We've come a long way since the Cold War. Now, Americans can turn to Russians for computer antivirus help. Unfortunately, Kaspersky Anti-Virus Personal Pro 4.0 (KAVPP) needs to spend a bit more time back in the labs for improvement. KAVPP costs $49, about the same as our Editors' Choice award winner, Norton AntiVirus, and it detects changes in file content, filters malicious scripts, and checks for viruses in your computer's incoming and outgoing e-mail. However, it won't protect your PC as thoroughly or efficiently as Norton will. It sports an awkward interface, scans slowly, and lacks a history of handling every currently active virus. We've come a long way since the Cold War. Now, Americans can turn to Russians for computer antivirus help. Unfortunately, Kaspersky Anti-Virus Personal Pro 4.0 (KAVPP) needs to spend a bit more time back in the labs for improvement. KAVPP costs $49, about the same as our Editors' Choice award winner, Norton AntiVirus, and it detects changes in file content, filters malicious scripts, and checks for viruses in your computer's incoming and outgoing e-mail. However, it won't protect your PC as thoroughly or efficiently as Norton will. It sports an awkward interface, scans slowly, and lacks a history of handling every currently active virus.
You won't have to make a trip to the store for a copy of KAVPP; just download the 11.5MB trial, which does everything except update its virus definition files. Even if you purchase the program on CD, installing it is a cinch. KAVPP works on Windows 95, 98, Me, NT, and 2000, and, according to Kaspersky, on Windows XP (although the company's Web site doesn't corroborate that). And, unlike some other virus killers--Panda Antivirus Platinum comes to mind--you won't have to muck around with KAVPP's settings to get it started. Out of the box, this virus hunter is ready to rock 'n' roll.
KAVPP's interface, however, is creepy. The program's makers took a unique approach: they bundled four antivirus tools, each with its own window, into a suite-style collection. Herding these is the Control Center app, which manages each of these smaller programs. Unfortunately, this setup makes it hard to manage the package. To get to the settings for the antivirus monitor (the program that watches for viruses), for example, you have to open the Control Center, click the Tasks tab, double-click the Start Kaspersky Anti-Virus Monitor item, then delve into the settings. What a pain. Choose Kaspersky, and you'll pine for Norton AntiVirus's no-brain interface and extensive wizards.
Virus scans take a long time with KAVPP, even on a fast 900MHz PC running XP Professional. Norton AntiVirus 2002 wrapped up a scan of the same PC in about two-thirds the time.
KAVPP may be slow to operate and a hassle to navigate, but at least it includes the essential elements of a good virus hunter: It guards against viruses on removable disks, such as floppies, as well as those that sneak in as attachments to e-mail messages. It also prevents you from sending infected e-mail, scans your hard drives either when you want or on a schedule that you set, and bans downloads of infected files from nefarious Web sites.
There are numerous ways to tweak your antivirus protection. You can tell the program to automatically remove viruses without alerting you (a trait that Norton only recently acquired) or scan existing, already-received e-mail messages to guarantee a clean machine after you've installed KAVPP. Like Norton, KAVPP also provides a quarantine folder, where it stores suspicious files out of harm's way (though you must turn on the quarantine manually). This folder can also send messages to Kaspersky HQ when you run into a virus that's not listed in KAVPP's data file.
Once you set KAVPP to the task, the program detects viruses hiding in compressed files, such as ZIP files, a task that Panda can't complete. In our tests, KAVPP nailed infected files concealed within compressed files even when we downloaded them from the Web, put them on a floppy, and sent them back to ourselves as attachments. Unlike Norton, KAVPP often alerted us before the ZIP file even reached our hard drive; it wouldn't let us copy an infected file from the floppy. Very nice.
Nails infected ZIP files
On the virus-sniffing-and-snuffing front, KAVPP turns in unimpressive scores. Although it nailed our simulated test viruses, as well as the script virus and a worm tucked into an e-mail message, it completely missed our three variations of the infamous I Love You bug. Its skill in spotting viruses trails that of Norton AntiVirus and is similar to the capabilities of Panda Antivirus.
But KAVPP's track record with the 200 or so circulating in-the-wild viruses doesn't top the charts. We always check how well an antivirus program handles the WildList Index list of current viruses and pay close attention to its history in dealing with such viruses. This is a good indicator of a program's performance. Virus Bulletin's 100% Award, handed out only to programs that spot every virus making the rounds, shows KAVPP as good but not great. In the last five exams, which go back a year, KAVPP nailed the WildList only two times. That's twice as many times as Panda, but half as many as Norton AntiVirus.
We'll get back to you
Nor does Kaspersky's technical support merit excitement. Need technical help? You can send an e-mail query to Russia or the U.K. or call a toll number in the United States during business hours (PT). When we did the former, we heard back within 13 hours, and the tech rep's suggestion hit the nail on the head. A phone call, however, left us hanging; we had to leave a message. By telephone, we didn't hear back for 24 hours. Kaspersky's online help files are hard to navigate.
We love that KAVPP sniffs out viruses in compressed files, but its unusual separation of virus tasks puts us off, along with its slow speed, spotty support, and less-than-stellar record in dealing with wild viruses. Norton costs just $1 more and gives you fewer hassles and a solid track record. Until Kaspersky irons out its interface glitches, choose Norton instead.