Every security company needs to balance the features offered in its antivirus, security suite, and (if present) security mega-suite products. It’s important that the user see a benefit at each security level, and ESET Internet Security hits that mark. In addition to the expected firewall, spam filter, and parental control features, ESET Internet Security also includes webcam security, online banking protection, and a home network analyzer. It packs in a lot of features, but they’re not all top quality. In particular, the old-school firewall is unusually annoying, and the parental control system does nothing but filter web content.
When you first start up ESET you’re presented with a basic information page that includes the image of a mildly creepy android and the message that you’re protected. From this dashboard you can start a quick scan, use ESET’s sandboxed browser for banking and online shopping protection, or check out the security status of all the devices on your home network. On the left rail there are a number of different options including: Computer scan, Update, Tools, Setup, and Help and support.
The Computer scan section lets you start a basic scan, or choose to customize a deeper or more specialized scan. There’s also a helpful drag-and-drop area for single files you want to scan. When you’re running a scan, this is where you’ll also see its current status. The Update section is similarly straightforward, while the Tools menu includes links to the connected home monitor, banking and payment protection, as well as an anti-theft feature if you want to track your device.
The Connected Home Monitor is particularly interesting to look at. It shows you all the devices on your network from tablets, routers, and smart speakers to PCs and smartphones. At first, some devices will show up with their actual names while others will not. Any problems on your network are highlighted by exclamation marks with various colors—for instance, blue tells you there’s an issue but it’s probably no big deal; yellow tells you there’s an issue you should probably let ESET fix.
Besides scanning for weaknesses, the connected home monitor is a nice section to just see all the various device that are connected to your Wi-Fi. Other antivirus suites, such as Avast, offer similar network monitoring features. Moving on to setup, here you can fiddle with ESET’s controls to your heart’s content. There are options for turning on and off the service’s gamer mode, webcam protection, email and spam monitoring, botnet protection, and other security tools.
On top of the interface features, ESET also has a pop-up that appears each time you insert a USB storage device into your PC. The pop-up doesn’t prevent you from accessing the USB drive. Instead, it asks if you want to scan the drive now or later—there’s also an option to dive into ESET’s settings to turn off this feature. You can also set it to carry out the action, such as scan now, every time you insert a USB drive into your PC—probably a good idea for most users. Overall, ESET’s interface is easy to understand, manage, and navigate, making it a great choice for someone who doesn’t want a complicated power-user interface.
Although most of its features happen in the background, ESET, the company, has a lot to say about what its products can do. Like many other services these days, ESET offers an anti-ransomware feature to block one of the more pernicious threats out there. The security suite regularly scans for ransomware-like behavior such as mass encryption of files. If it detects anything, it will alert the user and ask whether they initiated this action. I asked the company if that means ESET would temporarily stop utilities like TrueCrypt. ESET says the suite won’t interfere with most mainstream encryption tools, but if you were using something less well-known it may see a temporary stoppage.
There’s also a network-attack protection feature to stop threats that try to spread through your home network, an “exploit blocker” that monitors apps that are commonly exploitable, an “advanced memory scanner” (in ESET Smart Security) to go after any malware hiding in RAM, and a UEFI scanner to guard against low-level malware.
On top of that, ESET offers cloud-based protection analysis—a common feature in all modern antivirus suites and one that was central to the recent Kasperksy controversy. ESET’s is called LiveGrid, which the company says tries to take your privacy into account. By default, Office files aren’t sent to the cloud for analysis, for example, which is a nice balance between cloud security and user privacy.
ESET Internet Security combines ESET’s powerful antivirus protection with all the expected suite features, and more. It includes some unusual components such as anti-theft for laptops, a network security scanner, and webcam security. However, some of the core components distinctly fail to impress. When enabled, the firewall’s program control popups are the most annoying we’ve seen, for example, and parental control is so limited as to barely exist.