Eset Smart Security 4: A Pricey, Mostly Basic Suite

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Robert Vamosi
PC World
Friday, April 2, 2010; 12:19 AM

Eset Smart Security 4 came in 13th in our 2010 roundup of 13 Internet security suites. It provides only the basic elements of such a suite, leaving out features common in other packages, such as Web browser protection, backup, and parental controls, and it costs more than any other suite we tested ($90 for three users as of 3/29/2010). One extra utility, called SysInspector, is included, but it's geared more for the high-end user, and alone is not worth the extra cost. Eset's traditional malware detection capabilies are adequate, but its inability to effectively detect and disable brand-new malware brings down its score.

Eset's user interface is bland, employing a cool-blue-and-white color scheme with a navigation pane along the left side of the window. It has two modes: standard (simplified configuration choices) and advanced (more configuration choices). Various graphs chart network and system activity in both the standard and advanced interfaces. While Eset's suite has plenty of configuration options for more advanced users to tweak, average users should be fine right out of the box. The installation process includes a number of questions that help set the defaults for your system.

Eset scored right around average for its cleanup of active infections on a PC. It detected 93 percent of infections, disabled 80 percent (slightly below average), and removed all traces of infections in only 40 percent of our tests. Top performers here were able to detect and disable all infections, though no suite we tested completely removed more than two-thirds of infections.

This suite was a solid performer in detecting rootkits (stealth malware often used to hide other infections). Eset detected all inactive rootkits in our tests. Tested with active rookits, Eset scored a respectable 93 percent detection rate, and an 80 percent removal rate. By comparison, suites from McAfee and Kaspersky were both perfect in rootkit detection, disinfection, and removal.

Eset Smart Security 4 scored very poorly in dynamic behavior-based tests (that is, detecting malware based solely on how it behaves--useful for detecting brand-new threats); it detected, disabled, and removed only 20 percent of the samples, which was one of the worst showings we saw. By comparison, although only Norton's suite had a perfect score for each part of this test, the other top performers were able to detect and disable over 90 percent of malware samples.

Eset performed much better with old-school signature-based detection of known malware active within the past four months, detecting 97 percent of samples. This result puts it slightly above the average for the suites we tested, but behind the top performer, which caught 99.9 percent of samples.

The suite posted decent scores in our tests of how much it slowed our test system. At 41.9 seconds to boot, our test system with Eset installed achieved the fastest boot time, beating the average startup time by 5 seconds.

SmartSecurity 4 generally had a minimal impact on system performance but it was a slow performer in tests that involved copying and creating files. Eset took longer to complete file copy and creation tests than any of the other suites in this roundup. It was also on the slow side in our on-access scan test that indicates how well a suite can scan for malware when a file is opened or saved to disk. SmartSecurity 4 completed the test (scanning 4.5GB of data) in 6 minutes, 51 seconds, a full 4 minutes slower than the top score in this test. These are both good tests for judging how much of an impact the malware scanner has on everyday system performance.

Eset is one of the few security suites we reviewed that provides free telephone, chat, or e-mail technical support. And Eset allows you to create a system restore disk, something that not all suites still offer.

For what it provides, Eset Smart Security 4 is a bit expensive, and users can find better protection with more security tools elsewhere for much less.


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