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SECURITY

10 Contenders For The 'Ultimate Protector' Crown (Part 3) : Eset Smart Security 6, Kaspersky Internet Security 2013, Zonealarm Internet Security 2013

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Eset Smart Security 6

Old dog in security learned some new tricks

Price: $60 (1 PC, 1 Year)

Website: www.eset.com

ESET Smart Security 6’s dashboard is largely unchanged from versions 4 and 5 in appearance. It consists of a main window with a handful of navigational prompts in the left-hand pane including Home, Computer scan, Update, Setup, Tools, Help and support, and Training. The main window changes as you click through each one but the left-hand pane never does, making navigation a breeze. If you find yourself knee-deep in an advanced setting and want to hightail it out of there, just click on Home or any of the other headings.

Eset Smart Security 6

Eset Smart Security 6

There's nothing flashy about ESET's interface. It hasn't been modernized for Windows 8 or touchscreen displays, or for 2013 in general, and you can't customize the layout or upload your own background image a la Trend Micro. Dig beneath the surface, however, and you'll uncover a gold mine of options. In the Setup screen, for example, there are headings for Computer, Network, Web and email, and Parental control, and each of those have their own subheadings that you can, at minimum, enable or disable. In addition to all that, there’s an advanced setup screen accessible via a link at the bottom of the window. Less-savvy users will find the sheer depth of settings overwhelming, and even advanced users might lose track of everything they tweaked. If you’re setting up ESET for multiple clients, you can export and import configurations to save time.

We dinged the program last year for letting a few nasty containments through, a rare misstep for a program that's collected a dozen straight VB100 awards from Virus Bulletin in the past two years. It fared much better in our tests this time around.

Bundled with the latest version is a Social Media Scanner that combs your Facebook profile for infected content. It’s also available as a free download, so that alone isn’t enough to tip the scales in ESET’s favor. There are plenty of other tools, however, such as

ESET’s interface is unchanged from the previous two versions, but there are some new features, such as Social Media Scanner and a suite of anti-theft tools. parental controls and, new to this release, anti-theft features that can help you locate a lost or stolen mobile device. If someone swipes your laptop, you can engage the webcam, track its location, or initiate a Phantom Account so that your real account—and all your personal data—is hidden from the thief. You can even send a message, such as "Reward if found.”

A slow on-demand scanner and an aging interface are all that prevent ESET from earning a Kick Ass award.

Kaspersky Internet Security 2013

When more of the same isn't necessarily a bad thing

Price: $80 (3 PCs, 1 Year)

Website: www.kaspersky.com

Kaspersky Internet Security 2013

Kaspersky Internet Security 2013

Last year's overhaul gave birth to an interface designed for touch, a theme that's been carried over to the 2013 release, which is a near carbon copy. In fact, our entire experience with KIS 2013 gave us a serious sense of déjà vu.

Familiarity kicked in when we were once again duped by what at first appeared to be a subsonic installation routine, only to find ourselves mired in an unusually long update process that took north of 10 minutes on a high-speed connection. Subsequent definition updates zip through cyberspace at a much faster pace.

Also like previous versions, Kaspersky’s scan engine sprints to the finish line, especially after performing an initial sweep. Our first full scan took 14 minutes and 26 seconds, and a second scan shaved 13 minutes off that time by skipping over files that hadn’t changed.

The similarities continue. Once again, Kaspersky watched us download several contaminated files to the desktop before springing into action, whereas some of the other AV programs would cut off the same downloads before they could finish. To its credit, Kaspersky neutralized almost every threat and its track record among independent testing laboratories is very good; it even earned a Product of the Year award from AV-Comparatives.

Brand-new to KIS 2013 is a feature called Safe Run that’s designed to protect your online banking sessions. Safe Run detects when you navigate to a popular payment service like PayPal or a banking website and opens up a protected browser to isolate your transaction. You can also use a virtual keyboard as an additional layer of protection (from keyloggers).

While the Safe Run feature is unique, Kaspersky hasn’t yet jumped on the social-media bandwagon like some of the other programs. Still, it’s a fleshed-out and polished security solution that’s tough on malware.

Zonealarm Internet Security 2013

Why buy the security suite when the protection's free?

Price: $80 (3 PCs, 1 Year)

Website: www.zonealarm.com

Zonealarm Internet Security 2013

Zonealarm Internet Security 2013

Before windows got its act together, it was imperative to download a third-party firewall to keep the bad guys at bay, and Zone-Alarm was often at the top of the list. The firewall in Windows is much improved these days, and if you’re sitting behind a router, you’re further protected against malicious inbound traffic. Does that render ZoneAlarm obsolete?

Not as far as we’re concerned. Like the ones included in other advanced security suites, ZoneAlarm’s firewall offers more sophisticated protection and is able to sniff out mischievous code trying to sneak its way in (or out) by masquerading as a legitimate program. We also give ZoneAlarm credit for hushing its firewall, which is much better about making security-minded decisions in the background rather than bombarding the user with pop-ups.

Here’s the thing: Even if all you have is a ball of lint in your pocket, you can afford ZoneAlarm’s free antivirus + firewall combination, which has many of the same features as the $80 suite reviewed here. Should you decide to plunge into paid territory, the only extras are 24/7 technical support, parental controls, spam controls, and automatic hourly signature updates.

Let’s backtrack a moment and talk about AV performance. ZoneAlarm wouldn’t tell us which company it licenses its scan engine from, though we believe it’s still Kaspersky, which the company confirmed several years ago. The initial definition update was just as pokey as Kaspersky, and we also noticed similarities in how downloads are able to reach the desktop before they’re neutralized. Scanning our test bed was nearly as quick, too.

ZoneAlarm also includes identity protection, Facebook privacy scanning, advanced do-not-track controls, and 5GB of online backup. It’s a well-rounded feature-set, and it’s all available in the free version, too. There’s just not enough added value to recommend the paid suite.

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