A number of my subscribers have asked me which security suite I would recommend. As I discuss in my "My Computer Security Software Recommendations" article in each newsletter, my own preference is to use the individual security products (antivirus/antispyware, firewall, antispam) that I think serve me best. However, I know that a number of people prefer the Suite approach, which is often cheaper.
As a result, I’ve tried a couple suites recently. I was pleasantly surprised that I like ESET Smart Security 4. Well, I guess it wasn’t so surprising — I used ESET’s NOD32 Antivirusfor about five years, later with Sunbelt Software’s CounterSpy added for anti-spyware protection, and was very happy with that combination. When Sunbelt came out with its VIPRE Antivirus + Antispyware, I switched to VIPRE last year.
The three weeks I ran a trial of ESET Smart Security 4 showed me a well-designed, fast suite that did not bog down my notebook computer. Of course, this is what I expected from using NOD32 for so long.
ESET Smart Security 4 is now my recommendation for a security suite, even though I expect to switch back to my usual Sunbelt VIPRE + Sunbelt Personal Firewall.
In the image below left, you see the main control window of ESET Smart Security 4 in the Standard Mode. As you can see, I’m running the free trial (get it here).
The image below right is the similar main control window for the Advanced Mode. Notice that the link in the bottom left corner can be used to switch between the modes.
Notice that, in both images, the Protection Status is colored Orange. This is a warning that I’m within 15 days of the trial’s expiration. Prior to that, the color was green. Presumbly, if I were to let the trial continue until it expired, it would show the status in red. Although I don’t show it, Smart Security 4 has an icon in the Windows Status Bar that is similarly colored based on status.
The next screen on the left is the Computer Scan page. As usual with antivirus programs, you can choose to scan all hard drives connected to the computer, or you can choose a custom scan in which you can pick drives, folders or individual files to be scanned.
The screen on the right is the Update screen. Here’s wherre you can update the virus signature database, as well as see which version you have an dwhen it was updated. It’s also the place where you enter your username and password. These are used by ESET Smart Security when it checks for updates. They’re keyed to the license, not your identity — when you renew, you get a new username and password.
The next screen on the left is the Standard mode Setup screen. There are a few options here, but not many. Of course, you can switch to Advanced mode from this screen.
The image on the right is the Advanced mode Setup screen. If you click on any of the three main headings on the right, it will open the corresponding dialog. Let’s click on the Antivirus and antispyware protection header, which is a link.
The result was the a user-friendly screen that provides some basic controls for each of these categories: real-time file system protection, document protection, email client protection and web access protection.
If you click on the Advanced Antivirus and antispyware protection setup in this screen or the previous screen, you’ll get the extreme detail of the right image. Notice that it covers all three major modules (antivirus and antispyware, personal firewall, and antispam), so no matter how you reach this point, you can make changes to all.
Note the "Default" button — you might need it some time.
ESET Smart Security 4 knows about a number of programs that are expected to contact the Internet, and automatically allows them. For the beginning user or the user just starting with ESET’s programs, this is probably a good choice. However, you can switch to Advanced mode and have much finer control of its actions.
One of the best, keep-me-out-of-trouble features is that the Advanced screens have a "Reset" button, which resets all the detailed options to their default values. If you manage to mess up your Smart Security options such that you can’t even get to the Internet, just click the Reset.
When a program tries to connect, ESET Smart Security checks to see if it thinks the program should be allowed. If not, it asks the user.
Finally, let’s look at one of the typical warnings from ESET Smart Security 4. As you can see, the message is very clear: a program PhotoImpact (the graphics editing program I use most often) tried to "call home" when I started it. ESET SS4 stopped it, and asked me what I wanted to do. I could allow or deny, I could have SS4 remember that action so it could take it automatically next time, or I could allow those connections temporarily for a while, which can be useful some times. Notice in the lower left-hand corner — there are even more advanced options available.
The messages from ESET Smart Security 4 that I have seen with regard to malware arriving by email have been equally user-friendly — clearly telling what it found, did and couldn’t do, and asking for a user decision if appropriate.
ESET Smart Security 4 includes Antivirus, Antispyware, Antispam, and Firewall, too — and multi-computer and multi-year discounts. Get ESET Smart Security 4