Excellent scores from two independent testing labs. Excellent score in our antiphishing test. Full parental control system. Network protection. Privacy protection. Useful bonus tools.
Poor score in our Windows malware detection test. Parental content filter foiled by secure anonymizing proxy.
- Bottom Line
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac excels in independent lab tests, and it goes far beyond mere antivirus, offering protection against network attacks, parental control, privacy protection, and many other useful features.
Just as they do under Windows, antivirus utilities for macOS vary widely in the features they provide. Actual protection against malware is always present, of course, and some stop there. In addition to an effective antivirus component, however, Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac gives you secure browsing with the Safe Money tool, privacy protection components, and even parental control. For the same price as many simple Mac antivirus utilities, Kaspersky gives you a full suite.
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A big image of a Mac dominates the product's main window. If the pictured monitor is green, with a checkmark, everything is fine. A red screen indicates that something's wrong, with an explanation to the right, and a button to fix the problem. Five icons occupy a strip across the bottom: Scan, Update, Safe Money, Parental Control, and Privacy Protection. Despite having more features than many competitors do, this product maintains an uncluttered main window.
Pricing and OS Support
As with Kaspersky's Windows-centered antivirus, a single license costs $39.99 per year. Extending protection to three Macs raises that to $59.99. Bitdefender and ESET precisely match that price plan, while Webroot charges just $49.99 for three licenses. You can also get away with paying nothing at all—Sophos Home (for Mac) and Avira don't cost a thing. As for Trend Micro, it, too, costs $39.99 per year for a single license. However, the price for the three-license plan, which lets you install a full security suite on PCs or antivirus on Macs, jumps to $79.95 per year.
You pay more for Intego, which lists at $99.99 per year for three licenses, but you get more security features, too. At $89.99 per year for five licenses, Symantec Norton Security Deluxe (for Mac) also looks pricey, but on a per-device basis it's not that different from Kaspersky, and it also offers a full suite of features. As you can see, there is quite a range of pricing for Mac antivirus software.
Some Mac antivirus products, among them Avira Free Antivirus for Mac and Norton, only support the very latest few iterations of the Mac operating system. Others extend support back to much older versions. ESET, for example, runs on anything after and including Snow Leopard (10.6). Kaspersky is right in the middle, with support for Mavericks (10.9) and anything later than that.
Excellent Malware Protection Test Results
When writing a review of a Windows-based antivirus program, I check the reports from five independent testing labs around the world, and supplement what I learn with hands-on testing. Kaspersky's Windows antivirus regularly aces all the tests from all five labs. Only two of those labs perform tests on macOS antivirus, alas. Their reports are all the more important, because my hands-on test setup heavily favors Windows.
Both AV-Test and AV-Comparatives certify Kaspersky for Mac malware protection. Like Intego and Bitdefender, it fended off 100 percent of the samples in tests by both labs. It also detected 100 percent of Windows-focused malware in a test by AV-Comparatives. Why does that even matter? It's important because your Mac could conceivably serve to transmit such threats to one of your Windows machines, where it could do damage.
Kaspersky also earned the best possible score in a Windows malware detection test by AV-Test Institute. It didn't do quite as well when challenged with Mac PUAs, or potentially unwanted applications. Yes, it handled more than 95 percent of them, but Bitdefender, ESET, Intego, and Norton all scored better than 99 percent in the PUA test.
Capable Phishing Protection
Almost all viruses, Trojans, and other types of malware work only on a particular platform. Some may even require a specific, vulnerable version of that platform. Phishing attacks, on the other hand, are totally platform-agnostic. If your Linux-powered internet-aware gas grill includes a web browser, a phishing site can trick you into giving away your login credentials before the steaks are seared. Kaspersky's URL Advisor plug-in for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox scans your internet traffic for fraudulent or malicious pages and steers the browser to safety.
To test phishing protection, I first collect several hundred possible fraudulent URLs, doing my best to get ones that haven't yet been analyzed and blacklisted. I use a hand-coded utility to launch each URL simultaneously in four browsers. Three simply rely on the protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. For the fourth, Norton provides the phishing protection. My utility is Windows-specific, so for Mac product testing I simply copy/paste the URLs into the browser and note the results manually.
If any browser displays an error message, I discard that URL. If it isn't very clearly a fraud, with fields to capture your username and password, I also discard it. When the test is finished, I compare the detection rate of the product under test with that of the other four browsers.
Very few Windows-based products beat Norton in this test, and the same is true of the Mac antivirus utilities I've tested. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is the only one I've seen beat Norton on the Mac, coming in five percentage points ahead. But Kaspersky came very close, lagging behind Norton by just a single percentage point, and doing significantly better than the built-in protection of the three browsers.
While phishing can happen regardless of your operating system, protection against phishing may differ by platform. For example, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus for Windows beat Norton by an even greater margin than its own Mac version in simultaneous testing. Norton's Mac antivirus has a lower score than its Windows counterpart, too. Kaspersky does quite well either platform, however.
Scans and Schedules
In addition to the expected quick and full scans for malware, Kaspersky offers a custom scan that lets you choose drives or folders for scanning, scan for active malware in memory, or just scan items that launch at startup. A quick test scan finished in less than a minute, while a full scan took 34 minutes. The current aveage for a full scan is 42 minutes. Norton scanned even faster, finishing a full scan in 10 minutes and a quick scan in 30 seconds. However, Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (for Mac) is the speed demon of the bunch. Its full scan finished in just two minutes, and it completed a quick scan in 15 seconds.
