Monday, May 23, 2016

In Depth: Using ESET Smart Security 9 The best security money can buy
With the success of the recent Sophos Home review (or in depth look, whatever have you), I've taken some recommendations on what antivirus products I should look at next. And here we are: ESET Smart Security 9, recommended by Noah from BetaChat (I hang out in their Telegram group).

ESET Smart Security currently retails at $59.99/yr, for 1 machine. There's certain deals for adding extra years, but I'm accounting for their base price. Is ESET "The best security money can buy"? In this review, I'll put it through some testing and come to a conclusion.


As with the previous Sophos Home test, the ESET Smart Security 9 suite will be tested in a virtual machine with identical specs. Specs are blow, for the lazy:
  • Windows 10 Pro, 64 bit
  • 3,000 MB of RAM
  • 128 MB VRAM
  • 32 GB HDD
For whatever reason, I have great difficulty in finding malware to test in my virtual machine. I pulled from MalwareDomainList and Malc0de, but I'm always searching for additional sources. If you know of some extras, shoot me a comment.

Pre-install: Downloading ESET Smart Security 9

Download ESET Smart Security 9
To grab ESET Smart Security 9 yourself, head on over to and download as you wish. You can choose to purchase a license outright from their website, or choose a free trial and presented with a setup executable. I never received a review key from ESET, so I went along with the free trial option.


ESET Smart Security: Thank you for choosing ESET! Every day, we help over 100 million users worldwide. Enjoy safer technology.
Installing ESET Smart Security is a fairly straight forward process, but it isn't as simple as a really straight-forward security suite like Sophos Home. The ESET installer will grab more assets from their servers, and proceed on with installation.
ESET Smart Security: There is power in numbers. Get the maximum level of protection. The ESET LiveGrid feedback system allows us to collect information about suspicious objects, which we process automatically to create detection mechanisms in our cloud system. We then immediately apply these to ensure our customers have the maximum level of protection. Detection of potentially unwanted applications: ESET can detect potentially unwanted applications and ask for confirmation before they install. Potentially unwanted applications might not pose a security risk but they can affect computer's [sic] performance, speed and reliability, or cause changes in behavior. They usually require user's consent before installation.
While you're installing you'll be faced with the screen that you see above. From my understanding, ESET LiveGrid will function kinda like a cloud-analysis system that is common with many antivirus vendors now, such as Sophos and even Microsoft themselves (Microsft Security Essentials had this functionality at some point). For the benefit of getting the best protection for your money, I'd also recommend enabling PUP/PUA detection. Sometimes, the most annoying of "malicious" software are actually applications that are installed with good intentions, but actually carry a payload that delivers an adverse effect.


ESET Product Activation
After the installation process is complete, this window will be displayed before the actual software is turned on. You don't have many options, but I continued with a free trail license for the purpose of this review. I could have asked ESET for a review license, but I didn't deem it necessary.

Even if you choose the trial option, you'll still be reminded often that you're using a trial license, and it will run out soon. In my experience I've also seen the particular spot in the UI flash a yellow-ish color. Anyways, my VM was registered as REDSHIFT-WINTES.


ESET Anti-Theft. Use this to 1) Watch thieves via built-in camera 2) Collect snapshots of the missing device's screen 3) See thief's location on a map 4) Access recent photos and snapshots from your online account
ESET Anti-Theft is something that I wanted to touch on before I move on into the rest of the review. This is something that isn't provided by the free antivirus vendors that I can think of off the top of my head. If you are installing this on a laptop especially, perhaps this is something worth looking into. ESET Anti-Theft has nothing to do with my malware testing that I planned to do later on, so I never really looked into it. I'll look into this component more closely if requested in the comments, but otherwise I won't cover it.


ESET Smart Security 9 Home Screen
After everyone else is said and done, you're presented with the above overview interface. If you're a hands-off kind of person, you're safe to close the window and just let ESET run in the background.

However, should you be one of those who consider themselves power users, there are plenty of advanced features and options within ESET Smart Security 9 to be interested in. I wouldn't say "excited about" like the Windows 10 installation process would say, because maybe some folks wouldn't get excited about advanced features. There are more screenshots of these advanced feature windows available in the photo album; I don't want to embed all of them here in the post.

Context menu: Scan with ESET Smart Security
As with other antivirus products, ESET Smart Security 9 also features right-click context scans.

Context scanning, for those unaware, is the ability to do on-demand scans of any selected drive, file, folder, and so on. Context menu scanning allows power users alike to selectively scan a folder full of malware for testing, for example.

I noticed that "Scan with Windows Defender..." is still present in the context menu, so I assume at this point that the persistent presence of this menu item is due to Windows itself, instead of any antivirus product. You may recall in my Sophos Home review that I wasn't sure if it was Sophos or Windows that left the Windows Defender option in the menu. I guess this is something to raise with Microsoft, then.

Context menu scan completed
As far as ESET's signature performances goes, I'd rate them as pretty good.

Scans seem to have good performance all-around. Then again, I was running this all in a virtual machine so your results may vary.

As you can see to the left, ESET does not use the native Windows notification system, like Sophos did. Notifications are easily customizable, but it would have been nice to see ESET use the built in Windows notification system.

ESET Banking and Payment Protection: This secured browser can prevent your personal data while you use online banking or payment websites. It provides additional security for banking transactions, credit card numbers and other sensitive personal data. Important: This browser should only be used for online banking and payment websites but not for general browsing.
Another feature I'd like to highlight is ESET"s banking module. It generates a customized Internet Explorer window with "enhanced security". I don't know exactly what ESET does to protect this instance of IE over others, but it's nice to see that they have something like this. Personally I wouldn't see myself using it, but maybe it's something you can give to your mom and pop to convince them to use online banking.

Detection & Testing

I have 2 videos to showcase showing the performance of ESET Smart Security 9. The first video is actually my own. It doesn't have me talking in the background, so instead it just has background music. The second video is from The PC Security Channel, but the video was produced back in October 2015. I think there has been improvements in ESET's detection since then.


Overall, I think that ESET Smart Security 9 is another great piece of antivirus software worthy of being ran on Windows much so that I personally wouldn't mind having this run on my machines. If you're in the antivirus market, definitely give this a shot.