ESET Smart Security 7 promises new protection modules that will further enhance its effectiveness in protecting its users. Since the previous version fared very well in our testing, I was curious to learn whether this new version is a worthy successor. Do these new features work well? Do they help ESET Smart Security 7 be one of the best security products on the market? Let's find out from this detailed review.
Downloading ESET Smart Security 7 is a realtively easy process. You first download a 1.5MB file that then downloads the actual suite and starts the installation process. This means downloading another 77.6MB of files, which include the latest product version but not the latest virus signatures. The download is very fast though, the fastest I've seen out of all the security suites I have tested in recent months. I liked this very much.
When the download is finished, the installation process starts. You need to accept the "End User License Agreement" (this feels very old school as most security products don't go through this step), select whether you would like to participate in ESET's Live Grid network which collects malware intelligence from ESET's users who chose to participate, and select whether you want to enable the detection of potentially unwanted applications. I recommend that you enable both these features as they help in providing better security, without making the product annoying to use.
The installation is performed relatively fast. You are not asked about which modules get installed. ESET installs the only the modules that are mandatory for a security suite. Any extras like Anti-Theft or Parental Controls need to be activated manually by the user, after the installation. I think many will appreciate this as they might not want to use everything that's bundled with this product.
Next, you go through the activation procedure. If you choose to go for the 30-days trial, you are required to enter your email address and share the country you are from. You won't receive any marketing emails unless you subscribe to them. I appreciate this attitude on ESET's part.
They have sent me only one email to confirm the activation of the trial, with my trial user account and direct download links. This information was useful to me during my testing because I reinstalled and reactivated this product several times.
So far, everything was great about my first experience with ESET. Unfortunately, when the activation should have finalized,I was informed that it failed, the product was not able to update itself and my wireless network connection stopped working. No matter what I tried, I couldn't connect to any wireless network, even though things worked great prior to installing ESET Smart Security 7.
The only way I could solve this, was to turn on the "Interactive filtering mode" for the firewall module and restart my computer. Then, ESET informed me that a new network connection was detected and asked me to select the protection mode for it. This was followed by lots of other questions. Once I did this, my Windows 8.1 installation worked well and I was able to connect to any wireless network. I immediately set the firewall to "Automatic filtering mode", to get rid of all the annoying prompts it displayed.
To confirm whether this is a common problem or not, I searched ESET's forums and performed several installations of this product. I have learned that this problem is rather isolated and all my subsequent installations of this suite worked fine. The trouble was that, for some reason, ESET Smart Security 7 did not display the wizard for selecting the network protection mode, the first time I installed it. Because of that, the firewall blocked access to everything because it wasn't configured correctly.
Unfortunately, my otherwise positive first impression was ruined by an annoying bug which left me unable to access any wireless networks after installing ESET Smart Security 7. Luckily, this problem was fixed with a bit of manual intervention. However, casual users will find this issue annoying and difficult to solve.
Integration with Windows 8.1 & Modern Apps
ESET Smart Security 7 is very well integrated with Windows 8.1, its modern apps and its networking features. When you install it, it automatically disables the Windows Firewall and Windows Defender, so that there aren't any conflicts that may cause performance issues or other types of problems.
As long as you manually set the correct protection mode for the active network connection, in ESET's firewall module, you can use Windows' networking features without any further configuration. You will be able to join or create Homegroups, access network shares, stream media, play online games and so on.
In terms of integration with web browsers, ESET doesn't install any add-ons and that's great. It automatically scans all your HTTP traffic and you are protected regardless of the browser you are using.
In order to run and protect your system in the background, ESET Smart Security 7 uses 95 MB of RAM (a bit more than version 6 of this product). Its background processes are well protected and they cannot be terminated with ease, which is great.
I have measured the impact of this suite on boot timings, using BootRacer. I was happy to learn that only 1 second was added to my test system's boot timings: it went from 36 seconds to 37 seconds. Also, I ran the PC Vantage and 3DMark Vantage benchmarks to measure if there was any negative performance impact caused by ESET Smart Security 7. I was surprised to learn that both benchmarks have shown slightly better results after installing this security suite, as if the suite improved the performance of my system. :)
If you correctly set the protection mode assigned to the active network connection, then the integration between ESET Security 7 and Windows 8.1 works perfectly. You won't need to make any other manual configuration in order to have a pleasant computing experience.
Ease of Use & Configuration
Next, I performed lots of tasks using ESET Smart Security 7 so that I could learn how easy it is to use and configure. If you have used version 6 in the past and you have enjoyed your experience, you will be happy to learn that the interface looks almost the same in version 7. Only some minor visual improvements have been made.
The interface remains very minimalist and provides easy to use switches for enabling or disabling its different features. From the main interface you can easily start a custom scan, perform a manual update, access help and support or use any of the tools that are bundled with the suite.
More advanced users can easily enter the Advanced setup where they will find everything they need for configuring how this product works.
One improvement that has been made in this new version is that ESET Smart Security 7 also includes an automatic first scan that's performed after you install this product. This is a good approach but it would have been even better if the idle-state scanning feature would have also been enabled by default. Unfortunately, users have to enable it manually.
On the positive side, ESET Smart Security 7 does provide everything you need in terms of scheduling scans, setting exclusions of all kinds and configuring every aspect of its functioning. Both advanced and casual users will be pleased by what it has to offer in this regard.
Help and support are also easily available. ESET provides both local help files with useful information as well as access to its online knowledge base. Customers will also appreciate the fact that they can send their questions and issues to the customer care department straight from the security suite.
