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Ultimate Protection Redefined: Kaspersky Premium Total Security. Kaspersky Premium Total Security review.




Editors’ Note: PCMag rates and evaluates all products, including Kaspersky’s, based on their merits and effectiveness, not on any political or other considerations. However, based on the increasing censure and criticism of Kaspersky by US government agencies, foreign agencies, and informed third parties, we can no longer recommend Kaspersky’s products. Because we have not found or been presented with any hard evidence of misdeeds on the part of Kaspersky, however, we are leaving our original review in place for those who wish to decide for themselves.

Every full-scale security suite has antivirus protection at its core. Beyond that, suites can differ wildly in the collection of features they offer. Some products include an antivirus, a firewall, a spam filter, parental controls, and little more. Others, like Kaspersky Total Security, pack in a vast number of features, covering every aspect of security. Among the goodies that this suite adds beyond what you get with Kaspersky's entry-level suite are file encryption, a backup system, and a seriously enhanced parental control system. It's an impressive collection.

All these extras come at a price, however. A three-license subscription lists for $89.99 per year, and one for five licenses costs $99.99. Upgrading to the 10-license family plan raises that price to $149.99. With Bitdefender Total Security, $89.99 gets you five licenses and $99.99 raises that to 10, quite a bit less than Kaspersky’s 10-license price. These prices are often deeply discounted, it’s true, but the discount typically covers the first year only.

Shared Features

This suite includes every one of the many security features found in Kaspersky Internet Security. I'll summarize those features briefly, then get on to what makes Total Security different. For full details, you’ll want to read my review of the entry-level suite.

All four of the independent antivirus labs I follow include Kaspersky in their set of tested products, and it earned perfect and near-perfect scores in all the latest tests. I use an algorithm to normalize the scores to a 10-point scale and derive an aggregate—Kaspersky scored 9.7 out of 10. Bitdefender Internet Security, scored higher, 9.9 points, but that was based on results from just three labs.

The sturdy firewall blocked all port scans and other web-based attacks. Kaspersky’s application control system manages application access to network and system resources without bothering the user, assigning each application a trust level. In previous versions, you could use Trusted Applications Mode to ban any program not at the highest trust level. However, this feature was both complex and little-used, so Kaspersky retired it.

Protection against attacks that exploit security holes in Windows and popular apps is typically considered part of a firewall’s job, but in Kaspersky’s case, the Web Anti-Virus component handled it, and handled it well. Kaspersky detected 84 percent of the exploit attacks I generated, beating out Bitdefender’s impressive 74 percent. Only Norton 360 Deluxe has proven as effective in this test.

Kaspersky checks your system for missing security patches and automatically applies found updates. It includes webcam control for spyware protection, and an active Do Not Track feature to keep advertisers and others from snooping on your surfing habits. The Safe Money feature protects financial transactions, and a straightforward spam filter marks spam in your POP3 and IMAP email accounts. The entry-level suite has parental control, but it's the free, feature-limited edition of Kaspersky Safe Kids. With Total Security, you get all parental control features.

his suite offers a large collection of bonus features, some of which are shared with the standalone Kaspersky Anti-Virus. These include: a bandwidth-limited VPN; a privacy cleaner to wipe traces of browser and computer use; a Rescue Disk for cleaning persistent malware; and more.

You can use your Kaspersky Total Security licenses to install Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, which is an Editors' Choice for Mac antivirus. As the name suggests, it's truly a security suite, not just an antivirus.

Kaspersky Internet Security (for Android), also available by using one of your licenses, naturally includes protection against malware, with an on-demand scan and real-time protection. The app also offers a full range of anti-theft features, including the ability to snap a mug shot of whoever's using your device.

Kaspersky Safe Kids

The first time you click the Protection for kids button, the suite prompts you to install Kaspersky Safe Kids, You can also go to My Kaspersky online and download the appropriate installer for Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS. Note that as a separate product, Kaspersky Safe Kids costs $14.99 per year. If you've paid for Total Security family plan, you get the premium features at no extra charge. We've reviewed Safe Kids and given it four stars. For full details about its capabilities, please read that review.

You manage Safe Kids online, defining child profiles and aligning them with the devices each child uses. There's no limit on child profiles or devices. A local agent on each device enforces the rules you define online and gives the child a summary of those rules.

You can set Safe Kids to block or allow websites in 14 categories, or to allow access but warn that parents will receive a notification. You can also set limits on when and for how long the child can use each device. For mobile devices, you can check the child's location. An advanced geofencing system lets you define safe areas along with the time the child should be in each area.

In testing, we discovered that under Windows and macOS, the content filtering system relies on Kaspersky’s browser extension to handle secure HTTPS websites. In an off-brand browser with no extension, forbidden websites that use a HTTPS connection slip right through. That means a smart teen could totally evade content filtering by going through a secure anonymizing proxy. The recommended solution is to use application control to ban use of off-brand browsers.

