Over the last 10 years or so I have tried a lot of different security software solutions, recently I got my hands on ESET Smart Security 4, this is based on NOD32 and gives you antivirus, antispyware, firewall and antispam functionality.
When you purchase ESET Smart Security 4 online you will receive a username and password via email and download links for different operating system versions, the download for my Windows 7 laptop was just under 50MB in size, as for the installation it is quick and easy, simply enter your username and password and click next a few times, I carried out a typical installation and chose for ESET to detect potentially unwanted applications (see below) also I enabled the ThreatSense Early Warning System (find out more here).
A few minutes later ESET has installed, if you are connected to a network the first thing you will see is a new network warning message, here you can tell the new firewall whether to use strict protection on this network (advisable if you are on a public network), or alternatively you can choose “allow sharing”, which is great for a home or office setup. Like most firewalls this message will automatically show whenever you connect to a new network.
More knowledgeable users can choose more advanced settings, however standard users will be glad to know that now ESET will pretty much look after itself, I would recommend setting up a scheduled full system scan as otherwise it only carries out startup file checks. You can see how to set up a scheduled full system scan here.
ESET Smart Security 4 automatically scans startup files for infections upon logon, this scan also automatically takes place after virus definitions have been updated, which should really help users stay infection free. Full system scans took some time on my laptop, however I do have about 200GB of data on it. As you would expect ESET integrates into Windows via the context menu, therefore if you want to scan a file or folder simple right click it and choose the scan option, also you can quarantine files or even submit files for analysis (see below).
In an ideal world it would be great to heavily infect my laptop with viruses and spyware and see how ESET copes, however seeing as how I use my laptop for work I will not be doing this, but as Smart Security 4 is based on NOD32 we do not really have to question its antivirus / antispyware functionality, therefore all we really need to know about is the user interface, firewall, antispam and performance.
Let’s start with the user interface, as you would expect a new icon shows by the clock on your PC, if you click this you can carry out plenty of useful tasks such as enable / disable the firewall, check for updates and runs scans etc, you can see all of the options below.
When you open ESET Smart Security 4 you will see that the user interface is extremely simple, firstly you will see whether all of the programs’s components are active, you can then choose to run a scan, update your definitions, setup the program manually or access help and support.
By default the program shows the standard user interface (see below), however if you prefer you can view advanced mode (option is in the bottom left hand corner), in advanced mode you can see a new tools category which allows access to the scheduler, log files, the quarantine and SysInspector, also advanced mode shows more options in the setup category.
As standard Smart Security 4 sets the firewall to automatic filtering mode, when compared to some rival firewalls I was impressed by the way it allowed communication for all of my major web accessing programs such as Google Chrome, Skype, Windows Live Mail etc, other software I have used before has inadvertently blocked programs I use.
If you prefer to see exactly what is accessing the internet you can set the firewall to interactive filtering mode, here you can manually create rules when a program tries to access the internet (see below), after a day of usage the firewall should have enough rules to manage itself, the interactive firewall is extremely easy to use (you can see a firewall popup below).
The only thing which didn’t impress me about ESET Smart Security 4 was the fact that its antispam does not support Windows Live Mail 2011, therefore I could not test out how effective the antispam functionality really is, however according to cnet’s review it finds most malware and encounters few false positives, on the whole it is very effective, you can see their review here.
The things which impressed me the most about ESET Smart Security 4 is the fact that it is extremely lightweight, as previously mentioned it is a firewall, antivirus, antispam and antispyware solution, therefore I expected it to use quite a lot of system resources, infact there are just two processes associated with ESET in task manager, one for the user interface (egui.exe) and one for ESET’s services (ekrn.exe). In total these processes use just 67MB of RAM and next to no processor power, when you run a scan the cpu usage does increase, that said it did not slow down my Core 2 Duo laptop whatsoever.
To conclude ESET Smart Security 4 is a great solution for basic or advanced users, it will take care of all of your security needs without using a lot of RAM or CPU power, my only criticism is that a full system scan is not scheduled as default. You can try it out for free here or buy it online here