unlike F-Secure, Symantec Norton Security Premium, Bitdefender, and others, ESET does not let you manage licenses using an online account. Rather, My ESET is the place to go for antitheft, Android parental control, and social media scanning.
If you choose to download protection for Windows, ESET Multi-Device installs ESET Internet Security 10. This suite's antivirus gets good scores in our tests and in independent lab tests. It includes a Host Intrusion Prevention System, a secure browser, and a simple spam filter. The firewall's program control is old school, however, either doing very little or spewing popups. Furthermore, the parental control is limited, and it fared poorly in our antiphishing test. For full details, read my review of this suite.
ESET's mega-suite, ESET Smart Security Premium 10, adds a number of advanced features not found in the entry-level suite. These include a password manager based on Editors' Choice Sticky Password Premium, an encryption system that creates secure virtual drives or secure mobile storage, and an anti-theft system for Windows devices. Smart Security Premium also uses an unusual pricing model, with no multi-license bundles. But, once again, ESET Security Multi-Device does not let you access these premium features.
F-Secure, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and most other cross-platform suites assume that you'll want a full security suite on Windows. ESET gives you the option to install ESET NOD32 Antivirus 10 rather than the full suite, if that's what you prefer. To do so, you download and install the product as usual, then enter the license key you received with the activation email.
On a Mac, ESET Multi-Device likewise gives you a choice. You can install the ESET Cyber Security (for Mac) antivirus, or the ESET Cyber Security Pro suite. Note that there's no protection offered for iOS devices.
The Mac antivirus scans for malware on demand, on access, and on schedule. It also scans incoming POP3 and IMAP email messages for dangerous attachments. On the chance that your Mac might act as a carrier for non-Mac malware, it scans for Windows and Linux threats as well.
To keep you safe online, the Mac product includes Banking Protection as well as protection against malicious and fraudulent websites. You can also invoke its social media scanner to check for potentially dangerous links.
This suite's firewall aims to block malicious network attacks, and to control network usage by apps. Firewall experts can block specific services, ports, and IP addresses, but ordinary users shouldn't meddle with such firewall rules.
ESET's Parental control on the Mac is similar to what it offers for Windows, which means it's fairly limited. For each child, you can configure it to block websites matching specific categories, or just accept the default blocking categories for your child's age. It also logs attempts to reach blocked websites. That's the extent of parental control.
ESET Mobile Security provides a full range of expected Android security features. To get started, just install it from the Google Play Store. As with the Windows product, the installer requires that you actively choose whether to block Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs). PUAs are not as risky as malware, and you may have even given permission for their installation, but they tend to do annoying things, like bombard you with ads.
The installer offers a free trial of the app's premium features. These include anti-theft, automatic updates, antiphishing, scheduled scanning, and more. Don't bother with the trial, as you already have a license for the premium edition.
Activating that license is a bit awkward. You can do it by typing the registration code from the activation email, but that code is 20 characters long. There's also an option to activate using your username and password. I tried typing the username and password from my ESET account online; it failed. As it turns out, what it wants here is the random username and password assigned to you in the activation email.
ESET's antivirus component scans for malware immediately after install. Real-time protection watches for active malware. You can set up a scheduled scan, or (and this is clever) set it to scan any time it's charging.
Anti-theft isn't enabled by default, because it requires that you change your Android settings to make ESET a Device Administrator. You also must link this installation to your online My ESET account. Uninstall Protection prevents a thief from just turning off ESET.
The Proactive Protection feature snaps a screenshot after a failed unlock attempt. After a specified number of failed attempts (two, by default) a countdown starts in the background (15 seconds, by default). If the countdown finishes before the correct code is entered, the device goes into lockdown, just as if you had locked it remotely. A Good Samaritan who found your lost device could click a contact button to see your email address.
By logging in to the My ESET online portal, you can manage anti-theft remotely. When you mark a device as missing, ESET locks the device and starts monitoring, periodically sending the device's location, and snapping photos using the camera. You can trigger a loud alarm to help find a nearby device. And if you lose all hope for recovery, tapping the Wipe button erases all of the device's data.
Bitdefender Mobile Security and Antivirus (for Android) offers a similar set of anti-theft tools, but adds one unusual item. Once you pair your device with an Android Wear watch, you get a warning if you walk away leaving the device behind.
