ESET Smart Security 7 – Review

very good
key review info
application features
  • Antivirus / Antispyware
  • (10 more, see all...)

ESET's Smart Security is the company's top security product for consumers. It encompasses all layers of protection available in NOD32 Antivirus and adds the network component on top of that to shut the door on malware leveraging this type of infection vector.

The suite is available for $59.99 / €43.54, but you can take it for a free ride for a total period of 30 days with all features active.

The latest release of the package includes Vulnerability Shield, a feature that complements the built-in firewall and strengthens the detection of CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) at network level.

It works by safeguarding popular protocols (SMB, RPC, or RDP) and thus fends off network-based attacks or attempts relying on vulnerabilities that have not been patched yet.

We tried to upgrade from NOD32 to Smart Security by installing the latter on top of the former. Everything went fine but, at the end of the procedure, the bundle alerted that not all protection modules were running. A system restart solved the problem.

Installing the security suite is not much different than the Antivirus product, and the main steps remain the same. You are still offered the option to contribute to Live Grid and to enable detection of potentially unwanted applications (PUA).

However, given the network protection component and the Anti-Theft feature particular to the product, there is some additional configuration to be made at the end of the process.

After completing the installation, ESET Smart Security prompts you to select the type of network (public, home, or work) you are currently connected to in order to establish the trust level for the connections from the get-go.

Next comes the configuration of the Anti-Theft module, which requires logging with your ESET account and providing a name for associating the computer.

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The particularity of this feature is that it creates an additional, limited account on the system (Phantom Windows Account). This is a fake account that becomes the only alternative for a thief the moment you mark the computer as stolen.

It blocks access to all other accounts and the data on the hard disk and starts collecting as much information as possible that could lead to recovering the device. It can grab desktop screenshots, as well as use the built-in camera (if available) to capture whatever/whoever is in front of it.

Everything is available in the web console, where you can also find details about the IP addresses used by the device and possibly the location.

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In terms of the interface and layout of the menus there aren’t major changes compared to the previous stable release. But, just like in the case of NOD32, there is a new option in the list of menus, Training, which is designed to educate users about safe Internet practices; at the moment, only US, Canadian, and Caribbean residents have access to this information.

Exploit Blocker and Advanced Memory Scanner are part of this suite, too. They’re responsible for protecting applications with a higher risk of being vulnerable to exploits (web browser, email clients, PDF readers) and for catching unknown malware that relies on obfuscation techniques to evade detection.

Our tests with ESET Smart Security were conducted on the same threat database used for evaluating NOD32 Antivirus. In this case, the detection rate was slightly higher, mainly due to the signature updates that have been added to the suite.

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The firewall has become more flexible in this revision by allowing the user to add IDS (Intrusion Detection System) exceptions. The result is better control over this type of detections and a customized behavior of the firewall.

With the default configuration, the firewall managed to stealth up 986 service ports, while 70 of them were declared closed and none was found open. Nevertheless, some of the leak tests we used showed that it was not impenetrable and could bypass it in order to send data to remote servers or use other programs to launch Internet Explorer.

As far as antispam protection is concerned, ESET Smart Security 7 is not compatible with the latest stable versions of Thunderbird (24.0.1 and 17.0.8), but it integrates nicely in Microsoft’s Outlook.

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The options are simple and permit scanning the currently selected folder and re-classifying a false positive as not spam for future reference. In our case, out of 3,151 legitimate messages, it erroneously identified 111 of them as spam at the first run.

At the second scan, after marking only one email as legitimate, the number of false positives dropped to 96. As you keep marking messages as good or spam it automatically adds the addresses to the whitelist and won’t make the same mistake again. On the other hand, I would still check the spam folder for valid emails.

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The Parental controls module specific to Smart Security doesn’t seem to have received enhancements. There are no options for limiting a user’s time spent on the computer or on the web, or for applying restrictions for applications.

The choices are completely automatic and consist of defining the age of the user, and the suite imposes web content filtering (“https://” included) according to five predefined standards corresponding to certain age-gates (5, 8, 13, 16, and 18).

These can be customized, and there is also the possibility to block access to specific pages and domains and set exceptions.

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The Good

The firewall is more flexible and allows better customization of IDS detections. The footprint on system resources is very small.

Once activated, anti-theft measures protect data on the stolen device, restricting access to all files and folders; there are options for locating the computer.

The Bad

Parental controls are still underdeveloped, lacking options for controlling applications access rights for each user or restricting the time spent on the Internet and on the computer.

Antispam does not work with the latest two versions of Thunderbird client.

The Truth

ESET Smart Security 7 continues to provide great anti-malware protection and it has received firewall improvements many advanced users had been waiting for. It is not a tool for the inexperienced, but it manages to do a very good job right out of the box.

NOTE: We have 25 licenses to give away for ESET Smart Security 7. In order to win one of them, you are expected to come up with a smart post, positive or negative, about the application in the comments section below.

The campaign ends on Friday, November 1. Winners will be notified by the end of the next week; needless to say that we need valid email addresses in order to contact you.

NOTE [April 20, 2014]: Softpedia and Eset are giving away 51 license keys for ESET Smart Security 7. One key works on 1 PC, has a 1-year availability, and does not have an expiration date for activation. All you have to do is leave us a comment in the section below to try your luck at winning one of the keys. We will pick 51 random comments using random.org and post the winners' names on this page. Don't forget to leave us a valid email address to contact you if you won. The Easter promo expires on Monday, April 21 at 15:00 UTC (8:00 a.m. PDT/PST), so write a comment until then.

UPDATE: Giveaway over. We have announced the giveaway winners. Please access this link to find out more. All winners will soon receive emails with their license key.
user interface 4
features 4
ease of use 4
pricing / value 4


final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
 
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