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ESET Smart Security 4.0

ESET may not be a household word in the U.S. the way it is in Europe, but its presence is increasing. The company's growth is burgeoning, with 70 million users hitting its update servers every day. Its latest security suite, ESET Smart Security 4.0 ($89.99 direct for three licenses), aims to be speedy and light on system resources. To that end it omits many of the extras, such as the antiphishing, parental control, and privacy components common to most suites. Instead it focuses on essential elements: antivirus, antispyware, personal firewall, and spam filter. As a result, it's easy on system resources. Unfortunately, it doesn't fare as well on basics. Its firewall is merely adequate, and it's not the best at spyware protection and cleanup.

The previous edition, ESET Smart Security 3.0, introduced a simplified user interface that hides all of the program's complexity while keeping the more advanced features available if needed. The suite's appearance hasn't changed much in version 4.0. The main window shows overall protection status and lets you scan the system, launch a manual update, or make very simple configuration changes, like temporarily turning off the firewall. As with most modern suites, if ESET isn't configured properly for maximum protection, the protection status icon turns red and the program offers a link to correct the configuration problem.

Switching the user interface to advanced mode reveals an additional menu of tools and adds choices to the existing simple protection categories. Protection status gains three new sub-items that graph file/network activity, list active network connections, and display protection statistics. Advanced mode offers more configuration choices as well. Among other changes, instead of just being able to turn off the firewall temporarily, you can change its filtering mode.

Even advanced mode is simple compared with the full, advanced setup dialog. This dialog's tree-structured feature list lets you tweak just about every detail of the program's operation. Expert users will revel in the power, while novice users will find they can do just about anything they need to without digging this deep

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