Antivirus software is best when you can set it up and then forget that it's there. For that reason, Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac (starting at $39.99 per year) is our Editor's Choice for the best antivirus for Mac. Not only does it detect malware with perfect precision, but it also achieved the lowest system-performance-impact scores in all testing across the board.
While we don't love the interface, this software is still easy enough to use. And though Kaspersky asks you to pay a yearly fee while some other options are free, none of its competitors offer as much protection with as little system impact.
Costs and What's Covered
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac costs $39.99 per year to protect one Mac, and $59.99 per year to protect up to three Macs.
It supports macOS 10.12 Sierra and OS X 10.11 El Capitan, and requires 2GB of RAM, 970MB of available disk space and an Intel CPU.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac uses traditional, signature-based scanning and behavioral-pattern recognition to detect malware. New suspicious files get uploaded to the Kaspersky Security Network, a cloud-based data-collection network that allows the 400 million computers around the world running Kaspersky software to share malware information and receive updates multiple times a day.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac also stops malware made for Windows machines; this malware can find safe harbor on Macs and spread to other machines. Rival Mac antivirus products — including Sophos Home, Avira Free Antivirus for Mac and Norton Security Deluxe (for Mac) — also do this.
Two independent testing labs recently examined seven of the eight Mac antivirus suites we evaluated, and Kaspersky turned in perfect marks for both tests.
The German AV-Test lab found that Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac detected 100 percent of malware in May 2017 tests. Austria's AV-Comparatives also recorded a 100 percent score from Kaspersky in testing performed in July 2017. No false positives (software mistakenly flagged as malicious) were registered during either labs' testing for Kaspersky, or for any other Mac antivirus solutions.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac and Norton Security also earned 100 percent marks from the AV-Test survey. Bitdefender was the only other product to net 100 percent in AV-Comparatives' evaluations, which didn't include Norton.
While other antivirus software products didn't hit perfect marks, they came close. In AV-Comparatives' testing, Avast Free Mac Security and AVG AntiVirus for Mac each scored 99.9 percent, and Avira Free Antivirus for Mac netted 99.1 percent. Sophos' enterprise software, Sophos Central Endpoint, scored a relatively poor 98.4 percent in AV-Test's detection study, which translates to missing three out of the 184 (1.6 percent) pieces of malware it was tasked with detecting.
Security and Privacy Features
In addition to its malware-scanning technology, Kaspersky Internet Security provides the Safe Money secure browser and virtual keyboard features that add layers of protection when you're shopping online. A set of tracking blockers can stop websites from monitoring your behavior online.
Kaspersky Internet Security also includes a webcam blocker, which stops all programs from accessing your cameras. Unfortunately, it's an all-or-nothing feature, so you can't grant access to specific apps such as Skype or Photo Booth.
If your kid is visiting the wrong kinds of websites or spending way too much time on the internet, Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac's parental controls can help. This feature is best suited to families who share computers, as settings can be tailored to each of the machine's users.
Not only can you blacklist certain kinds of web content (tags include Adult Content, Violence and Profanity, and Obscenity) and specific pages, but you can also limit file downloads, to stop Junior from downloading too much music, movies, apps and ZIP files.
Time controls, as you'd expect, provide options to limit the amount of time a user spends online, and to set specific hours of usage. Other controls limit the sharing of personal information and track the use of social networks.
Performance and System Impact
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac had practically no impact on system performance, almost as if it weren't there. We assessed Kaspersky's system drain using our custom OpenOffice benchmark test, which matches 20,000 names with 20,000 addresses. Our test machine was a Late 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina Display with a 2.6-GHz Core i7 CPU, 8GB RAM and 70GB of data stored on a 512GB SSD.
After we installed Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac on our MacBook, the OpenOffice test finished in an average of 2 minutes and 25 seconds, just as long as it had taken before Kaspersky's installation. That's a passive system hit of 0 percent, the lowest we recorded. By contrast, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac rated a passive hit of 2.8 percent (a category high), and Avast Free Mac Security rated 0.3 percent (the second lowest), but you might not notice any of these slowdowns in real life.
During a Kaspersky full-system scan, the OpenOffice test finished in 2 minutes and 32 seconds, signifying a performance dip of 4.5 percent. Again, that's the lowest we recorded. The highest we recorded was Avira Free Antivirus for Mac's 12.1 percent; the second-lowest was and Sophos Home's 6.5 percent.
During Kaspersky's quick scans, the OpenOffice test finished in an average of 2 minutes and 34 seconds, for a system slowdown of 6.2 percent. That's the lowest score we found, below Norton Security's 11.2 percent (the highest) and just under Bitdefender's 6.4 percent (the second lowest we found).
MORE: What to Do If Your Social Security Number Is Stolen
Kaspersky's full scans completed in an average of 72 minutes and 45 seconds, the longest time we found. By contrast, the second longest time was 47:45 (for McAfee) and the shortest was 1:25 (recorded by Bitdefender). There's often a trade-off between the length of a full scan and its system impact. The average full-scan completion time for all eight products was 36:30.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac recently updated its interface with icons that look more modern, but we wish it had gone further. Its main screen still presents links to its various sections (scans, update, privacy, safe money, parental controls), and it would be better if a single click from the home screen could trigger a scan or a system update. Instead, the interface makes you dig into further screens.
Clicking Scan brings you to a window with every scan option we look for: Full, Quick, Scheduled and Custom. While we wish at least one of these were accessible from the home screen, that extra click isn't much work. What makes less sense is the Update button, which takes you to a new window that only shows the actual Update button and information about your last update.
Clicking Privacy brings you to three tools: Kaspersky Secure Connection is Kaspersky's VPN service, for which you'll have to download a separate application; Block Webcam disables the camera for all programs, without any granular settings, and Block Website Tracking allows you to disable activity monitoring for websites.
Clicking on Safe Money brings you to a window that asks you click a button to open that feature tab in Preferences, which seems like a waste of an interstitial window. The main window also presents a "Your Mac is protected" message, as well as a note if you have any recommendations waiting. Unfortunately, unless you sign up for Kaspersky's VPN service (which costs money if you want to use more than 200MB per day), you'll always see a "There is a recommendation waiting for you" message.
Clicking on your email address in the main window brings you to your My Kaspersky web page. This online account allows you to perform scans remotely, but that feature is buried in the My Kaspersky interface.
Installation and Support
After you buy Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, you install it by opening the installer inside the downloaded .dmg disk image file. That file application downloads the rest of the installation files and finishes the process. All steps included, it took us approximately 5 minutes to complete the process, which was par for the course among the eight Mac AV products we reviewed.
To get technical support, navigate to my.kaspersky.com, sign in and click the Support icon at the top of the page. Here, you'll submit your system information and your question, and wait for a support.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac proves that paying for quality is worth it. Not only did Kaspersky's malware detection demonstrate perfect accuracy, but its system impact is also so low that you'll forget you installed the program. Plus, families will benefit from significant parental controls. If only its interface didn't make you keep clicking through windows, Kaspersky's report card would consist of straight A's.
[Editor's Note, Sept. 11, 2017: Best Buy has removed Kaspersky Lab products from its shelves, citing concerns regarding Kaspersky's alleged (but as yet undocumented) ties to the Russian government. However, until we see evidence that Kaspersky software is a threat to consumers, we will continue to recommend it. Here is further clarification of our position.]