In terms of reporting features, ESET Smart Security 7 offers detailed logs, live activity monitors and protection statistics. The only downside is that these statistics do not include the firewall protection and they focus only on malware and antispam protection.
When it comes to alerts, ESET bothers you only when something important is going on. Its alerts have been slightly improved since version 6 and they are more informative than they used to be.
ESET Smart Security 7 is a good looking product, with an easy to use interface for beginners and experts alike. It provides everything you need from easy to use switches, to detailed advanced features to easy access to its reports or its customer care service.
ESET Smart Security 7 has a great firewall just like its predecessor. All the scans I have performed with tools like Nessus, did not return any meaningful results.
Only the MAC address was identified, which is by no means a threat to security. Also, its automated filtering and rules work very well and you will rarely have the need to improve them.
The only complaint I have is that ESET doesn't actively monitor the network profile assigned to a network in Windows. Therefore, changing its profile in the operating system doesn't change its protection mode in ESET Smart Security 7. You have to manually change the profile assigned in the security suite.
ESET Smart Security 7 continues to provide great firewall protection to its users. Also, it default configuration is good and you will rarely need to manually change its rules.
Antivirus and Antispyware
In version 7, ESET have continued their quest for improving the antimalware protection they offer to users. This version includes a new Advanced Memory Scanner, Vulnerability Shield and an Exploit Blocker. All these new features are not visible from an interface perspective, only the protection behind the scene has been improved.
In my testing it blocked almost all the malicious webpages I have tried to access. In one instance though, I was able to download and run a trojan from the Internet. While the trojan was running, ESET blocked all the malicious addresses it tried to access and basically neutralized its malicious behavior. After a reboot, ESET removed it from the system startup and wiped it from the system. I did not understand why it didn't do this before running the trojan though.
When inserting removable devices, like a USB memory stick, ESET asks whether you would like to scan it or not. One of my tests is to plug in a memory stick filled with malware samples. ESET Smart Security 7 was able to identify and remove all the threats that were found on it.
Also, I have installed this suite on a test system that was previously infected with several malware samples. ESET was able to successfully protect itself from termination during its installation and then it was able to successfully remove all infections. I was pleased with this result.
I also measured the time it took for scanning a 38 GB partition with 26.5 GB of files - ESET finished the job in 11 minutes, which is an average result.
As usual, I finished my testing by looking at what other independent security organizations had to say about ESET and their products:
- AV-TEST awarded ESET a score of 5.5 out of 6 for protection, 3 for performance and 6 for usability. I found it strange that ESET was ranked so poorly regarding performance. In my testing, this security suite had little to no impact on performance.
- AV-Comparatives awarded ESET their top Advanced+ rating in their latest round of testing.
- Virus Bulletin awarded ESET their ultimate VB100 badge and measured a 90%+ reactive detection rate and an 80%+ proactive detection rate, which is the standard for good security products.
ESET Smart Security 7 includes new antimalware protection features that work behind the scene to provide effective antimalware protection to its users. This is confirmed both by my tests and other independent organizations which awarded ESET great ratings in their testing.
When it comes to additional features, ESET Smart Security 7 doesn't include anything unique. Users can additionally enable the following features:
- ESET Social Media Scanner - a Facebook and Twitter app that you can install to make sure your accounts are safe from all kinds of malware distributed through these social networks. This app is free, easy to use and works well. You can use it even if you don't purchase ESET's commercial products.
- ESET Anti-Theft - this a great feature, especially useful to mobile users. If your laptop or Windows 8 tablet gets stolen, ESET will help you find it.
- Parental Controls - if your computer is used by children, you can enable this feature to protect them while browsing the web. ESET doesn't block apps or games, just websites.However, it is very effective at filtering access to inappropriate websites.
- ESET SysRescue - this is a tool for creating a rescue disk that can be used when dealing with extreme malware infections. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stuff to download, configure and install before creating this rescue disk. I found the whole process complex and cumbersome. Only experts will understand what they need to do.
- ESET Smart Security 7 also checks whether your Windows installation is up to date. If it is not, it shares the missing updates and recommends that you to install them.
The additional features bundled with ESET Smart Security 7 are not unique. You will also find them in other security suites. But, they work very well, they are nicely integrated with the suite and provide value to their users. ESET doesn't bundle junk or stuff you are very unlikely to use. The only tool that contrasts with the rest of the suite is ESET SysRescue which would benefit from a simplification process.
Default Settings You Might Want to Improve
Even though the default settings of this suite are good, there are some things you may want to improve. For making these improvements, you need to enter the Advanced Setup. Then, considering fiddling with the following settings:
- If you are working with many documents and you receive documents from other people, consider enabling Document protection by going to "Computer -> Antivirus and antispyware -> Document protection". This will integrate ESET with your Microsoft Office applications.
- For maximum protection, consider enabling "Idle-state scanning" by going to "Computer -> Antivirus and antispyware -> Idle-state scanning".
- I did not enjoy seeing the ESET splash-screen at every startup. If it annoys you, consider disabling it by going to "User Interface -> Graphics".
This suite's default settings are generally good but there are a few things that you might want to improve, like enabling idle-state scanning.
ESET Smart Security 7 is a strong security product that's easy to use both by novices and advanced users alike. It doesn't negatively impact the performance of your system and its protection modules have been further improved. The additional features it bundles are few but they work well and they are not enabled unless you want to use them. All-in-all, ESET Smart Security 7 is a great security product that we recommend to all our readers.
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