The Russian-based security firm Kaspersky has a complex reputation, but the company's Internet Security for Mac program is a solid option for those looking to protect their Apple machines. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac provides excellent system protection from malware and a handful of useful privacy tools, one of which fills a void left by Apple.
While Kaspersky's system impact is low, other antivirus products had even lesser impacts for faster overall performance, especially during malware scans. But if parental controls matter to you, Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac is a must-consider option.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac costs and what's covered
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac costs $39.99 per year for one Mac or $59.99 per year for three, although deep discounts are frequently available. The program supports Macs running macOS 10.12 Sierra or later, with a minimum of 1.2GB of storage available and 2GB of memory.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac uses traditional, signature-based scanning and behavioral-pattern recognition to detect malware. Threat-related data, including newfound malicious or suspicious files, are processed by the Kaspersky Security Network, a voluntary, cloud-based data-collection network that allows the 400 million computers around the world running Kaspersky software to share malware information.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac also stops malware made for Windows machines. That may seem odd, but Windows malware can find safe harbor on Macs and spread to other machines on local networks.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac's malware-scanning engine has a generally perfect record for protecting macOS machines.
It caught 100% of malware in tests conducted by the Austrian lab AV-Comparatives in July 2019, and it also caught 100% of malware in German lab AV-Test study in April and May 2018. In fact, Kaspersky stopped 100% of Mac malware in all tests conducted by either lab since the middle of 2017.
Of the Mac antivirus programs we've recently reviewed, Avast Free Mac Security and Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac also netted perfect scores in both AV-Comparatives' and AV-Test's most recent evaluations. Norton 360 Deluxe (which AV-Comparatives didn't test) earned a 100% score from AV-Test.
Security and privacy features
Kaspersky includes the ability to disable your Mac's webcam, an option that macOS doesn't itself offer. You'll have to reenable it in Kaspersky Internet Security if you want to use your webcam again; there's no way to grant webcam access to some apps while blocking others.
There's also a tool to block tracking by websites, which often track your behavior to serve you ads. Since blocking all trackers could break some websites you use, Kaspersky lets you make distinctions among behavioral trackers and trackers used by ad agencies, web-analytics firms and social networks and treat each category differently, as well as letting you white-list websites of whose trackers you approve.
Kaspersky gives you the option of downloading its password manager, but you get only the free version, which is limited to 15 entries for login credentials and confidential documents. Unlocking unlimited entries costs $14.99 per year, which is rather cheap for a paid password manager.
You'll also get client software for Kaspersky's Secure Connection VPN service, but it limits you to 300MB of traffic per day. For $4.99 per month or $29.99 per year, you can get unlimited VPN service, which also allows you to select the location you connect to. As with the password manager, this is inexpensive for an unlimited VPN service. (Norton 360 Standard and 360 Deluxe each cost more than Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, but their password manager and VPN services are unlimited by default.)
Performance and system impact
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac had a mixed impact on our test system's performance. We tested this by running our custom Excel VLOOKUP benchmark test, which measures how long a computer takes to match 60,000 names and addresses on a spreadsheet. Our test machine was a 2017 MacBook Air with a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i5 CPU and approximately 54GB of data stored on a 128GB SSD.
With Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac installed on our MacBook, but without any active scans running, the VLOOKUP test finished in an average of 3 minutes and 38 seconds, 2 seconds longer than without any antivirus software installed. That's a passive hit of just 1%, which is relatively low and not something you'd probably notice in day-to-day activity.
Other antivirus products' passive system impacts ranged from 5% to 0%. That's the great overall news for Mac users: Most of the time, you'll never notice that you've got antivirus software running.
You would be more likely to notice the slowdowns created by Kaspersky's active scans. During full-system scans, the VLOOKUP test finished in an average of 5 minutes and 3 seconds, a performance dip of 41%. That's close to, but not as bad as McAfee AntiVirus Plus' 47% fall (the worst score for the round), while Norton (13%) and Sophos Home Premium (7%) caused less of a slowdown during a full scan.
Kaspersky's biggest system-impact score came from its Quick Scan, wherein the VLOOKUP test finished in 5 minutes and 28 seconds, a hit of 53%. That's well above the 5% impact from Sophos and the 16% hit from Norton, and it was the highest among all seven programs we recently reviewed.
Kaspersky full-scan completion time of 41 minutes and 20 seconds doesn't seem to last forever, like Sophos' 2-hour, 56-minute time does. Instead, Kaspersky's showing was similar to the completion time posted by Norton (25:49). Those scores were in the middle of the pack and were longer than the supershort 16-second time from Malwarebytes for Mac Premium and the 4:25 from Bitdefender.
The main window of Kaspersky Internet Security shows your system's status — Protected, Requires a Restart or otherwise — and presents four clear buttons: Scan, Update, Privacy and Parental Control.
While I wish Kaspersky's home screen had a one-click scan button, this layout is clear enough. Once you click Scan on the home screen, you get a window with every kind of scan you could ask for: a field to drag and drop items to be scanned (or browse for them), as well as buttons for full, quick and scheduled scans.
Next up is Updates, which lets you update your system's antivirus definitions and check the date of the last update and the last scan. This may not need a whole section, but under an > button, you'll find the helpful Reports menu that contains a ton of detail, with various scan histories.
The Privacy section places the controls for webcam and website-tracker blocking up top. Underneath, you find links to Kaspersky's password manager and VPN.
This may seem like a small detail, but my favorite part of the Kaspersky Internet Security interface is that the company isn't constantly pushing the upsells for its password manager and VPN solutions at you, or installing them in the menu bar. Others, including Bitdefender and Avast, do this.
Under Parental Control, Kaspersky has placed a pretty solid set of controls to manage kids' online experiences. On the left, you get a menu of child profiles, and on the right, you have the account settings, including controls for the pages kids can open, time spent online and the sharing of personal data. (Sophos has offers only parental web filtering.)
For a more detailed view of your system's status, you can click the Open Protection Center button, which will show you five statuses. With these, you can tell if antivirus databases are up to date, if your system is under real-time protection and if your app is activated — the important stuff.
In the next tab on that screen, you'll see Recommendations, where Kaspersky urges you to use its browser-based security extensions and sign in to your My Kaspersky online account. The next tab over is News, which contains information such as version-update documentation. This screen is organized in a well-thought-out manner, presenting the most user-relevant information up front and putting lesser stuff near the back.
Installation and support
After purchasing Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, you install the utility by downloading a small installer file that downloads and installs the whole package. All steps included, it took us approximately 5 minutes to complete the process, which is within the normal, 2-to-10-minute range we saw with Mac antivirus applications.
During the installation process, you can opt out of the Kaspersky Security Network, which collects usage and suspicious-file data for 400 million systems running Kaspersky software. Near the end of the installation, you'll be directed to the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences, as system access needs to be explicitly granted in macOS.
To access technical support, click Help in the menu bar, select Kaspersky Internet Security Support, click My Kaspersky, click Support, click Request Technical Support and log in to My Kaspersky.
With a robust package of special features and an excellent history of malware detection, Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac is one of the best options around. Yet, while Kaspersky provides an especially compelling option for those looking to exert parental controls, we have to give the final nod overall to Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac, which has similarly good malware protection but half the system impact during scans as Kaspersky.