ESET Smart Security 5 review
ESET doesn't release major version updates as frequently as most security products, instead preferring incremental updates to its anti-virus engine and rarer updates to its front-end interface. This means that - to all appearances - ESET Smart Security 5 is the same product we reviewed last year. However, it's the engine that's important when it comes to protecting you against malware, and which has to keep up with the latest threats that virus makers will be throwing at it.
We were pleased to find that ESET's performance in our malware exposure tests was excellent. It completely prevented 96 per cent of malicious programs from gaining a foothold on our PC and effectively neutralised a further 2 per cent of malicious applications. It was compromised in two instances, putting it on a par with the performance of Norton Internet Security and Bitdefender Internet Security. The only product which provided better protection was Kaspersky Internet Security.
At install time, you're asked if you want ESET to detect potentially unwanted applications - software that isn't actively malicious, but which might negatively impact the performance of your PC. It's worth enabling, but does mean that you may have to deal with more alerts asking you if you're sure you wish to install some applications.
This was to a certain extent reflected in its performance in our false positive test, in which we check the security software's response to a range of benign programs. ESET gave us warnings - but didn't block us from installing the program - in four of 100 instances. It only blocked installation twice, making it one of the most accurate anti-virus programs in our test. If it does block a program that you're absolutely certain is legitimate and harmless, you can easily restore it via the Quarantine option in the Tools tab. It scored 369.75 as a total accuracy rating.
It's really easy to find your way around ESET's interface. Unlike some of its rivals, which have opted for more stylised interfaces that look glossy but aren't always immediately intuitive to use, Smart Security 5's interface is plain, mostly white and favours simple text labels over shiny icons, although it’s not designed for touchscreen users in mind and doesn’t have any special Windows 8 integration features or optional add-ons.
The program's home screen gives you a quick overview of your protection status, including which of ESET's modules are active and how up-to-date your Windows updates and virus definitions are, as well as providing links to your most frequently used features.
To the right, a tabbed menu provides access to the program's key screens. The Scan screen allows you to manually scan local disks or custom locations. You don't have to run a manual scan routinely to ensure your security, as ESET's ThreatSense real-time protection runs constantly in the background and also checks vulnerable areas at boot time. If you want the added peace of mind proved by a full scan but don't want to have to run it manually, you can also use ESET's scheduler in the Tools tab to set up a regular scan.
The Update tab shows the status of your licence, interface and virus signature updates while the Setup tab lets you enable and configure different modules within ESET. Most of these, such as Real-time file system protection and gamer mode, are fairly self-explanatory, but some are a little less immediately obvious. HIPS - the Host-based Intrusion Prevention System - uses a set of rules to detect possible threats based on their behaviour, such as tampering with certain registry keys.
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