I'm not equipped to release actual macOS malware on the test system, but I did ask it to scan a thumb drive containing malware from my Windows antivirus testing. Its real-time protection eliminated some before the scan even started, and the scan got a few more. Overall, it wiped out 57 percent of the samples. That's quite a bit lower than most, but when my tests don't quite jibe with the independent labs, I tend to believe the labs. McAfee AntiVirus Plus (for Mac) and Intego detected even fewer of the Windows samples than Kaspersky, while Sophos wiped out every single one of them.
ESET Cyber Security (for Mac) includes an elaborate scheduling system that even lets you schedule the launch of third-party applications. Bitdefender and Webroot, among others, let you create a daily or weekly scan schedule. Kaspersky, on the other hand, doesn't include a scheduling component, instead relying on real-time protection to eliminate any attempted malware attacks. You should definitely run a full scan after installation, since it's not scheduled automatically.
Safe Money, Safe Browsing
Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Total Security both include a feature called Safe Money. When you're about to visit a financial website or other sensitive site, it offers to open the site in a special browser that's hardened against outside interference. A glowing green border serves as a visual reminder that you're using the safe browser.
The Mac antivirus also has a feature called Safe Money, but it's a completely different thing. When you visit what appears to be a sensitive website, Kaspersky double-checks it with the Kaspersky Security Network online, and slides out a notification that the site is legit. In testing, I found that it frequently displayed multiple notifications, because some site components come from different URLs than the main page. That might seem annoying, but surely it's better to suffer a few extra popups than to be gulled by a fake financial site.
Full-Scale Parental Control
Both Sophos and Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac offer a degree of parental control in their Mac products. Specifically, they let the administrator block access to websites matching categories deemed inappropriate. With Kaspersky, on the other hand, you get a full-scale parental control utility, with content filtering, time control, private data protection, and even control over social media contacts. Naturally you can configure this feature differently for different user accounts. Just be sure to lock down the settings when you're done.
Web Control lets you ban access to nine content categories, among them Adult Content, Profanity, and Violence. By default, it forces Safe Search on major search portals. You can also use it to restrict downloading of apps, music, and videos. When Kaspersky blocks access to a site, it shows the category or categories that triggered the block. In testing, though, I found that logging in to a secure anonymizing proxy completely defeated the content filter.
Time Control lets parents control the time each child spends online. You can set a daily maximum, and also define just when internet access is permitted. There's no fancy grid to set the schedule. Rather, you just define a single time-span for internet access on weekdays, and another for access on weekends.
Kids like to chat with their friends online, but sometimes they can share more private data than parents would prefer. If that's a concern, you can turn on Personal Data Control and add any data you feel they shouldn't share, such as your home address and phone number. This is a fairly common feature, but some implementations fail when data is shared over a secure (HTTPS) connection. I verified that Kaspersky's control of private data works just fine on HTTPS.
The final component, social network control, lets parents restrict kids from connecting with certain contacts over social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. You can also flip the feature and block all contacts that parents haven't approved. It works, but it's awkward. To get a contact into the system, you must first review the social media report and find the contact's account ID. Then you flip to the preferences page and add that ID to the list. I'm not sure how many parents will take the trouble.
As you can see, Kaspersky offers more parental control features than competing Mac products. If this is something you need, Kaspersky can be a good choice.
Do you ever worry that someone might be spying on you through your MacBook's webcam? Kaspersky's Privacy Protection features include a simple webcam block. Under Windows, you can set Kaspersky to allow specific programs while blocking unknowns, and you can also block spying through the microphone. The macOS version is just an on/off switch for the webcam, so you have to unblock the camera for tasks like video conferencing.
You can also turn on website tracker blocking, to prevent advertisers and other trackers from following you around the web. This feature lets you choose whether to block four types of trackers: ad agencies, social networks, web analytics, and web behavior trackers. Note that blocking social networks doesn't prevent you from clicking links to like or share a page.
This suite costs no more than several of the Mac antivirus utilities I've reviewed, but it offers quite a lot more. While not precisely a full-scale firewall like that found in Intego Mac Internet Security X9 and Norton, its Network Attack Blocker watches for port scans and other attacks from the internet. When Kaspersky detects an attack, it imposes a temporary block on all traffic from the offending site.
In addition to fending off fraudulent and malicious websites, Kaspersky's URL Advisor marks up dangerous links in search results. If you want to see green markers for safe links, you have to turn on that feature. Hovering over the red warning marker shows you a floating pop-up with a bit of added information, but clicking the pop-up just takes you to a description of the Kaspersky Security Network. Norton Security Deluxe's similar feature lets you bring up a full analysis of the page, showing exactly why it's marked as dangerous.
You can also install an onscreen keyboard in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, to eliminate the possibility of password capture by a software or hardware keylogger. The keyboard appears automatically when you're about to log in to a secure website.
A Wealth of Features
Kaspersky doesn't offer a stand-alone Mac antivirus, so Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac is this company's entry-level security product for macOS. In addition to high-scoring malware protection, you get a full parental control system, effective protection against fraudulent and malicious URLs, privacy protection features, a firewall-like Network Attack Blocker, and more. It's an impressive array of features.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac scores a hair better than Kaspersky in the lab tests, and its scans run faster. If what you want is just antivirus, Bitdefender is an excellent choice, but if you're looking for more comprehensive security, Kaspersky can be even better. Both are Editors' Choice programs for Mac antivirus.
Other Kaspersky Antivirus Software
Neil Rubenking served as vice president and president of the San Francisco PC User Group for three years when the IBM PC was brand new. He was present at the formation of the Association of Shareware Professionals, and served on its board of directors. In 1986, PC Magazine brought Neil on board to handle the torrent of Turbo Pascal tips submitted by readers. By 1990, he had become PC Magazine's technical editor, and a coast-to-coast telecommuter. His "User to User" column supplied readers with tips… More »
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