The latest major updates to Kaspersky Internet Security 2012 (download) and Kaspersky AntiVirus 2012 (download) debuted today, including a new method of protecting computers using a combination of cloud and local detections, expanded and smoother-running Safe Run, and a major interface overhaul that makes the program easier to use than ever before. Kaspersky Internet Security is available exclusively from CNET Download.com today. However, while Kaspersky has made significant improvements in some areas, the program still takes a noticeable hit on your system performance.
The cloud-based and locally based security combo is a major under-the-hood change in how Kaspersky works. This hybrid approach allows the program to lighten its load on your system resources, keeping most of its definitions off your system and in the cloud, and leverage Kaspersky's anonymously contributed user-base data to protect against a wider range of threats. Independent testing groups have found Kaspersky 2012 to be highly effective at detecting and blocking threats.
Other improved features include an expansion of the Safe Run sandbox to include both programs and Web sites, a Windows Explorer context menu-accessible scanner for on-the-fly single-file threat scanning, Google Chrome support for the URL adviser, and improvements made to the System Watcher and its Rollback feature that will return your system to a previous if an infection does happen to get through.
The new interface is impressive, too. Based on a mobile app-drawer design, it presents your security status at the top and stashes the four major security features of scanning, updating, parental controls, and access to ancillary tools at the bottom. You can slide the features sideways to see more options, or click the arrow at the bottom to pull up drawer-style the full list of options. Settings and Reports live in the upper-right corner, and both use terminology repeated throughout the interface. This creates a solid level of consistency and ought to appeal to basic security consumers and power users alike.
Initial scans by Kaspersky 2012 were slow, although subsequent ones took less time because of the caching of files marked as safe. However, there's an undeniable system impact on start-up and shutdown times, so if you're used to a high-powered computer getting to your Windows 7 desktop quickly, Kaspersky is likely to add a delay of around a minute, according to tests done by CNET Labs. While using the computer, though, CNET Labs found that Kaspersky does a reasonable job of staying out of your way.
Update: The full Kaspersky Internet Security 2012 review is now available.