It wasn’t so long ago that you’d be thought a fool for not having third-party anti-virus software on your PC. It was a time before operating systems like Windows came with their own anti-virus protection, before firewalls were built into almost every network device… and before VPN security became accessible to everyone.
The big hitters in internet security back then were made by Norton and Kaspersky, and they’re still two of the most popular premium suites today. But how good are Norton and Kaspersky at protecting you, really?
What’s in the box?
Norton Security and Kaspersky Internet Security are largely similar packages, save for a few minor features unique to each. Both include:
- Anti-virus features that scan local and online files to detect threats
- “Safe web” warnings against potentially unsafe websites and downloads
- Two-way firewalls designed to prevent intrusion to home networks
- Anti-phishing technology that blocks known fraudulent websites
- Parental controls designed to protect children from unsuitable online material
Both Norton and Kaspersky have also received favorable reviews from the big PC sites, and both are around the same price for a year’s license.
That all sounds great, but does it mean Kaspersky and Norton will give you the internet security protection you need? Let’s take a look at some pros and cons.
Good: The latest definitions
New online threats are emerging all the time. In the past we’ve had Heartbleed and the Shellshock Bash bug . To protect you, any online security service needs to be constantly updated with solutions to the latest issues.
Provided your annual license is paid up, Norton and Kaspersky will keep you up to date with the latest definitions. Known viruses and malware are detected before they hit you, and any found on your system are removed.
Bad: Moments of vulnerability
Norton and Kaspersky are both quick to deal with new threats, but they’re still reactive solutions. When a threat becomes known, the developers create a fix, and then a software update is released.
But there’ll always be a period of vulnerability between the emergence of a threat and your protection being updated. Until a threat is known and resolved, Kaspersky and Norton can’t help you.
Good: Safer browsing
Kaspersky and Norton take a more proactive approach to safe web browsing. We often think of browsers as our window on the internet – we can look at any website we want, but they can’t see us.
That’s sadly not the case. Malicious and hacked sites can infect your computer with malware. Trojan horses disguise themselves as video player downloads, which harmful sites say you need to download in order to watch that cute cat video. Shortened links take you dark places you never wanted to go. The list goes on.
Kaspersky and Norton integrate features within your browser that warn you about these dangers. Both companies keep a huge database of harmful sites, and tell you when you’re about to visit one.
Bear in mind that antivirus software does not encrypt or anonymize your internet connection. If you want to encrypt and anonymize your internet connection, you’ll need to use a VPN.
Bad: Slowing your PC down
The downside of all that in-browser link checking is the amount of computing power and bandwidth it needs. Especially on older systems, Norton and Kaspersky can really slow things down.
It’s not just the web safety features that hog power, either. Lifehacker.com called Norton as a whole “remarkably slow and bloated.”
Does that mean the programs don’t protect you? No. But does it affect how useful they are when protecting you? Unfortunately, yes..
Good: Covering the essentials
At least with Norton and Kaspersky, you get a wide range of security features in one box. As listed above, you get anti-virus protection, a firewall, anti-phishing features and more.
There’s just one installation, and settings are easy enough for everyone to understand. So if you’re looking for an easy and comprehensive security solution, Norton and Kaspersky covers most of the essentials well.
Bad: Key features available free elsewhere
One thing to be aware of, however, is that Norton and Kaspersky aren’t the only companies to notice these features are vital.
The new Windows 10 comes with a firewall, malicious software removal tool, and frequent security updates. Apple’s OS X offers pretty much the same. All for no extra cost. And because these features are integral to your operating system, they’re less resource-hungry than Norton and Kaspersky.
These built-in features don’t provide the same level of protection as Norton and Kaspersky, but they’re definitely an option for those who want to save money. There are also some free options worth considering.
Ultimately, the best solution for keeping your computer clean combines software solutions and common sense. Not clicking on suspicious links and keeping your software up-to-date can go a long way in helping you maintain a clean machine.