On Android, parents must disable all browsers except Chrome. Content filtering on iOS devices only works in the Safe Kids browser, so parents must disable all others.

Parents can control the notifications they get, and the online console offers detailed reports on every facet of the child's activity. Overall, this is a modern, cross-platform parental control tool. It didn't make Editors' Choice—that honor goes to Qustodio—but it's very good.

Kaspersky Password Manager

Kaspersky's password manager makes a cameo appearance in Kaspersky Internet Security on various platforms. However, it's just the free version, which limits you to a total of 15 passwords, credit cards, notes, or other saved items.

With Total Security, you get the full Kaspersky Password Manager, available separately for $14.99 per year, and you can use it to sync passwords across all your Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices. It does the basic job of password management, and has a few unusual features, but it's not a standout. Please read my review for the nitty-gritty details; I'll recap my findings here.

On Windows, Kaspersky offers an extension for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and the Russian browser Yandex, and can also import passwords from these browsers. The extension handles the expected capture and replay of passwords. Your devices sync through the My Kaspersky online portal; you can also access your passwords and secure data via the portal.

The unusual secure document storage feature seeks PDFs and scanned images that look like they represent documents, offering to move them into secure online storage. But you won't find advanced features like two-factor authentication, secure sharing, or password inheritance. To get those, you need a more advanced password manager.

Backup and Restore

Backing up your essential files is, in a way, the ultimate form of security. If ransomware destroys your files or a rogue asteroid smashes your computer, you can recover from a backup. Kaspersky offers a straightforward backup system that lets you create as many backup jobs as you need for local or Dropbox backup.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete comes with 25GB of hosted online storage for your backups. Norton 360 Deluxe gives you 50GB, while other Norton bundles offer as much as 500GB. Because these products control the secure online storage, they can offer advanced features like remote access and file syncing. With Kaspersky, you supply the online backup storage yourself by linking with Dropbox, so these advanced features aren't available.

A wizard walks you through the steps of creating a backup job, starting with what to back up. If you accept the default, it backs up everything from the Documents and Desktop folders. You can instead choose all pictures, all movies, or all music files, or put together your own set of folders for backup.

Restoring from a backup is simple. You can restore all files, selected files, or an earlier version of a file, and put the restored data in its original location or a new location. Kaspersky's backup system has hardly changed in the last several years. It doesn't have the bells and whistles that some competing suites do, but it gets the job done.

Data Encryption and Other Tools

Like AVG Internet Security - Unlimited, ESET, and others, Kaspersky's encryption system creates virtual disk drives called vaults to hold your sensitive files. When open, a vault acts like any other drive. When locked, no access to the contents is possible. Unlike most, Kaspersky focuses on the files you plan to protect, not just on vault creation. As the first step in vault creation, you drag the files and folders that you want encrypted onto the application, or select files by browsing for them.

At the next step, you create a password for encryption. The app warns that if you forget the password, you can't get back your files. Passwords must have at least six characters and contain capital letters, lowercase letters, and numbers. Kaspersky rates password strength as you type and checks off the requirements as you meet them.

As a final step, and a very smart one, Kaspersky offers to put the unencrypted originals of your sensitive files through the shredder, so that even forensic recovery tools can't bring them back.

By default, the shredder overwrites a file's data area once with zeroes and once with random bits. That should really be enough. But if you want to really, really scrub the data, you can open the file shredder app and choose from another half-dozen algorithms, most of them military-approved.

Excellent but Expensive

The real value of a security mega-suite lies in the features it adds beyond what comes with the corresponding entry-level suite. In this case, Kaspersky Internet Security, the entry-level suite, offers a huge number of effective security features, along with cross-platform security. The features Kaspersky Total Security adds don't entirely measure up.

The Kaspersky Safe Kids parental control system is excellent, but not everyone needs that feature, and those that do may not realize they own it. In addition, you can manage unlimited kids and unlimited licenses for a separate fee of $14.99 per year. The backup component lacks online hosting for your archives; you must provide that yourself. The password manager handles just the basics. And this product's pricing is out of line with the competition. It's still an excellent suite, with the same outstanding features found in Kaspersky Internet Security, but our Editors' Choice for security mega-suite remains Bitdefender Total Security.

This suite does offer cross-platform security, but it doesn't own the Editors' Choice honor in that realm either. Its biggest competition comes from Kaspersky Security Cloud, which gives you all the same features, plus more, at a better price. Kaspersky Security Cloud is an Editors’ choice for cross-platform security. It shares that honor with Norton 360 Deluxe, which gives you award-winning protection for five devices, five no-limit VPN licenses, and 50GB of online storage for backups.

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