ESET Antivirus Review | What Level of Network and Data Protection Can You Expect?

People think that inbuilt virus protection is adequate to keep their machine safe from malicious software activity. I know that because I’ve been there - until my computer got submerged in malware and tamperings with the registry log. 

You probably don’t want ransomware asking for money to decrypt your data, or it’ll be cast irrevocably into oblivion. Luckily, ESET Antivirus was the savior that ended this dilemma, especially with its HIPS, which has become almost indispensable, and why VSS Monitoring ranked it high in this list. It didn't make it to our antivirus software with VPN reviews, though.

In this ESET Antivirus review, we’ll delve into how this software works. Also, check out how ESET Antivirus compares with other antivirus software:

Our recommendation: McAfee

With so many antivirus products in the market, there is none that’s like McAfee. With over 18.9 billion devices protected on a consistent basis, McAfee’s ability to deal with malware attacks come unmatched! McAfee has a dedicated database that is adept to deal with all sorts of virus attacks whether they may be online or offline. To browse their programs, check out their programs here!

ESET Antivirus Review: Protection Features and Pricing

ESET Antivirus is available in 3 versions for Windows, Android, and Linux. Since Apple’s security chips aren’t always immune to 0-day malware, this antivirus suite’s multiplatform compatibility is guaranteed with ESET for Mac.

I personally favor ESET’s essential solution, NOD32, which boasts a world-class UEFI scanner that neutralizes threats before your device even boots up. Moreover, it’s the cheapest package from ESET.

The high-end ESET Smart Security Premium packs the most advanced protection. Among the top features are a ransomware shield, a password manager, and a mode for encrypting your precious files against unauthorized data transfer. This is why we included ESET in our business antivirus software suites lineup.

In the middle of the pricing spectrum, ESET Internet Security presents its improved anti-phishing functionality, botnet protection against malware, and impervious payment protection.

My final verdict on pricing: on-point. ESET’s pricing is on the better average when considering other products like Kaspersky. Subscriptions are available in plans for up to 3 years, depending on the number of machines involved.

ESET pricing plans

How We Evaluated ESET NOD32 Antivirus

If looking at an unintelligible spec sheet leaves you dizzy, you’re not alone! Our approach to evaluating ESET NOD32 Antivirus depends on around-the-clock usage. We thoroughly tested every aspect of ESET NOD32 promises on the spec sheet.

Checking every meticulous detail the user interface offers was also part of the process. We even tested the cloud-powered scanning to see whether ESET LiveGrid’s malware samples are up to scratch, including how snappy it matches the malware example with the one existing on the computer.

Although ESET has a pride history of 30 years in IT security, we made sure that our evaluation is on par with the insights of renowned cybersecurity experts and the confirmed ESET Antivirus reviews of the users who monitored NOD32’s performance.

Top-Grade Internet Security Tools

I often prioritized checking how efficient offline protection is in antivirus software, while web protection always came second. However, ESET Antivirus offers an abundance of internet security tools for worry-free web surfing.

I liked how ESET integrates both the online and offline protection mechanisms through its Live Grid. Continuously updated, ESET LiveGrid contains countless malware samples so that the antivirus can detect any malicious activity based on the reliable cloud-based system.

We’re all familiar with the AES-256 encryption used by the military. That’s the standard ESET incorporates in its Password Manager, a great call for ciphering your credentials on-demand and preventing keyloggers from stealing them.

Since online meetings are on the rise, another function I found precious is the Webcam Protection, keeping track of the background processes that surreptitiously acquire the permission to use your webcam.

ESET Features

I deemed ESET virus protection to be a cut above other antivirus software because of its low-power operation. When you’re gaming or basically running any program in fullscreen, ESET cycles off to direct the processor’s power to the high-priority tasks.

I appreciated how ESET implements the out-of-home network alerts. ESET Antivirus marks the first network you connect to as the home network. So, when you connect to an unknown one, it activates the Strict Protection mode, rendering your device invisible to other machines hinging on the network.

Besides anti-theft optimization, location tracking, and payment protection, I believe that the basic virus protection ESET Antivirus boasts is why it outshines other competitors in the realm of cybersecurity. Below, we jump into an in-depth overview of each functionality.

UEFI Scanner Detects Threats Before System Boot

When UEFI replaced BIOS in organizing the boot-up process, nobody thought it'd be prone to hackers' toolkits or virus infestations. Bear in mind that UEFI's problem lies in the inability of any antivirus to detect malicious activity if a virus seizes the chance of gaining access during system boot.

That's where ESET's UEFI Scanner kicks in. It performs a quick scan in the firmware file system and assesses the health of the system components before booting up. Then, it terminates any foreign process that the virus may manifest itself in.

