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May 17, at 6: The Anti-Theft feature that helps locate missing laptops and monitors activity on stolen devices will be available in both products during the BETA stage to reach as many testers as possible. Moreover, the survey found that the Anti-Theft feature benefits were requested the most.
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And, as noted, the Windows edition gets some features not found in the entry-level suite. Rather than repeat my reporting on the many features of this suite, I suggest you read that review before proceeding.
The password management and file encryption tools aren’t strongly linked to the other features. The main window, which is almost identical to that of the entry-level suite, has three special spots, large blue button panels offering access to important features.
That’s the only real difference in the two suites, appearance-wise. Basic Password Manager Smart Security’s password manager is a licensed version of Sticky Password Premium , but it doesn’t cover the full spectrum of Sticky Password’s feature set. For example, it lacks Sticky Password’s ability to sync privately across your home Wi-Fi network, without ever sending passwords to the cloud.
This feature hasn’t changed since version 10, released a couple years ago. You start by creating a password store, associated with your email address and a master password. ESET insists that the master password be at least eight characters long and contain capital letters, small letters, and numbers.
A floating window checks off these requirements as you type. For security, you can use a virtual keyboard to enter the master, or any password. To avoid the possibility of a screen scraper or shoulder surfer seeing which characters you click, the virtual keyboard can generate a flock of decoy cursors that move at random.
It’s an entertaining effect, besides being useful. The password manager integrates with Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera, and imports passwords stored insecurity in the browser.
The password manager also offers integration with less-known browsers, among them Chromium, Pale Moon, and SeaMonkey. As expected, ESET offers to save your credentials when you log into a secure site. At capture time, you can give the new entry a friendly name or assign it to a group, but you can’t create a new group the way you can with LastPass.
Also as expected, when you revisit the site ESET offers to fill those saved credentials. If you encounter a nonstandard login form that the password manager doesn’t recognize, you’re out of luck. The browser extensions serve to capture and replay passwords, but for full control you open the password manager dashboard. Here you can edit your password entries, organize them into groups, and even nest groups inside groups. These groups become menus and submenus that you access by clicking the browser toolbar button.
Clicking an entry from that menu navigates to the site and automatically logs you in. Getting all your passwords into the password manager is just the first step; you also must replace weak and duplicate ones with new, strong, unique passwords.
ESET’s password generator helps you by creating random passwords. Out of the box, it generates character passwords composed of letters upper and lowercase and numbers; I strongly recommend you add punctuation to the mix. Consider, too, that you might as well make your generated passwords longer, since you don’t have to remember them.
Some competing password managers default to 30 characters or more. Two-factor authentication adds security by requiring both a master password and another factor, typically a fingerprint or a physical token.
ESET lets you switch from the master password to authenticating with a USB or Bluetooth device, but since doing so replaces the master password, it isn’t two-factor authentication. As long as you’ve created a memorable but hard-to-guess master password, you should probably stick with it for authentication. To use this feature, you identify the target application using a crosshair cursor and then log in.
Next time you launch that application, the password manager can autofill your credentials. ESET extends its password-filling skills to fill in personal details on web forms. Each form-filling identity includes personal, contact, internet, and business data; you add banking and credit card data separately.
When you visit a web form, ESET puts a red border around the fields it recognizes. You click the toolbar button and select an identity to fill details. In testing, ESET didn’t fill every field, but anything it fills automatically is something you don’t have to type.
RoboForm Everywhere started life as a form-filler utility and then evolved into a password manager. It remains a top form filler, with a huge number of field types. Many password managers let you save multiple instances of credit card data; RoboForm offers multiple instances of any field type. Top-notch password managers such as Dashlane, LastPass, and Keeper include a full security audit that flags weak and duplicate passwords. Some even help automate the process of updating passwords, replacing bad ones with strong ones and recording the change.
ESET’s Warnings page is a pale shadow of those full-scale audits. It does list saved entries with extremely weak passwords, but it’s much too lax.
