ESET's Smart Security - Firewall & Anti-Spam

very good
key review info
application features
  • ESET NOD32 Antivirus + Antispyware
  • (2 more, see all...)

Firewall's basic function is protecting all the door of your computer against all sorts of malicious attacks. Its functionality is not limited to network attacks and you should also be able to restrict both inbound and outbound connections at whim.

In ESET Smart Security the feature is equally important as program's antivirus capabilities. There are three different filtering modes available so the user can go with the most comfortable of them. Automatic filtering mode resembles somehow an auto-pilot as the application will take care of all connections and decide upon permission granting. I have to say although this is the most hassle free alternative (user input is eliminated and you cannot define any rules) in the software it also comes with downsides: all outbound traffic of the system is permitted and new connections initiated from the network are blocked.

This translates into inability to connect from the network to an ESET Smart Security firewalled computer and receive absolutely no notification on the attempt. We tried connecting with a remote desktop application and our efforts were in vane. The server could not be connected to and the machine displayed absolutely no alert. This may be an inconvenient users generally try to avoid.

Next filtering mode, and my favorite, is called "interactive". The name itself spoiled my surprise as it gives a hint to how it works. When applied, users will receive notification about all inbound and outbound connections and also have the power of approving or denying them. Interactive filtering mode is the most flexible solution of the firewall.

You will be prompted when a connection is attempted and asked for permission or denial of action. The options are not that strict and you can also grant permission or deny it temporarily. More than this, you are shown the remote address that needs to be reached and can limit the connection to that location only through a single port and using a single protocol. You practically have maximum control over the connections.

ESET Smart Security's firewall comes with options for creating rules for applications to connect to the outside or receive data. You can dive right into Zone and Rule setup panel and configure all the applications that need Internet connection if you do not want to be prompted when they are launched. The options permit you defining the direction of the connection (in, out or both), set the action (permit, deny or ask you), select the protocols, set up both local and remote ports (or a port range) as well as the remote IP address for the connection (supports both IPv4 and IPv6).

A third filtering mode, which can be activated only from Advanced Setup panel, is called Policy-Based. Again, the name gives you a strong hint on how it works: if applications have a ruled defined, the rule will be obeyed, otherwise the firewall will deny all connections without notice of the user. Of course, rules can be added for this mode whenever the user desires.

Our tests on ESET Smart Security firewall proved that it is not immune to sneaky attacks but it provides strong protection for your system. McAfee's HackerWatch classified eight ports as being closed but insecure (if they are seen from the outside they are always insecure, but this does not mean that they can be easily accessed). A stealth test at PC Flank revealed that the computer, with firewall activated, responded to TCP packets sent from the outside. Another one provided the same result with solicited TCP packets but no unsolicited Internet packets left the system. Not all the ports were completely stealthed but those visible from the outside were closed (just like in the McAfee's HackerWatch test).

And yet another PC Flank test showed that the firewall is leaky as data was transmitted over the Internet and I was able to see it at the remote address provided in the test results window. However, given that only two firewalls were able to pass this test and having the port results from other tests ESET Smart Security firewall is genuinely protecting a computer and penetrating it would not be just for anyone.

Regarding anti-spam module, I have just one word: scary. Spam filtering is scary with Smart Security. During our testing the application scored great and no valid email was reported as spam. It missed a few messages but Windows Mail took care of them instantly.

There is no need for numbers and statistics in this case as ESET Smart Security's anti-spam module completed Windows Mail spam filtering with great success. However, for those that just love numbers, here it it. Out of a total of 50 emails received to our test address, Smart Security accurately detected 24 of them as being spam while Windows Mail marked 15 of them. The rest of 11 were valid messages that went directly to inbox.

Maybe anti-spam module from ESET with Bayesian filter is not doing all the job by itself, but combining it with Windows Mail resulted in a squeaky clean inbox folder. All valid emails were in the right folder while the junk was stored by either Junk E-mail folder or Eset Antispam folder. And the more you use it it'll only get better as Bayesian filter is adapting to new spam approaches because it learns from spam and valid messages resulting in a more efficient cleaning.

The downside is that you will not benefit of ESET anti-spam is supported only for MS Outlook, Outlook Express and Windows Mail. In these three email clients the integration is complete as it fits the interface perfectly.

The firewall may not provide the ultimate security tool but it acts responsibly and provides very good protection. It would take someone with talent above average in order to penetrate it. It is easy to configure and handle due to an organized interface and display of options.

Anti-spam module with Bayesian filter is learning from its mistakes and can only become better and better with each message reclassification you make. Leaving it to the default settings allows you quick viewing of the messages marked as spam and valid email.

The Good

Both firewall and anti-spam modules work great in protecting your home computer. The interface shouldn't pose any problems as it is very well organized and the help file is covering every area of the program.

Firewall comes with three different filtering modes to match any user's needs for security. It can also act as a traffic monitor as it displays the amount of data coming in or going out your system for each application in the list.

With anti-spam the results speak for themselves and having Bayesian filter on its side only makes it better, much better.

The Bad

Firewall still leaves room for improvement as it failed some of our tests for leaks. Spam filter is limited to Microsoft email clients.

The Truth

ESET's firewall is not the ultimate protection instrument but does a great job. The only improvement I would like to see is in performance as the interface and the way the options are organized is great. Although it is very good it can be cranked up a notch.

Anti-spam did a hell of a job sorting out valid emails from spam messages. Bayesian filter gets better in time and increases its accuracy in time.

This has nothing to do with the firewall and anti-spam module but with the entire application. Testing the application on two Vista Business systems I could not see its process in Task Manager. Only the service was visible. Also, there is no other way of shutting down ESET protection save uninstaling it.

There are moments when you want to terminate the application without removing it from the computer (gaming is one of them). You can terminate the GUI, but not the process. A good solution would be protecting the termination of the process with a password, just like when changing the settings.

Standard mode

Advanced mode

Antivirus and anti-spyware

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:

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user interface 4
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 4

final rating 4
Editor's review
very good