K7 security products are new to me. However, K7 Computing’s 2011 achievement of surpassing 10 million customers certainly implies they are doing something right. Since 1991 they have been developing security solutions aimed at improving the computing experience by identifying and removing threats. While K7 offers several security solutions, the first among them that includes all the elements we like to test is K7 Total Security 11.1. Let’s begin.
K7 makes their trial versions readily available. The Total Security download weighs in at just over 70 MB and there are no forms to fill out prior to accessing it. With the download complete, you can can kick off the setup and installation wizard which proves to be quite painless. One item worth noting is that K7 Total Security required the removal of Malwarebytes before it could install. I thought this was a fair request and after rebooting was able to continue with the installation.
The installation doesn’t offer any customization options. The only prompt you are required to complete involves supplying a name and email address in order to activate the trial. Shortly thereafter K7 identifies your network, declares your system protected and displays the main interface.
The interface is tabbed and appears to be laid out in a fashion that’s easy to follow. The system tray icon allows you to easily kick off several types of scans as well as halt traffic or disable protection altogether. Lastly, K7 capably handles the act of disabling the native Windows Firewall and Windows Defender applications.
All in all a solid first impression. Next, we will take a closer look at the usability of K7 Total Security.
Ease of Use and Configuration
K7 Total Security breaks the main interface into the following tabs: Security Center, Tasks, Settings, Tools and Support. The Security Center tab provides a quick visual indicating the status of the various components. Hovering over a component row will display a link to disable or enable the component as well as a link for configuration. There’s nice usability here, requiring little need to click aimlessly around the interface in search of major areas of configuration.
When you are ready to start/schedule a scan, check for an update or release a file from the quarantine, you’ll want to be focusing on the Tasks tab. Other handy task items include viewing your security history, scanning for vulnerabilities and patches and restoring the default or a saved configuration. This last will prove helpful if you find you’ve changed the K7 settings a little too much.
In the Tools tab you’ll find several utility type modules, useful for cleaning temporary files and optimizing the system. Unfortunately, several of the optimization modules, such as Computer TuneUp and Disk Optimization, provide little to no detail regarding exactly what tasks K7 is performing. The help text was not helpful in this area either. The lack of detail aside, many, if not all, of these tools could prove quite useful.
You can access individual component configurations from the Security Center tab or via the Settings tab. The Antivirus configuration interface is broken down into its own set of tabs. You will find all the usual options such as setting the default scan action, quarantine retention and file or folder exclusion. There are also plenty of options that lean toward the advanced. Make sure you exercise caution if you choose to do some testing, and backup the configuration often in the event you need to restore.
The Firewall configuration also contains its own set of tabs, which are a bit more intuitive than those found in the Antivirus settings. Here you can manage the applications that should or should not have access to the Internet and even define specific rules for each application if you so choose. The Firewall configuration also provides an interface for setting or updating the type of network you are connected to. Overall the Firewall settings are largely intuitive and easy to manage.
I like many of the default configuration choices made by the K7 team. For example, plugging in USB storage (be it a mobile device or flash disk) displayed a prompt asking if the device should be scanned. Many suites have this option as well, but the default setting often does not have a prompt to scan as the default behavior. Shortly after installing K7 Total Security I needed to install an image editing application. This action changes the program associated with several file extensions. K7 identified these changes and prompted for their acceptance. This was nice to see and could go a long way toward preventing application hijacking.
K7 Total Security has an effective and easy to navigate interface. The default configuration seems more than adequate and prompts have been pretty minimal. In the following sections we will determine how well the default configuration really protects by running the system through a few tests.
The K7 Total Security firewall is pretty quiet. I’ve yet to see a prompt as a result of an application I was using or activity on the network. This was true even while I was running an intrusive scan from another workstation. I guess I don’t mind this too much as long as the result is the proper blocking of inappropriate traffic; with that said, I do appreciate at least a quick prompt indicating a scan is taking place.
You can fully manage which applications have access to the Internet. This includes allowing an application full access but still choosing to display a prompt when access is attempted. I can see this type of configuration coming in handy if you’re using a desktop application and would like to be alerted if it attempts an update.
In addition to setting application rules you can also set rules which define exceptions. These rules deal with traffic at the port, protocol and IP address level. The interface here is light and unassuming, but some knowledge is required or you could cripple your connection. As mentioned before, take the time to backup your configuration if you plan on doing some testing in this area.
When testing the firewall, I like to run an intrusive scan against it to see just what kind of information the firewall is returning. For the initial test I used Nmap to scan the test system while the network was set to Home. The scan identified 14 open ports and was able to extract enough information to identify the operating system as well as the workgroup name. This is far from ideal.
I changed the network type to Public before implementing the next scan. The hope here was that the scan would find a more locked down system since Public is the type of network one should choose when accessing the Internet from a cafe or library. K7 did not disappoint. The scan results improved considerably by identifying zero open ports and no additional information that might prove helpful to an attacker.
The lesson here, as we have learned with several other suites, is to know what kind of network you are connecting to and be sure your connection is defined properly. The K7 firewall has proven effective and easy to manage with a default configuration that works well.
Antivirus and Antispyware Features
The K7 antivirus options go quite deep. You will find the typical options addressing default actions for identified threats, exclusions and quarantine management. In addition, you will find an option to enable script protection and scanning of activity across several messenger applications.
Using the System Monitor, you can set the level of protection to be as aggressive or relaxed as you like. System Monitor is the module responsible for monitoring the critical areas of the operating system for changes and alerting you to them.
The Device Access tab allows you to set how devices like USB drives and CD/DVD drives interact with the operating system. You can also choose your level of interaction such as whether or not files can be copied from the device or if a password is required prior to access.
With a rather complete set of features I set about testing the scanning engine and was not disappointed. I had introduced several infected files prior to installing K7 Total Security and each was identified and dealt with appropriately. The same was true of infected files introduced from a USB flash drive. Even threats introduced via trusted network shares were identified easily.
My last bit of testing involved visiting several malicious sites. It was a bit of a battle to see who would identify the threat first, the browser or K7. In any case no threat was able to successfully make it onto the system.
Of course, the expectation is that you would review several resources when considering a security solution. Thankfully the teams at AV-Comparatives and Virus Bulletin have included K7 in their comparative tests.
Virus Bulletin awarded K7 the VB100 standing on the last two tests. Historically K7 has 8 pass and 3 fail verdicts with more than 11 tests where K7 was not among the comparative. AV-Comparatives awarded K7 the Advanced rating in their latest retrospective test and the Average rating in the last on-demand test. While K7 did not fail the AV-Comparatives tests, these results aren’t exactly flattering. While reviewing the reason for the lower rating the deciding factor was in the high number of false positives and slightly less effective detection rate.
I believe K7 has put together an effective scanning solution and has introduced several features that do a nice job of setting them apart from many other security solutions. That being said, the AV-Comparatives results leave a bit to be desired. If K7 Total Security is a solution that interests you, I encourage you to review the comparative test results closely so you have a better understanding of the results.
K7 Total Security 11.1 is a fine solution that offers an excellent default configuration. Aside from setting a scheduled scan, there is very little you need to do to optimize the suite to provide sound protection. The firewall performs as expected in the Home profile and meets strict expectations when connected to a Public network. Management of the various components is an easy task and the visual cues are adequate for alerting you to trouble. Well done K7!