Our Review of ESET Smart Security 8
In 1987, Peter Pasko and Miroslav Trnka discovered one of the world's first computer viruses, which they named "Vienna." In that year, the two also released the first DOS version of NOD - the name they gave their first virus detection tool.
Five years later, they teamed with their friend Rudolf Hruby to form ESET Software. After creating ESET, the three subsequently released the award-winning NOD and NOD32 series of anti-virus applications, which continue to be the foundation for ESET Smart Security.
Being one of the oldest anti-virus development companies, ESET has had a long time to perfect its NOD 32 virus and malware detection and removal technology. Based on that same NOD 32 technology, ESET Smart Security 8 continues to be one of the most effective anti-virus suites available today.
Compared to some anti-virus/security suites that offer multi-pc plans - such as McAfee or Norton - ESET Smart Security's one-year and two-year subscription prices of $59.99 and $89.99 may seem a bit expensive at first glance. Furthermore, if you do need to protect multiple computers, the Norton or McAfee $79.99 price tag for up to three PCs is indeed attractive. Nevertheless, if you have only one PC to protect, and require an excellent anti-virus product, ESET Smart Security is certainly worth a look.
The process of installing ESET Smart Security 8 is similar to that used with many other modern anti-virus suites and involves a two-step download process. After you download the setup package for ESET Smart Security 8 and run it, the installer will download the remaining files needed for the application as well as any needed updates. Once the installer completes the setup process, it prompts you to finish the installation.
Once you click "Finish" (and reboot if needed,) the application prompts you to select a network and activate the program. Unless you are installing ESET Smart Security 8 on a laptop you use frequently with public Wi-Fi networks, you should select the "Home/Work Network" option. After selecting your network type, ESET Smart Security prompts you to select an activation type. If you have purchased a key or have an existing ESET account, you can choose one of the first two options. However, if you want simply to try out ESET Smart Security 8, select the "Activate Trial License" option to receive a free 31-day trial subscription.
Once you select an activation option, you must enter your ESET account information. If you don't already have an ESET account, the setup wizard prompts you to enter your email address and location information. Once you enter your ESET account information, click "Activate" to begin using the application immediately.
During setup, the wizard scans your PC for threats that may hinder the installation of ESET Smart Security 8. If it finds infected files, you may be required to restart your computer several times to remove them and complete the setup process. On clean computers, though, the installation process should take only a few minutes.
ESET Smart Security 8 offers a clean user interface with a simple sidebar menu that is easy to read and navigate. Within the main ESET Smart Security 8 window, the menu bar resides on the left and contains six options Home, Computer Scan, Update, Settings, Tools and Help and Support. The six simply named labels describe accurately the functionality associated with them.
The default settings in ESET Smart Security 8 work well for most users, and there are not many things you will need to configure unless you're a power user and just want to tweak a few settings. Therefore, the only labels you'll probably need to concern yourself with are "Computer Scan" and "Update." By default, ESET looks for and downloads updates daily. However, you can download intra-day updates at any time just by clicking the update button. Of course, if you want to perform manual scans of your computer, just click the "Computer Scan" label and follow the prompts.
While the ESET interface is simple enough to navigate and use, its small buttons and labels don't make it an ideal choice for some Windows 8 users or others that may need to use a touchscreen interface. If you require an anti-virus application with a better touch interface, you may want to consider another application.
With the default ESET Smart Security 8 settings intact, initial system scans of our test machine were fast with run times of 3 minutes 46 seconds for the Smart scan and 5 minutes 57 seconds for a full system scan. At first glance, the Smart system scan may appear to take a little longer than with other AV applications.
However, ESET's Smart scan offers more in depth scanning than do "quick scans" in other suites. ESET's blazing fast scanning speed becomes abundantly clear when you look at the full system scan time, though. At just under 6 seconds, ESET's initial full scan time is almost twice as fast as some other products we have tested.
For the ESET Smart Security 8 review, the test system had a dual-core Intel processor, two gigs of RAM and Windows 7. The test system represents a level of power and performance comparable to many mainstream PCs.
With many anti-virus and anti-malware applications, it's common for the system to become sluggish or slow during system scans. Although ESET Smart Security does affect multitasking performance a bit, it does so to a much less extent than more resource-hungry applications such as Norton Internet Security. While it took more than 10 seconds or more to open browsers such as Google Chrome or Internet Explorer when scanning with Norton, launch times were less than half that when scanning with ESET (4.5 seconds and 5 seconds respectively.)
During the test scans, ESET was able to identify all eight of the test viruses and neutralized seven of them automatically. With the eighth infected file, ESET recommended its deletion after identifying it as threat. Consequently, ESET Smart Security 8 scored a perfect 100% for virus detection and removal.
False positives are files that an AV program may detect or neutralize because they resemble harmful files. An AV program may flag legitimate or safe files if they lack or have outdated digital signatures, publisher information or contain other anomalies. In most cases, though, false positives are harmless files that pose no threats.
In order to test the accuracy of the ESET scanner, 16 false positive files were introduced on the test system (along with the 8 virus files). During a false positive test, a lower detection and neutralization rate is better, as removing or quarantining legitimate files may lead to application or system errors. After introducing the false positive files, a complete system scan was performed.
During the full system scan, ESET flagged only one harmless file as a potential threat, but did not remove it automatically. Because ESET offered the option to leave the file intact, the harmless file was left in its original location. Had this been a real application or system file, this would have been very important - as it would mean the difference between a working and non-working application.
Below is a screenshot of the files used in the false positive test.
Like many other online security suites, ESET Smart Security 8 offers protection against malicious or phishing websites that look to steal your sensitive data. For the most part, ESET's anti-phishing technology is effective. However, during tests with all three major Web browsers, ESET was able to identify only 8 of 10 known malicious or phishing websites successfully. In comparison, Norton Internet Security 2014 identified and blocked all ten bad websites during our review of that application.
ESET Smart Security 8 offers rudimentary parental controls based off Windows' native settings. While the application does not provide its own parental controls option engine, it's integration with those used in Windows are effective and easy to implement. If you have not enabled or set up Parental Controls in Windows, you can begin doing so directly from within the ESET Smart Security 8 user interface.
ESET Smart Security 8 offers excellent virus and malware detection rates coupled with extremely fast performance. Additionally, ESET's very low CPU and resource usage means that you can continue to use your computer productively even during full system scans.
ESET's user interface is a bit dated and could use an overhaul - especially where touchscreen users are concerned. Also, the interface does not have a pre-configured "Full System Scan" button or label. To perform a full system scan, you must create a custom scan profile and select all of the drives in the computer manually (see screenshot below.)