Safeguarding your private data is constantly getting more and more important for home personal computers. Every user needs comprehensive protection from viruses, trojans, worms, adware, spyware, phishing, rootkits and other Internet nasties in order to be able to browse the Internet, play games and multimedia, e-mail friends and work with comfort and peace of mind.

ESET NOD32 Antivirus and ESET Smart Security, commonly known as NOD32, are anti-virus packages made by Slovakia-based company ESET. Whereas ESET NOD32 (£29.31 per year, single-user license) provides anti-virus and anti-spyware, ESET Smart Security (£39.10 per year, single-user license) is a more heavyweight package providing anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spam and firewall protection. Both are sold in two editions, Home Edition and Business Edition. The Business Edition packages add ESET Remote Administrator allowing for server deployment and management, mirroring of threat signature database updates and the ability to install on Microsoft Windows Server operating systems.

ESET’s NOD32 Antivirus has long been my anti-malware package of choice due to its amazing proactive protection. Version 4.0 looks better than ever and includes much improved features such as advanced archive scanning and removable media access control (USB and optical drives). And it works too! I tried placing an autorun.inf file associated with a virus in a USB flash drive and NOD32 Antivirus immediately prompted that it detected a virus and automatically removed it to prevent it from infecting other computers.

The latest version supports Windows 2000/XP/Vista and fully integrates with Windows Security Center. It also supports 64-bit (x86-64, not IA-64) versions of these operating systems, although the program runs both 32-bit and 64-bit processes. Users of older versions of Microsoft Windows, such as Windows 95, 98, Me and NT 4.0, will need to install the older v2.70.39 release. It is unclear for how long the older versions of Microsoft Windows will be supported. In addition to Microsoft Windows the company also supports BSD, Linux, Novell NetWare and Sun Solaris.

Configuring NOD32 Antivirus is quick and easy, although you do need to change a few of the default settings to make sure you get maximum protection. You also need to enter your user name and password from the authentication e-mail you received after the purchase or registration of the product. This plays a significant role in providing constant protection of your system, and unless the program updates itself automatically it will only take a few days for your system to become vulnerable to the latest threats. Thankfully authentication data can be inserted at any time later on, directly from the program, should you not have the details at hand.

The next step in the installation is configuration of the ThreatSense.Net Early Warning System. The ThreatSense.Net Early Warning System helps to ensure that ESET is immediately and continuously informed about new infiltrations in order to quickly protect its customers. The system permits submission of new threats to ESET‘s virus laboratory, where they are analysed, processed and added to the virus signature databases.

Finally, you need to configure protection against potentially unwanted applications. These programs are not necessarily intended to be malicious, but they may affect the performance of the operating system in a certain way. Such applications usually require consent for installation. This is because they are often a part of the installation of other programs, and may be difficult to notice during installation. Installation of potentially unwanted applications can often negatively affect the behavior of the operating system. You’re then good to go.

Operating NOD32 Antivirus couldn’t be any simpler. The main window is uncluttered and intuitive, and divided into two main sections. The narrower left-hand column provides access to the main menu, while the right-hand side predominantly serves to display information – its content depends on the selection in the left-hand menu. The user interface even allows you to toggle Standard and Advanced modes. From the main menu you view your computer’s protection status (in Advance mode the status of all protection modules is displayed), configure and launch the on-demand computer scan, update the module that manages program updates, as well as view Log files, Quarantine and configure Scheduler (this menu is only available in advanced mode). Setup lets you tweak anti-virus and anti-spam modules, while Tools provides access to Help and support. The best thing about NOD32 Antivirus is that once you’ve taken a couple of minutes to configure the program you never have to worry about it again – at least until your yearly subscription expires.

Its anti-virus protection guards against malicious system attacks by controlling file, e-mail and Internet communication. If a threat with malicious code is detected, the software can eliminate it by first blocking it, and then cleaning, deleting or moving it to quarantine. Furthermore, real-time file system protection controls all antivirus-releated events. All files are scanned for malicious code at the moment they are opened, created or run on your computer, so you needn’t worry about maliscious code making its way sneekily onto your hard drive. E-mail users can also take comfort with the knowledge that NOD32 Antivirus provides control of e-mail communication received through the POP3, MAPI, IMAP, and HTTP protocols. When examining incoming messages, the program uses all scanning methods provided by the ThreatSense scanning engine. This means that detection of malicious programs takes place even before being matched against the virus signature database. Scanning of POP3 protocol communications is independent of the e-mail client used.

If you suspect that your computer is infected (it behaves abnormally), you can run an on-demand computer scan to examine your computer for infiltrations. From a security point of view, it is essential that computer scans are not just run when an infection is suspected, but regularly as part of routine security measures. Regular scanning provides detection of infiltrations which were not detected by the real-time scanner at the time they were saved to the disk. This can happen if the real-time scanner was disabled at the time of infection, or the virus signature database was obsolete. You should probably run an on-demand scan at least once a month for piece of mind.

ESET’s NOD32 is probably the best anti-virus software on the market. Once again the company has delivered an excellent product that is highly effective and easy to use – the interface can even be tweaked by the advanced user. The strength and beauty of it is its light footprint (hard drive space and system resources), relatively fast scanning and superior ThreatSense Technology that detects malicious software before it has been reported. It’s also very good value for money. If you already have a valid license, then there is no charge for the upgrade. Even if you are running an all-in-one security suite you should consider running ESET NOD32 Antivirus v4.0 as well – at the very least you should download the 30-day trial.