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ESET Internet Security

ESET Internet Security (2023) review: An impressive all-round performer

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 35
(/yr, inc VAT)

Well endowed with features, yet neither bloated nor overcomplicated, ESET’s security suite works hard to justify its price

Pros

  • Multi-pronged protection goes well beyond blocking viruses
  • Not too demanding of system resources
  • Clean, navigable interface

Cons

  • Missed out on top marks in malware detection tests
  • Expensive compared to the competition

ESET Internet Security looks simple but beneath the bonnet there’s a good spread of features. There’s also a strong focus on performance: this suite is designed to stay out of your way, and I found it didn’t bog down the computer at all – especially once I turned off the “secure browser” feature.

It’s one of the more expensive options, however: there are many cheaper antivirus suites with excellent credentials of their own. What’s more, in recent malware tests, ESET didn’t turn in a perfect score sheet. But if you want wide-ranging protection and a clean, lightweight interface, ESET could well be a worthwhile investment.

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ESET Internet Security review: What do you get for the money?

The main dashboard view of ESET Internet Security looks rather bare, presenting just three main buttons for quick access to various security tools.

The tools themselves are potentially quite handy, though: the Network Inspector lets you browse all the devices on your home network, and view security recommendations for clients of all types. Banking and Payment Protection opens a secure sandboxed browser, to protect your sensitive transactions from spyware, while the Anti-Theft module lets you track a lost laptop, and even monitor its screen from afar.

Click down the links at the side of the window and you’ll discover that there’s a lot more than this going on behind the scenes. Across multiple pages of features and options you can set up webcam protection, activate the interruption-free gamer mode, apply parental control settings and configure protection against email-borne malware, spam and phishing attempts. Other modules block known Windows exploits, ransomware-like behaviour and suspicious behaviour by scripts and websites and, if you open the Advanced setup page, you’ll find technical configuration options for almost every aspect of the program’s behaviour. There’s a lot to explore, but ESET’s clear, logical presentation ensured I never felt lost.

The software also includes a few features that enhance Windows’ native tools. The ESET firewall does the same job as the standard OS firewall but adds a handy interactive mode, allowing you to manually review and approve all inbound and outbound connection attempts. I also like the Running processes view, which presents a view similar to the Windows Task Manager but adds ESET’s own ratings for reputation and prevalence, helping to expose suspicious items.

All of this is reflected in a price that’s pitched toward the upper end of the market. Licensing starts at £35 for one PC for one year, and goes up by a fiver for each additional device you want to protect. There’s no discount for buying from a third-party retailer such as Amazon: if you want a cheaper ESET experience, consider ESET NOD32 Antivirus, which costs £10 less but lacks the secure browsing and network monitoring features.


ESET Internet Security review: Will it keep you safe?

ESET’s wide-ranging protection technologies allow it to block many types of attack. Uniquely, it even managed to block our performance tests, initially denying access to the local web server that we use to download apps and documents. We can’t complain about that, as there aren’t many legitimate reasons why your web browser should be downloading executable files from an arbitrary IP address: frankly, it’s a feather in ESET’s cap, versus other suites.

When it comes to straightforward malware detection, however, ESET didn’t prove quite as effective as the competition. During January and February 2023, independent security lab AV-Test.org tested ESET’s response to more than 11,000 prevalent items of malware, plus 363 previously unseen zero-day threats. While the software cleaned up every one of the established viruses, it missed a handful of zero-day attacks that were successfully intercepted by most rival packages:

AV-Test.org protection results, Jan/Feb 2023 (%)0-day Jan0-day FebWidespread JanWidespread Feb
Avast One100100100100
AVG Internet Security100100100100
Avira Internet Security100100100100
Bitdefender Internet Security100100100100
ESET Internet Security98.998.3100100
F-Secure SAFE99.5100100100
G Data Total Security100100100100
Kaspersky Premium100100100100
Malwarebytes Premium98.997.8100100
McAfee Total Protection100100100100
Microsoft Windows Defender100100100100
Norton 360 Deluxe100100100100
Trend Micro Internet Security100100100100

ESET achieved more encouraging results in AV-Comparatives.org’s March 2023 malware protection test. Here, when challenged with more than 10,000 threat samples, ESET Internet Security achieved a creditable detection rate, and, more importantly, provided effective protection even against threats it hadn’t recognised, without flagging up a single false positive:

AV-Comparatives protection results, March 2023 (%)Offline detectionOnline detectionOnline protectionFalse positives
Avast One96.90%99.50%99.97%2
AVG Internet Security96.90%99.50%99.97%2
Avira Internet Security97.00%99.10%99.96%2
Bitdefender Internet Security98.10%98.10%99.94%6
ESET Internet Security97.40%97.40%99.94%0
F-Secure SAFE96.90%98.70%99.96%14
G Data Total Security98.80%98.80%99.95%2
Kaspersky Premium90.00%97.90%99.96%2
McAfee Total Protection89.60%99.70%99.99%9
Microsoft Windows Defender83.10%99.30%99.98%32
Norton 360 Deluxe91.10%99.70%99.99%3
Panda Dome72.20%95.50%99.97%102
Trend Micro Internet Security60.90%91.80%97.19%10

This clearly shows the value of ESET’s multi-layered architecture – although you can get even higher protection levels from the likes of McAfee Total Protection and Norton 360 if you’re willing to put up with a few false positives.

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ESET Internet Security review: Will it slow your computer down?

After installing ESET Internet Security, you’ll find that Chrome, Edge and Firefox all open up in a spyware-blocking “secure mode”, denoted by a green border around the browser. When I tried carrying out our performance tests in this mode, I saw middling results: downloading a set of ten executables took a total of 9.7 seconds, while on a plain Windows 11 installation running Defender it took only 6.0 seconds. ESET also added 1.1 seconds to the time it took to open ten JPEG images, while Defender took a briefer 0.9 seconds, and competing security suites from Avira and McAfee registered no slowdown at all.

Thankfully, you don’t have to do everything in green-border mode: you can set ESET Internet Security to only spawn a secure browser when it detects you’re visiting a sensitive site. Once I had enabled this feature, our ten executables came down the line in 8.3 seconds and the JPEGs took just 0.4 seconds. ESET was also one of the fastest suites when it came to opening our ten PDFs and JPEGs in the browser: I timed it at 0.3 and 0.4 seconds respectively, while Defender took 0.8 and 1.0 seconds.

External testers have reported similar findings. In AV-Comparatives’ latest performance tests, ESET was rated “very fast” for browsing the web, downloading files and installing and launching applications. Its worst score was for first-run file-copy operations, where the software was deemed merely “fast”. That’s still not bad: Windows Defender was ranked “mediocre” in the same test, and got the same rating for installing applications. 

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ESET Internet Security review: Should you buy it?

ESET Internet Security was previously called Smart Security, and that’s a good name for it – it brings together a lot of intelligent protection features, and while the range of tools and options can seem overwhelming, it feels sensibly organised and presented.

Whether the product is worth the price is another question. Shop around online and you’ll find plenty of much cheaper suites from the likes of Kaspersky or Norton – packages that also boast reassuring 100% protection scores.

However, as I saw in our own tests, there’s more to online security than malware detection, and arguably ESET’s breadth of protection more than makes up for a handful of zero-day exploits. If you’re willing to pay a little extra for a nippy and effective security suite, ESET Internet Security is very unlikely to let you down.

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