ESET Internet Security 11 full review

ESET Internet Security 11 is the company's latest offering for 2018, aiming to protect your computer from viruses and malware, prevent unauthorised access to your computer including while making online payments and more.

£39.99 for a single user for one year of ESET's 2018 offering looks steep, but increase the number of users or the number of years, the overall cost drops to a more reasonable price, available to buy on ESET's website here.

Though this is still higher than products offering 10 or even unlimited installations for well under £100, ESET has some genuinely features that make it well worth your consideration. You can see alternative options in our round-up of the best antivirus 2018.

The SysInspector tool, for example, gives you a complete yet manageable rundown on your entire system's security status. Uniquely, there's also a social media scanner that will alert you to problems. If you ever have your laptop stolen, you can even send an onscreen message to the thief along with a webcam snapshot of his ugly mug!

Features and interface

Overall, ESET always scores very high on tests conducted by AV-Test, AV Comparatives and SE Labs, but beyond top flight protection, what do you get?

On installation, the package asks if you'd like to detect potentially unwanted applications trying to install themselves, which is a welcome touch. These can affect the stability of the system, as well as posing security risks due to poor coding.

Initially, it looks like ESET gives you precious little, but this is deceptive. The interface is sparse, with the usual robot graphic on the Home screen simply telling you you're protected. There are only three tools on the Tools menu, Connected Home Monitor, Anti-Theft, and Banking & Payment Protection. You must click More Tools for the full set.

As expected, the Connected Home Monitor scans your local network, which it does by simulating an attack. You can opt to scan just your router or devices here, which cuts down scan time. Like many comparable products, when a new device joins your network, a popup alerts you, meaning that neighbours cannot secretly leech your wifi.

Banking and Payment Protection is done using a secure browser, which is based on Mozilla Firefox. However, the protection also works in Chrome (version 30 or later) and Internet Explorer 8 or later. ESET comes pre-stuffed with a list of banking sites, surfing to any of which will cause a popup to ask if you want the secure browser to open so you can safely enter your details.

The anti-theft module creates a "phantom" account on the protected computer. Mr Thief logs into this, and you can take pictures and video of him, and also track his location. You can even remotely access and retrieve your data on the machine.

It'd be nice if there was a real-time monitoring function here like a remote desktop so that you can see what he's up and record his actions, but maybe that's an enhancement for a future release. However, you can send a message to the stolen machine's screen, including a snapshot of the thief to scare the bejeezus out of him.

The rest of the tools divide into monitoring and scanning. Monitoring gives you the usual information, such as protection statistics, network traffic and connections, and running processes. You can expand the log file view by opening it in another window and filling the screen. The extra screen real estate is a big boon to tracing intruders and other problems.

The impressive SysInspector tool analyses your entire system and assigns a risk level to every component, from the registry to network connections. This is great for getting a 1,000-foot view of your security posture, but viewing the results can be an alarming experience if you've been downloading dodgy executables and visiting torrent trackers. It's possible to scare yourself when you see something highlighted in red. Luckily, you can right-click an entry and search for it online to check out what the offending items are, and whether they're genuine threats.

The social media scanner is probably going to be a curiosity for most people, but if you're very socially active online, you can check that there are no links to malicious sites or other threats lurking in your timeline on Twitter and Facebook. As you can imagine, the scanner needs your permission to access to your accounts. The exact permissions and data accessed by the scanner are detailed in the online privacy policy. Nothing is stored that can be used to identify you. The same goes for sample submissions.

It's also good to see an AV product with a direct link to a rescue disc. This is a piece of software you can download and install on a CD/DVD/USB drive, then use it to boot the computer. Some malware, such as rootkits, hides inside the running operating system and can disguise itself from AV software by intercepting and faking system calls. With the operating system and any nastiness safely asleep on the hard disc, the booted rescue software can fully analyse the system to remove said malware with zero resistance.

As with other AV products (notably Kaspersky), you can submit an unknown file for analysis by ESET using the file submission tool. Add an email address, and you may be asked for more details, and will receive a verdict. You can also right-click a file and either quarantine it, scan it (with and without cleaning), and check its reputation with the ESET LiveGrid (again as per Kaspersky).

On to the niggles. As with every AV product, there are some but not too many, and they're small. The system cleaner, for example, tells me that three system settings have been changed but not which ones, or what changed them. The only option is to reset them.

Also conspicuous by its absence is an explicit ransomware module. Dedicated protection from this multi-billion-dollar industry has been moving into the home market for over a year now, and ESET does provide excellent protection from ransomware under the hood, but a lack of a dedicated section in the interface is a definite demerit here. It’s about peace of mind, so we hope ESET can update the interface to change this.

ESET App

As with the Windows version, the Android app asks if you'd like to enable detection of potentially unwanted applications. I've never seen this is in a mobile version of an AV product.

Along with filtering unsuitable web sites and locating the device in real time, the Android version has a very nice feature in its parental control module. Parental Message allows you to send a message to your child that the child must acknowledge before continuing. Anything from "Dinner's ready" to something only the child will know should bring peace of mind.

Performance

Performance-wise, scanning is fast and causes no false positives from the scanned machines. After living with the product for a few weeks, it proved to be virtually silent and didn’t impact on system performance that I could tell. Unlike some AV software, it doesn’t produce popups trying to sell you extra products, either.