ESET Cyber Security for Mac review

ESET is a Slovakian company, known for its Windows anti-virus software and now offering two versions for OS X – the standard Cyber Security reviewed here, and Cyber Security Pro which adds a personal firewall and parental controls.

The standard Cyber Security provides malware protection through both traditional signature recognition, and ‘heuristics and advanced heuristics’. The heuristics component is now common in Windows malware recognition but is less common with Mac security software at present.

See also: Best Mac antivirus software | Mac software reviews

By default during the installation stage the app will enrol your Mac into the company’s Live Grid Early Warning System. This submits suspicious files for analysis, along with anonymous statistical information. You’re also asked if you’d like to enable detection of potentially unwanted applications, as distinct from the hardcore malware. The Windows malware-scanning capability of ESET may explain why our first virus signature database update weighed in at a hefty 47 MB.

ESET Cyber Security for Mac: Application design and interface

The application has a simple-looking interface when first opened, showing Computer icon with ticked green screen when all is well; and likewise for Web and Mail, referring to web browsing, email and anti-phishing protection.

The options within Cyber Security are extensive; for example you can delve through Real-time file system protection to enable file open, file creation, and file execution, then delve further for ThreatSense Engine options to select whether you want Heuristics, Advanced Heuristics and/or ESET Live Grid.

In short ESET’s Mac security software is suited to someone who likes to configure precisely how they want the application to behave. Thankfully it’s straightforward to read up on, for example, the difference between these different modules using the app’s built-in help – most windows include a ? button which when clicked brings up further details in a small palette.

We read here that ESET lists its Advanced Heuristics as using binary-translation code emulation, while non-Advanced analyses with an unspecified algorithm to detect unlisted malware. We noticed that Advanced Heuristics is switched off by default until you start your digging through this security application’s extensive options. Live Grid is ESET’s two-way communications that sends info about potential new threats back to the company’s servers.

The Preferences interface is very well laid out, resembling closely Apple’s own System Preferences for OS X. Other options here include Anti-Phishing Protections, which checks your web browsing against the company’s database of suspect sites.

A context menu option is available, a useful shortcut for checking suspect files wherever you see them through the Finder. You right-click or Ctrl-click any file and select either full or scan/clean only.

ESET Cyber Security for Mac: Performance

In Security Spread tests, ESET showed a good blend of malware detection without as much system slowdown as some other products. In essential malware detection it caught 396 out of 420 selected samples, returning a rate of just over 94 percent. Focusing on the unwanted applications category, it found all but 11 out of 37 in real-time scans; but another 7 in a separate on-demand scan.

It was one of the better solutions for finding pre-installed malware too, at 53 percent detection. False positives were kept low in this test, the application incorrecty pointing out one file from 11 as bad news.

Performance of the Mac will be slowed by simple copy operations, as we found when duplicating our 4.26 GB mbox archive. Rather than skip any screening, the ESET engine sifted the contents for malware, stretching duplicated time on the MacBook Air’s SSD from around 50 seconds to 9 minutes 15 seconds. That’s a considerable slowdown, but actually the fastest of any security app here that did any automatic on-access scanning.

When faced with an on-demand scan of the same basket, ESET took just over a minute, also the fastest on test, and indicated that it had examined around three-quarters of the contents.

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OUR VERDICT

ESET Cyber Security for Mac is a sophisticated security application with good malware detection. It’s also far from the slowest with system performance issues when running in the background. It will be suited to users that like to tweak and optimise, but is still easy enough to install and start comprehensive protection for any user.

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