Kaspersky Lab's first Windows antivirus product was released in 1997, but the company entered the mobile space in 2011 with Kaspersky Internet Security for Android (called Kaspersky Antivirus & Security on Google Play).
The mobile app has the same excellent malware protection as Kaspersky's desktop products, has a very light system impact and runs on Android Wear smartwatches. But Kaspersky Internet Security for Android lacks some of its competitors' useful extra features, and the interface feels dated and clunky. We can recommend the free version, but the premium product doesn't do enough to justify its $15 yearly subscription price.
Costs and What's Covered
A subscription for Kaspersky Internet Security is $15 a year for a single device, but if you need additional devices, you can add two more for just $5 per year per device.
The free version of the app includes the antivirus scanning, anti-theft functionality and the call and text filter. But it is missing the privacy, web and real-time protections, the latter two of which should be essential to Android security.
For anyone also looking for a Windows or Mac antivirus solution, you can get the premium Android app as part of the Kaspersky Internet Security or Kaspersky Total Security bundles. The former lists at $80 per year and the latter at $100, but both are usually heavily discounted online.
Kaspersky also offers a multiplatform, freemium password manager. You can store up to 15 passwords or other sensitive items for free and sync them across Android, Mac or Windows devices; for more passwords, it's $15 per year. The password manager is also bundled into Kaspersky Total Security.
There is no mistaking where Kaspersky Internet Security's priorities lie. The three features visible when you launch the app are the malware scan, the virus-database update (which can be set to trigger a scan) and the settings menu for Real-Time Protection.
The scan feature works well, although Kaspersky's is considerably slower than those of the other Android antivirus apps we reviewed, clocking in at more than 3 minutes for a quick scan and more than 7 minutes for a full scan.
The upside of this slow pace is that the app is not drawing on too many system resources during the scan, so you can go about your business and won't notice a performance slowdown. You can set a scheduled scan in Anti-Virus settings.
For premium users, Kaspersky offers Real-Time Protection, which monitors installed and updated apps for malicious code, and Web Protection, which stops you from visiting malicious sites. These functions worked well in my testing with known phishing sites, although they are features that some other antivirus apps offer in their free versions.
Kaspersky Internet Security missed malware-detection perfection by a hair in independent German testing lab AV-TEST's most recent evaluations of Android mobile security products, conducted in July 2016. Kaspersky sniffed out 99.9 percent of the 3,459 samples of brand-new malware used, and 100 percent of the 3,367 samples of malware discovered in the previous four weeks.
This edges out the average of 99.6 percent of new threats, and 99.8 percent of recent threats, detected by all 26 Android antivirus apps that AV-TEST tested. Among the six we reviewed, only Norton Mobile Security and Bitdefender Mobile Security finished ahead of Kaspersky, each with a 100 percent detection rates in both categories. In fourth, fifth and last places were, respectively, ESET Mobile Security (99.9/99.9 percent), CM Security (99.7/100 percent) and Avast Mobile Security (99.5/99.7 percent).
Some products' malware-detection rates fluctuate from one month to another, but not Kaspersky's. It never dipped below 99.8 percent in the past year of AV-TEST's bimonthly Android evaluations.
Security features and tools
Kaspersky Internet Security's anti-theft features are especially well thought-out. From the web portal at center.kaspersky.com, you can lock and locate your device, trigger an alarm, take a photo from the device, wipe all data or wipe only your personal data (contacts, calls and text messages). Kaspersky's web portal isn't the most visually appealing one we saw, but it is straightforward and easy to use, perhaps the most important aspects when you are trying to find a lost device.
SMS commands can trigger an alarm, lock and locate the device, perform a full wipe or hide personal information. All functions I tested worked quickly and reliably, whether sent through the web portal or over SMS. Some Android security apps will accept SMS commands from only pre-designated numbers, but Kaspersky accepts them from any number, as long as the commands include a secret PIN pre-designated by the receiving phone's user.
The Kaspersky app's privacy-protection feature is designed to hide all of your communications with a selected contact, which is something I could never really wrap my head around. It is further complicated by the fact that it can't work with Google Hangouts, so users of Android 4.4 KitKat and later — about 70 percent of the Android usage market at the time of this review — or anyone who opts to use Hangouts for SMS will not be able to take advantage of this feature.
