The wizard also analyzes browser and system vulnerabilities, and recommends fixes. For example, it suggested that I turn off autorun on network drives, along with a variety of browser changes, such as turning on a setting to clear browser cache whenever I exit the browser.
Content filtering needs help
Not everything in the suite is up to the standards of its firewall and anti-malware modules. Kaspersky's content filtering, in particular, needs help, and its antiphishing filter is less than useful. It frequently let me visit phishing sites that Firefox blocked -- you'll be far better served by using your browser's built-in phishing filter than relying on Kaspersky's.
In addition, the Parental Control tool is difficult to use, without many advanced options. It doesn't offer as many types of filters as some other parental control software, and it doesn't have a way to block certain games from being played. The Banner Ad Blocker, though, works well, if you want to surf the Web with fewer ads. By default it's turned on, although you can easily turn it off.
If you already have antivirus or other security software running, you'll need to uninstall it before installing Kaspersky. If not, there's a good chance you'll run into installation problems. I was running Avast and disabled it for the installation, but under Windows Vista, I received error messages that Kaspersky couldn't write to portions of the Registry and so it wouldn't install -- but the program didn't tell me the source of the problem was Avast.
In a Windows XP installation, Kaspersky warned me that Avast needed to be uninstalled, and offered to do the uninstallation itself. However, choosing that option only resulted in an endless loop, with Avast still uninstalled. After exiting Kaspersky, then uninstalling Avast via normal methods, the Kaspersky installation went fine.
The bottom line
For hands-on tinkerers and skinflints, there are plenty of very good free firewalls and anti-malware apps out there -- you can put together your own suite of them without spending anything.
However, if you want the wider range of tools and single controlling interface that a suite offers, you probably want to know how Kaspersky measures up to one of its biggest competitors, Norton Internet Security. Symantec recently released a public beta of its newest version, NIS 2009, and judging from that, the two are pretty much neck-in-neck.
In general, both offer the same protection: anti-malware, firewall, intrusion protection and so on. The Kaspersky suite offers a cleaner, simpler design and a few extras that Norton lacks, notably the Security Analyzer wizard. On the other hand, Norton has a few features that Kaspersky doesn't have, such as a very nice home network map that warns you if you're not using encryption on your network and gives details (such as IP and MAC addresses) about each device on your network.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.