Granular Scanning Controls Put You in Control

There’s much going on in the background that you won’t notice. When the system boots up, ESET Antivirus initiates its real-time scans on every running process, while the intuitive scanning controls are still at your disposal.

One look at the UI, and you’ll find the “Computer Scan” tab, comprising only two options. ESET Antivirus takes up to 60 minutes to finish a full system scan, which you can deem ineffective until you know it’s normal for a first-time full scan.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t feature a Quick Scan function. However, you can start a  custom scan for any local drive. 

Script-Based Threat Detection

Though I despise every aspect of this cyber warfare, I admit that script-based attacks are intelligent for exploiting most people’s ignorance about the built-in Command Prompt of their devices. Do you know what I admire more? ESET’s ability to conquer these threats as efficiently as file-based ones!

ESET shows competence in dealing with malicious scripts that utilize Windows PowerShell to execute themselves and wreak havoc on your computer. Moreover, it keeps its guards up in the scripts that your browser loads, and blocks all the malign JavaScripts it stumbles upon.

ESET also collaborates with web browsers' developers to enhance the compatibility of the antivirus so that it destroys any script-based threats, no matter which browser you use.

Host-Based Intrusion Prevention System

We were scratching the surface when we tested the basic scan processes that ESET Antivirus carries out. Let me tell you that malware-infected files are, in most cases, undetectable. Left unchecked, they may cling on the system registry and start making destructive modifications, leaving no changelog behind.

Integrated into ESET antivirus, the Host-Based Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS) takes system monitoring the extra mile, not by detecting malware, but by confirming the abnormal behavior they show. Then, it informs you of the actions you should take to improve the overall system integrity using interactive pop-ups.

Since most malware files are relentless enough to launch a counterattack, ESET’s HIPS is reinforced with a self-defense technology that makes it virtually invincible to malware.

ESET features

Scan During Idle State

Idle scans are exceptionally crucial for me as I leave my device on battery power when I’m away. By default, ESET Antivirus doesn’t run processes that consume considerable power. Instead, it starts a sneaky idle scan to anticipate potential file infection.

You can customize the idle-state scan settings from the "Advanced Setup" menu. You can even prompt ESET to run idle scans when your device is on battery power and have multiple options for scanning while the computer is on the screensaver, locked, or logged off.

I carried out a test to determine whether the idle-state scan is up to par. I left my laptop idle for 30 minutes, and I was greeted with a full, detailed report on the threats, directories, and the recommended actions I should take.

Scan During Download

Something I’ve been questioning since I started experimenting with antivirus software is the mindset behind waiting for an infected file to download. It doesn’t make sense since malware won’t hold back to ask for your permission to lay waste to your device.

ESET security makes a new epoch in this department since it detects harmful software while it’s in the download process, then stops the download until you give it the action to delete the infected directory.

I tried this built-in option by downloading keygens, a breeding ground for the most insidious Trojan viruses, and the results were fruitful—ESET completely destroyed them all!

Very Good Lab Results

Being obsessed with cybersecurity, I’ve been an avid subscriber to newsletters like AV-Test, where a ton of antivirus software come head-to-head for the big trophy.

So, I conducted a quick research to see whether I’m the only one pleased with how ESET Antivirus functions, and it’s safe to say that ESET has nailed all the tests with remarkable success!

ESET hits a 100% accuracy when it comes to imperviousness to 0-day threats, while the industry average stands at 98.8%. We're speaking about infallible tamper protection here. Moreover, it achieves a glorious 0 regarding the number of false positives compared to an industry standard of 16.

We all know how valuable AV-Comparatives’ certifications are to antivirus software. Adding more to the plus side, ESET Antivirus has earned the 3-star ADVANCED+ certification with a whopping 98.8% accuracy in real-world protection tests.

Scan Choices

Many people find it hard to go around the problem of having no quick scan option. Yet, the variety of ESET’s scan options makes quick scans seem useless. 

Like all antivirus software, ESET has an option for a full system scan. Alternatively, it features a section for custom scans, where you can choose a specific directory for the process or even the system’s deep components like the registry or the boot sectors.

ESET reinforces its scan procedures with added layers of detection through the in-depth scan option, which catches the culprits that the generic real-time protection fails to define.

Furthermore, you get a smart scan option for detecting infected directories and removing them without your intervention, more of a hands-off approach.

ESET features

Very Good Malware Protection

Amid all the perks ESET Antivirus provides, I find malware protection the most intriguing functionality I’ve tested so far. When I exposed ESET to a folder crammed with handpicked file-based malware, it rapidly detected the malicious activity going on, yet removed nearly half of them. We covered a more specialized anti-malware software in our Hitman Pro review.

