by Charles P. Jefferies
The Internet affects our lifestyle in more ways than most of us care to admit, and the innumerable threats lingering on it can do likewise. A PC connected to the Internet should have a software security capable of actively defending the end-user from these threats. Today we look at one company's solution: ESET's NOD32 Antivirus 4 package. This comprehensive solution is advertised to protect from known and unknown threats while maintaining a low profile. Read on to see how it held up in our testing.
NOD32 Antivirus 4 is first and foremost exactly what it implies; a security suite aimed at protecting computers from viruses. NOD32 takes a proactive stance on antivirus and anti-spyware protection, actively scanning all forms of Internet traffic, including email and encrypted channels, and the hard drive. ESET's ThreatSense technology even allows the software to protect against unknown threats. The programs database is updated frequently, so the user will be protected against the latest threats. Other features of NOD32 include a removable media scanner; it automatically checks anything connected to the computer (such as a flash drive) for malicious threats. NOD32 has technology that helps it defend itself, so it will not be disabled or corrupted.
The Business Version of NOD32 Antivirus 4 includes additional features, including a Remote Administrator feature that allows gives administrators the ability to control a network from a single screen. Additionally, the business edition includes a Host-based Intrusion Prevention System, which defends against threats on the network that may have bypassed external network security.
ESET prides its NOD32 Antivirus 4 on resource efficiency; the company claims the software uses less than 44MB of memory and is "so fast you won't even notice it's there."
INSTALLATION AND ACTIVATION
NOD32 Antivirus 4 has a standard wizard-based installer, making installation painless.
After accepting the license agreements, users can choose to perform a typical or custom install; we did a typical install, since that is what most users will want to do.
Activation can be done during or after the install. To activate the software, all users have to do is enter the username and password provided to them when they purchase the software.
Following the activation step in the install, users can choose to be a part of ESET's ThreatSense network, which allows computers connected to it to submit information about new threats to the company. We chose to enable this option.
The last step before the install is completed is choosing whether to enable an option that allows for the detection of potentially unwanted applications. This feature is not necessarily for security reasons, but more for system resource management: if NOD32 detects a program that is installed or being installed that could alter the computer's behavior, it will let the user know. We also chose to enable this option.
Overall, the installation and activation procedure is simple and painless; it took less than six minutes to get through.
NOD32's main program interface window can be accessed by double-clicking the program's icon in the system tray. There is no wait time for the window to open, which is a clue to how well optimized NOD32 is.
The program interface is clean and simple without looking boring. A navigation bar is located on the left, and whatever category is selected is highlighted in the navigation bar and displayed on the right. Items in the navigation bar are easy to identify thanks to large icons and clear text. All descriptions are given in plain English and friendly enough for the average Joe to understand.
Updating is done automatically and does not require user intervention. I performed the process manually once to see it in action. A manual update is as simple as clicking "Update."
There are two interface modes: Standard and Advanced. The Standard interface, shown at the top of this section, is what most will use; Advanced mode, shown above, uncovers a few options and categories that are otherwise hidden, including a Tools category and a few other screens, as shown below.
Under the Protection Status category, for example, users can get statistics and real-time activity graphs.
The Tools category shows log files and other information that most people would not care about. There is one significant feature in the Tools category: the Create rescue CD option.
This option allows users to create a CD/DVD that assist repairing an infected computer.
Overall, the program interface is clean, simple, and easy to navigate.
IN USE AND EFFECTIVENESS
NOD32 Antivirus 4 did not cause any interruptions during normal use. The only indicator it is even running is the occasional information system tray pop-up that the virus database was updated.
A nice feature of NOD32 is that these pop-ups are disabled while running full-screen applications, such as video games or presentations.
I tested the effectiveness of NOD32 Antivirus 4 by using several virus files from Eicar.org, an IT security website. The four files provided for download, which have different extensions including .com, .zip, and .txt, contain viruses. Please see the test description for extensive information on the tests. Good antivirus software should detect the files as threats.
NOD32 did better than detect the files as viruses – it would not even let me download them over the standard HTTP protocol. Using the SSL-encrypted protocol, NOD32 still detected the files and deleted them immediately upon download. The quarantine window shows the details of what happened:
NOD32 performs as advertised – it identifies threats at their source.
We evaluate the performance impact and system resource usage of using antivirus software in three ways:
Our test system is an Acer Aspire 5735-4744; it has the following specifications:
Overall System Performance Impact measured with PCMark05
Prior to installing NOD32 Antivirus 4, the notebook had the following performance numbers:
After installing NOD32 Antivirus 4, I ran the benchmark again:
Extremely impressive – NOD32 hardly touched system performance, with less than a two percent difference between the scores.
Antivirus 4 is claimed to use less than 44MB of system memory; we found it did even better than that. The Task Manager shows 21MB of usage. This means the software is using about one percent of the 2,048MB of available memory in our test computer – essentially nothing.
Time it took to perform a full system scan
A full scan of our test system’s hard drive containing 37GB of data took 19 minutes and 4 seconds. This is slower than Kapersky Anti-Virus 2009, which took 15 minutes and 40 seconds, but not significantly so.
NOD32 Antivirus 4 passed our tests with flying colors. We found it to perform exactly as advertised, which is not exactly a common thing in today’s world. This security solution is effective at combating viruses and detecting Internet threats, all while barely consuming any system resources. Antivirus 4 is a "set it and forget it" application; updates are performed automatically and the system is continuously monitored, all with essentially no user interaction. From its simple plain English interface to its pro-active defenses, NOD32 Antivirus 4 is a polished and user-friendly software security solution. NOD32 Antivirus 4 gets our recommendation for an excellent antivirus solution.
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