Security

Review: ESET Smart Security 7

If you are looking for an all-in-one security package that gives Microsoft's basic protection a run for its money, you might want to consider ESET's Smart Security 7.

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Despite Microsoft's recent moves to bake in a rather competent Defender anti-virus and anti-malware solution right into Windows 8, third-party security software vendors believe that they have nothing to fear quite yet, since they can tout more comprehensive scans and heuristic analysis. One of these products called ESET NOD32 is one of my personal favorites amongst commercial antivirus software, particularly due to its efficient use of system resources. In October 2013, ESET released a new version of their full featured security suite, Smart Security 7.


Product Information

  • Title: Smart Security 7
  • Company: ESET
  • Supported OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8.x

Smart Security 7

From first installation to first startup, the entire setup experience is fast and easy, with no annoying nags for toolbar installations to be seen anywhere (which is something you would hope to expect from paid software anyway). The main interface itself is by far one of the most straightforward and simple, with all the options available within a quick mouse click or two, and not having to rummage through a plethora of pop up dialog boxes.

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On my first scan, I elected to choose the Quick Scan mode first to see how long it would take on my Windows 8.1 test machine. Within about four minutes, it covered all the memory space and essential operating system files that were loaded at the time with no incident. Shortly thereafter, Smart Security offered to perform a more detailed custom scan, which you can run at your leisure. If such a scan is likely to take a while, Smart Security includes options to either shut down or reboot the host machine. If you are working on something at the time a shut down or reboot is about to be initiated, you are given a 30 second grace period to save your work or cancel the operation as deemed necessary.

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ESET engineering hard at work

Real-time protection

As far as the background real-time protection goes, I noticed hardly any performance penalty when running all of my regular software programs. ESET has done a great job leveraging aggressive resource management, ensuring that any incognito scans don't impede on whatever the user is working on at the time. Smart Security offers a feature called HIPS or Host-based Intrusion Prevention System, which serves as something of a guardian angel, watching to see if any rogue processes surface during day-to-day operation and puts a stop before any malicious deed is taken. In certain resource-starved systems, HIPS can potentially add some drag to performance, and it can be easily disabled via the Settings area if need be.

If your system is in use by children, or you wish to prevent employees from looking up smut at work, the parental control area allows you to set up basic web and email filtering in order to prevent unsuitable content from being viewed by others. Although I applaud ESET for thinking of the children, I find local, software-based web filtering to be woefully inadequate and easy to override if account security isn't locked down tightly. A better alternative would be to use a network-wide filtering service like OpenDNS, which is administered from the router and not on a local PC.

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Traverse the wrong path online, and you shall encounter this.

Finally, in what seems to be a newcomer to the ESET toolkit, is the inclusion of a free anti-theft option, which can be activated after Smart Security is installed and run for the first time. It touts the ability to utilize your PC's webcam and GPS hardware, in an effort to photograph and track the thief. Although the gesture by ESET is much appreciated, most software-based anti-theft can be worked around, simply by booting off other media and wiping the main hard drive. Therefore, ESET Anti-Theft is likely to help when dealing with less tech-savvy criminals.

Bottom line

So is ESET Smart Security 7 worth buying at a price of $59.99? The extras bundled on top of the base anti-virus package, like the web filter, social media scanner and anti-theft are nice to have, but the real appeal is the base NOD32 product. Since the aforementioned extras can be replaced by free or cheaper alternatives, like LoJack for anti-theft and OpenDNS for web filtering, which work just as well, if not better than what Smart Security can provide, ESET's NOD32 seems to be a better value proposition at $39.99 a license, with volume discounts available for multi-PC installations. The engine is robust, yet the software will stay out of your way while you work for the most part.

About

An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

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