When you consider how many different forms of danger an Internet-connected PC faces these days, you can almost get sentimental about that bygone time when an old-fashioned, run-of-the mill virus was all you had to watch out for. Nowadays, viruses are unfortunately just one of a seemingly endless list of nasties that potentially lurk behind any Web page, e-mail, or download.
As times have changed, so has the type of software needed to protect your system. An anti-virus utility is a good place to start, but that alone isn't nearly enough.
Kaspersky Internet Security 2006 from Russian developer Kaspersky Lab (creators of the original and still quite popular AntiViral Toolkit Pro, AVP) is the latest comprehensive security tool designed to guard against myriad threats. Among its many capabilities, KIS 2006 provides anti-virus and firewall features as well as spam filtering, a pop-up blocker and the ability to detect and remove spyware programs and other forms of malware.
Viruses, Hackers, and Spam, Oh My!
The anti-virus component of KIS 2006 is comprehensive, providing complete protection for files as well as from virus-laden e-mail messages or Web pages.
Kaspersky Lab boasts that it provides updates to virus definitions every hour and spam signature updates as frequently as three times an hour. (Whether you choose to download updates quite that often is another matter.)
You can either choose from one of three pre-set levels of security low, recommended or high or you can customize the scan settings to your liking.
The software's Anti-Hacking feature guards against unauthorized access to your system. It provides a firewall that gives you the ability to create your own rules for packet filtering and application execution, but also features a training mode that will automatically create rules based on your responses to specific incident prompts.
KIS 2006 also includes an Intrusion Detection System and regularly checks for rootkit applications that can allow hackers to surreptitiously log into your system.
Regarding spam, KIS 2006 supports Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, and The Bat from Rit Labs, but not unfortunately the increasingly popular Mozilla Thunderbird.
The Anti-Spam component lets you preview incoming messages before depositing them into your inbox, and you can help train KIS 2006 Anti-Spam to recognize the difference between the good and bad stuff by pointing it to existing folders that contain either legitimate messages or spam. When a spam message does make it through, you can mark it as spam with one click to further refine the detection method.
An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure
To that end, KIS 2006 offers several features designed to intercept the bad stuff before it has the opportunity to settle into your system.
For example, virtually every form of malware gets its hooks into your system by modifying various settings in your Registry without your knowledge or permission. To prevent this, KIS 2006 includes a Registry Guard feature, which monitors half a dozen groups of important Registry settings. These include settings that pertain to system security, start-up applications and plug-ins used by Internet Explorer. If an attempt is made to change or delete a Registry Key in one of these critical areas, you're prompted and asked to confirm the modification.
Similarly, Process Guard analyzes the behavior of all the processes running in memory, and if a suspicious action is detected (for instance, a file replicating itself), it can terminate the process and undo its activity.
And since even Microsoft Office macros can be used toward disreputable ends, Office Guard watches out for macro execution and will prompt you to confirm any operation a macro attempts to perform (or summarily terminate the macro).
KIS 2006's Anti-Spy features can scan your system for spyware and block pop-up windows, and modem users will appreciate the anti-dialer feature, which thwarts hidden programs that run up your phone bill by calling toll or offshore numbers. (It will only allow trusted numbers like your own ISP to be called.) There's also an anti-Phishing feature that's designed to notify you if a Web page is asking for account information under false pretenses.
All KIS 2006 notifications, be they for viruses, pop-ups, hacking attempts, or similar items, are displayed in a small, translucent window above the Windows tray.
Not Exactly a Speed Demon
Also, while a scan was in progress, our test system (a 1.2 GHz Pentium M with 640 MB of RAM) became virtually unresponsive, taking upwards of 40-to-50 seconds to respond to user input (say, calling up a minimized application). Of course, any anti-virus or security program is going to degrade system performance when running a scan, but KIS 2006 takes a much bigger bite than most. If you're willing to accept a slight trade off in security, KIS 2006 offers an option to shorten scan times by only scanning new files or those that have changed since the last scan.
Another annoying software characteristic is that when an alert pops up it remains front and center until you address it. While it's prudent to put the brake on connections when a potential threat is found, the inability to browse until you say yea or nay precludes you from consulting the Web for the information needed to make an informed choice on how to handle an unfamiliar file or system component.
Kapsersky Internet Security 2006 will work with Windows versions from 98 through XP and is available now in public beta release. You can download a 30-day trial version of the 2006 beta edition, and registering the software at the end of the trial at $49.95 buys you the full official release and a one-year license for free program updates and up-to-date definitions.
An extra $10 gets you a two-year license, which isn't a bad deal at all. If you're feeling lucky and only want the Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2006 module, it will set you back $34.95.
All in all, Kaspersky Internet Security 2006 provides a comprehensive set of features that matches those found in better-known security products from the likes of McAfee and Symantec (Norton Internet Security). That would be reason enough to consider it, and with a price that undercuts most competitors (particularly if you ante up for two years), it's well worth a look.
Pros: Guards against almost every known category of threat; attractive, easy to use interface; less expensive than many competing tools (especially for the two-year subscription option)
Cons: Slow scanning and system response during scanning; very limited non-Microsoft browser and e-mail application support; anti-spam client doesn't support Mozilla Thunderbird at this time; beta release is still somewhat buggy
Adapted from winplanet.com.
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