So while this feature did work for me when it was able to do so, I find the standard app-lock concept, as practiced by many other Android security app makers, to be a much more logical way to keep information on your device from prying eyes.
Call & Text Filter
I found Kaspersky's implementation of this feature to also be particularly odd, as it is mainly centered around blocking (or allowing) specific individuals from your contact list. You can also simply enter a phone number, but making proper use of this feature would require a phenomenal amount of setup time to build the lists you wanted. The feature worked just fine, but it needs some intelligent categories added, as seen in the call filters for apps such as CM Security. (The Kaspersky app throws up a warning that this one also doesn't work well with Android 4.4. KitKat and later.)
There's not much to say about Text Anti-Phishing as it is simply Web Protection, which blocks known malicious websites, applied to your text messages. I think Text Anti-Phishing could safely be moved to a toggle within Web Protection, as there is nothing to it beyond a toggle turning it on or off, anyway. The actual functioning of the feature was just fine.
This is one feature I'm surprised we didn't see more uptake on this year, as Bitdefender Mobile Security is the only other app we tested with Android Wear smartwatch support. Kaspersky's implementation offers similar functionality, with the ability to use the watch to run a scan, initiate a malware-database update or trigger the phone to make a noise if you forgot where you put it.
All three commands can be triggered either by tapping through menus in the app or using the corresponding voice commands. While the ability to remotely activate my antivirus app isn't very useful to me, the phone-location piece is a logical extension of the app and worked well here.
In order to evaluate the performance impact of running Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, I ran multiple tests using the Geekbench 3 benchmarking tool on my Nexus 6P running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Following installation of the app, but without any active scan running, the phone scored 15.6 percent higher than its baseline average. During a full scan, it scored 1.4 percent below the baseline.
These results placed Kaspersky in the lead among the six Android antivirus products we tested for its impact during a full scan. For passive-use performance, it was in second place behind the top performer, Bitdefender Mobile Security.
Setup and support
The Kaspersky app downloaded quickly from Google Play over Wi-Fi, and the installation process went smoothly. If you purchased your subscription to Kaspersky through the website, the app will prompt you to apply that subscription to this product as soon as you enter your Kaspersky login information in the app. Otherwise, you can buy the subscription directly from Google Play through the app.
Things bogged down as I was going through the app and trying to activate its various features, even though Kaspersky Internet Security for Android has a relatively small feature set. (It does have remarkably extensive menu options.) I would occasionally find myself on screens with options checked or grayed out so that they couldn't be altered, yet no clear explanation as to why that might be.
There are a number of support options for Kaspersky Internet Security for Android. Help pages can be found either by tapping the overflow menu in most screens, or by going to Settings and then Help. If you can't find the answers there, you should tap "Additional references” in the Help Menu. You'll find links to the Kaspersky forums, a phone number for Technical Support and an option to send a message to support.
The home screen for Kaspersky Internet Security for Android has a very clean, minimal look that carries through to the first couple levels of the interface, but once you get beyond those, you start hitting screens that feel very much like they were designed for a PC antivirus app and shoehorned into a mobile interface.
The app underwent a much-needed evolution from last year, but it didn't do enough, there are still too many screens that are walls of text, presenting too many options, drilling down too many levels to some menu stacks and a lack of cues as to where a user needs to go.
While I can see Material Design influence in the app, it would help Kaspersky to lean into Google's aesthetic even more heavily, as many of the menus and pop-ups lack any styling and are left looking incredibly generic and, at times, confusing as they don't follow Android user-interface best practices.
I was always able to figure out what I needed to do eventually (there's a Help option in the overflow menu in the upper-right corner of virtually every screen), but Kaspersky Internet Security for Android was the most frustrating to use of any app that I tested for this round of reviews.
Finally, of the Android security apps I tested Kaspersky was the only one, other than Avast Mobile Security, that displayed a persistent notification bug at the top of the screen and in the notification tray. Unlike Avast's, the bug couldn't be cleared away with a swipe in the tray. It's on as long as Kaspersky Internet Security for Android is running.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Android shines in a few key areas, namely in malware, web and anti-theft protection. From a device-performance standpoint, the app was among the best.
Unfortunately, the look of the app is disappointing, navigating the app can be frustrating at times and the limited feature set doesn't really stack up to the competition. Given the number of compelling Android antivirus apps available on the market, I would strongly recommend either sticking with the free version of Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, or looking elsewhere for a paid solution.
[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.]