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No single product is all-knowing when it comes to malware, which is always evolving, so it’s a good idea to solicit a second or even third opinion on occasion. We recommend running an on-demand scanner around once a month, and also any time you have reason to believe something may have slipped past your AV software. Does your system suddenly feel sluggish? Are your web searches getting hijacked? These are both indicators that a foul file has infiltrated your PC.
One of our favorite on-demand scanners is Malwarebytes (free, www.malwarebytes.org). Not only is Malwarebytes adept at uncovering pesky programs that manage to hide from your AV scanner, but it also has a way of running even when malicious programs specifically try to prevent it from firing up. Just head to Start > All Programs > Malwarebytes Anti-Malware > Tools and click the Malwarebytes Anti- Malware Chameleon icon.
Another program we recommend adding to your toolbox is Comodo Cleaning Essentials (free, www.comodo.com), which allows you to terminate, delete, or suspend any untrusted item with a single mouse click. It doesn’t require installation, making it a handy program to tote around on a USB stick.
If an infection is preventing your AV scanner from running, don’t panic. Yet another option is web scanning. There are lots to choose from, including Panda ActiveScan (free, http://bit.ly/2T0ite). Alternately, if all you need is a background check on a single file, upload it to VirusTotal (free, www.virustotal.com), which will check it against dozens of AV scan engines.
When more of the same isn’t necessarily a bad thing
If you’re familiar with last year’s build, you’ll feel right at home in
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.
Kaspersky Internet Security 2013
$80 (3 PC, 1 Year), www.kaspersky.com
Why buy the security suite when the protection’s free?
Before Windows got its act together, it was imperative to download a third-party firewall to keep the bad guys at bay, and ZoneAlarm 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.
If ZoneAlarm detects an issue, the corresponding module in the dashboard will turn red.
ZoneAlarm Internet Security 2013
$80 (3 PCs, 1 Year), www.zonealarm.com