I won’t regard it as a downside. The reason for this is that ESET prioritizes malware detection over removal. I noticed how it behaved when I decided to open every infected file individually, and the result was that it prevented the launch altogether.

With ESET, I’ve never come across false positives of legitimate software mistaken for malware during system scans, considering that the industry standard scores 16 for false detections.

Average Phishing Protection

Who hasn’t fallen prey once to a phishing scam? Phishing techniques are increasingly improving with emails that look almost identical to those of the original entities they mimic.

ESET Antivirus features an onboard anti-phishing line of defense against fraudulent attempts that ask for sensitive credentials.

I’m glad that ESET has even gone to great lengths beyond, thanks to the added layer of protection against homoglyph attacks, which are common among fake domains where the domain’s name is altered with different characters from the Latin ones.

However, I couldn’t entirely rely on ESET in the anti-phishing department because it tends to skip some of the flagged websites by other antivirus software and PhishTank when I gave it a shot.

ESET features

HIPS to Block Exploits

Exploits are the vulnerabilities your system integrity suffers from, leading to a successful intrusion attempt by hackers or malware infections. Luckily, ESET Antivirus either resolves or alerts you to missing data encryption or authentication through HIPS.

Not only does ESET’s HIPS protect your local directories, but it’s also competent when it comes to internet security. I tweaked HIPS here to see how heavy-duty it holds by insanely cyber-attacking my system with a pen-testing tool.

In the test’s aftermath, ESET Antivirus never disappointed in tracing back the source of these attacks, and it even blocked nearly half of the exploits I threw at it.

Elaborate Device Control

ESET’s Device Control is the absolute go-to feature if you frequently plug storage drives. I’m impressed with how ESET antivirus integrates its Secure Data function, safeguarding your files from data theft.

For starters, Device Control is disabled by default when you install ESET since it’s more of an enterprise-grade module. So, don’t expect it to be user-friendly.

It allows you to devise a “whitelist” of the devices often connected to your computer, like Bluetooth devices, disk storages, and modems. Based on the list, Device Control nullifies any external device’s attempt to elevate permissions to gain access to copy or remove your data.

ESET features

Useful Security Tools

Saying that ESET is an antivirus software is quite inaccurate. Owing to the wide array of add-ons it offers, I’d consider it an antivirus suite.

You’ll find a “More Tools” option displaying additional security tools. At the end of the day, you might want to look at the log files to see the infected directories color-coded according to the threat level: yellow for PUAs and red for malware.

Moreover, there’s an option for determining the reputation of the processes running in the background by comparing them to the samples in ESET’s LiveGrid database. I checked this module and found many malicious running processes, which ESET asked me to terminate.

Another perk I found related to HIPS is ESET SysRescue Live, dedicated software to USBs or CD/DVDs. On restarting the system, it boots up using this module to wipe any tenacious malware activity undetected by real-time protection.

ESET features

Good for Techies

If you live in a tech-heavy house, ESET NOD32 will quench your thirst for privacy, given its Home Protection Network, which lets you detect vulnerabilities across your home network, and even outdated router firmware!

Even if you haven’t fetched a cybersecurity jargon buster before, rest assured that ESET runs on the lowest power requirements you'll ever see in an antivirus. Thanks to the Gamer Mode, ESET hibernates every time you launch a power-hungry process.

So far, ESET has been a package worthy of investment. While you may regard the HIPS, UEFI Scanner, and the script-based threat detection engines as passive, you get substantial and easy-to-use controls for day-to-day privacy, especially when you master the advanced Device Control.

Pros

  • Reasonable pricing
  • Powerful HIPS & UEFI Scanner
  • Advanced scan options
  • Low-power operation
  • Risk assessment based on the up-to-date ESET LiveGrid
  • Virtually no false positives
  • ESET SysRescue Live defeats malware at a deeper level

Cons

  • No quick scan option
  • Mediocre anti-phishing engine
  • Persistent pop-up windows

Final Verdict

A predator is a predator, no matter the environment. Concluding our ESET Antivirus review, we can agree on how reliable, secure, and operational ESET Antivirus is. 

Regarding usability, it offers equally convenient packages for power, average, and enterprise-grade users, all while maintaining a firm grip on the system’s security in every variation.

Our recommendation: McAfee

Although the product we talked about are notable in the market, it doesn’t come close to McAfee. McAfee is a leading antivirus company in the cybersecurity industry due to its unique line-up of programs catered to dealing with malware and antivirus attacks. No wonder over 18.9 billion devices are protected using McAfee! Check out their security programs here!

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