A six-letter password that uses two character types qualities as Normal strength, meaning it won’t appear on the Warnings page. The password “Monkey” gets a normal rating; I think it should come with a warning instead. This password manager doesn’t offer the full cross-platform experience found in many competing products, though you can install client-only apps that will replay but not capture passwords for macOS, Android, and iOS. You can’t view and manage passwords online the way you can with the full Sticky Password.
It’s a decent basic-level utility, but not comparable to the very best standalone password managers. Encryption for Secure Data A data-stealing Trojan can’t get much from your computer if all your files are encrypted. Even a ransomware attack can’t do much when your files are sealed in an encrypted vault. Encrypting your most important files just makes good sense. Smart Security’s Secure Data makes encryption simple.
As with similar encryption systems from Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and others, you create one or more encrypted virtual drives to store your data. When the drive is unlocked, it behaves like any other drive; when it’s locked, nobody can access the files.
Trend Micro Maximum Security takes the concept further, with the option to remotely seal the vault, foiling even a thief who stole your laptop and your vault password.
A wizard walks you through creating each new virtual drive. You choose a name and location for the vault file, and choose a drive capacity, selecting from a list of presets or setting a custom size. This step is important, because you can’t change the size after creation.
The similar feature in G Data Total Security cleverly offers preset sizes matching the capacity of CD, DVD, and other storage media, in case you want to create a portable vault. Next, you create a password to lock the drive the drive. Smart Security rates password strength as you type, but as with the password manager, it’s too lax in its ratings. It deems “Password” to be a strong password! Note, too, that by default, Smart Security automatically decrypts the drive for the current Windows user account.
If you walk away from your desk without logging out, you leave your files unprotected. Unless you’ve secured your account with a very strong password and always lock it on stepping away, I suggest you disable this option.
Smart Security doesn’t maintain a list of the encrypted drives you’ve created the way McAfee Total Protection and others do. Rather, you must locate the vault file and launch it to open the encrypted drive.
Now you can treat it like any other drive. You wouldn’t stash one copy of a sensitive contract in your wall safe while leaving other copies lying around unprotected; you’d put the extras through the shredder.
The same is true for the unencrypted originals of sensitive files, so products that offer encryption often include a secure deletion utility. Kaspersky Total Security even makes deleting the originals part of the vault creation process. Alas, Smart Security offers no file shredding app. The best you can do is hold down Shift while deleting originals, so they don’t wind up in the Recycle Bin. Smart Security also lets you create an encrypted folder on any removable drive.
You just supply the password; you don’t have to enter a filename or choose the capacity. Here, too, I advise disabling automatic decryption for the current Windows user account.
When you mount the drive and enter the password, Smart Security makes the encrypted folder available. Support for macOS As the download page points out, you can use your Smart Security licenses to install protection on macOS devices as well.
Please read my review of that product for an explanation of the basic set of features. Here, I’ll discuss the Pro-only features, firewall and parental control. As with the Windows product, the firewall reacts to a new network connection by asking you just what sort of connection it is.
Depending on whether you respond that it’s a Public, Home, or Work network, the firewall configures itself appropriately. On Windows, ESET’s firewall defends against outside attacks and optionally manages network permissions for local programs. Program control isn’t an option in the macOS version, which may be a blessing. If you set the firewall to Interactive mode in Windows, it asks you for a decision on every new program that attempts network access, even Windows processes.
After responding, you must also enter the settings password and deal with a User Account Control dialog. It’s impressively annoying. Most users should just let the firewall do its thing, without trying to understand or modify the configuration. The slightest peek into the rules, zones, and profiles confronts you with details that only a firewall expert would understand. Parental control is much like its Windows equivalent, though not identical.
On Windows, you enter a birthdate for each child; on the Mac you mark each account as Parent, Teen, or Child. The Windows edition offers 30 categories that you can block; under macOS, it’s 27 categories.
In both cases, parental control consists solely of filtering out unwanted content. HTTPS sites with naughty content go right past it, as do secure anonymizing proxies. A clever teen can use such a proxy to completely foil parental control and monitoring. This feature just doesn’t work well.
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And, as noted, the Windows edition gets some features not found in the entry-level suite. Rather than repeat my reporting on the many features of this suite, I suggest you read that review before proceeding. The password management and file encryption tools aren’t strongly linked to the other features.
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