The anti-phishing component only works with browsers that support its integration. Tapping its button displays a list of supported browsers on your device. On the Nexus 9 that I used for testing, only Chrome appeared in the list. Avast Mobile Security blocks malicious sites in a wide variety of browsers.
Security Audit is disabled by default; you should turn it on. It warns if you're connected to insecure Wi-Fi, and if you've enabled debug mode, or installation of apps from unknown sources.
More importantly, Security Audit checks all your apps and reports how many of them have specific potentially risky permissions: using paid services, tracking your location, reading identity information, accessing messages, and accessing contacts. For each category, you can tap to see a list of programs. On my clean test device, only Speedtest triggered a warning—it needs to know your location to pick the closest server.
After I installed ESET's own Parental Control, described below, it triggered all five Security Audit warnings. Of course, that makes perfect sense; parental control is a kind of invasion of privacy. Note that the similar auditing feature in Norton Security and Antivirus (for Android) takes the concept to the next level, offering warnings about iffy apps before you even download them.
All of my Android test devices are tablets. On an Android smartphone, more options become available. If a phone thief changes out the SIM card, ESET can send the new SIM card details to a trusted friend that you've specified. You can also enable the device to receive remote lock, locate, wipe, and siren commands through SMS.
On a smartphone, ESET's SMS and call filtering lets you control who can call and text you. You make the rules, for specific numbers, for masked numbers, or for numbers not in your contacts list. Rules can apply to calls, SMS messages, or MMS messages. You can also set each rule to apply during specific times or date ranges. I imagine you could use this to block calls during the night but allow calls from your most important contacts.
The similar feature in Avast logs the content of blocked text messages, but just dumps blocked calls to voicemail. Bitdefender's Android app does many things, but call and text blocking isn't among its features.
The Security Audit component adds a couple entries for a smartphone. Specifically, it checks to be sure that data roaming and call roaming are not active.
Norton, Bitdefender, and Avast are our Editors' Choice products in the Android security realm. However, ESET covers most of the same features; it's a good choice for Android protection.
ESET's Parental Control app for Android is completely separate from the basic Android security app. In fact, you must use one of your licenses to activate the parental control system. However, once you've done so you can install it on as many Android devices as you wish.
Parental control on Android is significantly more feature-rich than on Windows. See my review of ESET Parental Control (for Android) for full details. I'll summarize here.
The same app that enforces the rules on a child's device can be used to make the rules on a parent's device. In fact, you can log in to the parent app from your child's device, if necessary. You can also manage and monitor the system from the My ESET console.
ESET blocks access to websites in categories you've defined as inappropriate. You can optionally have it log access to such sites without blocking them. It handles secure (HTTPS) websites, so kids won't evade its reach using a secure anonymizing proxy.
The Application Guard feature blocks the use of inappropriate apps, naturally. For apps defined as Fun & Games, it imposes a daily limit, and also lets parents define a weekly schedule for when such apps are allowed.
From the parental control home page, you can see an overview of the child's website and app usage, as well as a location map, and can click on the overviews for detailed reports. A few features work only from the app. Parental Message is perhaps the most important of these. It lets parents send a text message that locks the device until the child responds. That will teach them to ignore you!
On its own, the ESET parental control app is impressive, provided that you only need to cover Android devices. It comes close to our Editors' Choice product for Android parental control, Norton Family Parental Control (for Android).
ESET Multi-Device Security 10 lets you use a single license to install protection on your Windows, macOS, and Android devices, but it doesn't offer consistent protection across all platforms. Its Android support is the best of the lot, with a full-features antivirus and anti-theft component plus a parental control app that rivals the best. If you're an all-Android household, this could be a good choice.
On Windows, antivirus is ESET's best feature—other components like firewall and parental control don't come up to the same mark. In addition, Windows users don't get the premium features found in ESET's top-of-the-line suite. The Mac product does give you more than just antivirus, but it lacks many features found in the other platforms.
If you need top-notch security for your Windows, macOS, and Android devices, consider Symantec Norton Security Premium. You get 10 licenses for less than what ESET costs, along with 25GB of online backup storage. Don't want any limits? Your McAfee LiveSafe subscription is good for every device in your household, even iOS devices. These two are our Editors' Choice products for cross-platform multi-device security.