Kaspersky Antivirus: A Review for Screen Reader Users

As I indicated in a previous post regarding screen reader accessibility of antivirus software, I felt the need to switch to a new antivirus program after Microsoft Security Essentials (Windows Defender in Windows 8 and 10) failed to stop malware from crippling my computer. I’m aware that many people have used MSE or Defender for some time and may never experience an infection but this was a choice I felt needed to be made. The gentleman who worked on my computer recommended Kaspersky Antivirus. After reading a positive review of the product in PC Magazine, I decided to give the program a try. What follows is an account of my experiences with installing and using the software from the perspective of a screen reader user. My screen reader is NVDA, running on a Dell OptiPlex 740 machine with 8 GB of RAM. The operating system is Windows 10 Pro, although I started using Kaspersky on the same system running Windows 7.

This review discusses Kaspersky Antivirus specifically with the NVDA screen reader. While I do use the free version of Window-Eyes as a secondary screen reader, NVDA has been my access package of choice since the summer of 2009. Some of what I’m about to document may produce different results with other screen readers, so your mileage will likely vary. I will eventually update this post to discuss how the program performs when using Window-Eyes. For now, this review will focus entirely on the accessibility of Kaspersky Antivirus with NVDA.

A year ago, I started out using Kaspersky 2015 after using Microsoft Security Essentials for over five years, as I was not satisfied with the level of protection offered by MSE. The installer for Kaspersky 2015 was 100% accessible, being rendered just as though I were reading a Web page. Informational text and controls were also nicely labeled and installing it was both quick and 100% screen reader friendly.

Unfortunately, the installer for Kaspersky Antivirus 2016 was completely inaccessible to screen readers. Whether I used arrow keys or screen review commands, none of the text was visible to NVDA. However, I was still able to install the 2016 version using the 2015 installer, because the installer presents a check box, which you would select if you want the program to automatically install newer versions of the software. This meant that I could run the nicely accessible 2015 installer and have it install the 2016 version.

A few weeks ago, I saw that Kaspersky Antivirus 2017 was available. I downloaded the 2017 installer, ran it and saw that it was just as inaccessible as the 2016 installer. No problem, I thought. I’ll just run the 2015 installer, have it download the newest version and I’ll have the 2017 edition of the software with no drama.

This, unfortunately, was not to be. First, when I ran the 2015 installer it told me that the installer could not complete because one of the program folders was not empty. I was a bit flabbergasted, since I assumed that the program would just upgrade my current version but I guess the 2015 installer doesn’t know how to deal with an installed 2016 version. No problem, I thought, I’ll just uninstall the program but I ran into an error doing that and I can’t now remember what the message was. No problem, I thought again, I’ll just clear out the folder which should make it happy and avoid further drama.

However, Windows wouldn’t allow me to do that, even with admin rights.

No problem, I thought, I’ll just look for the Kaspersky removal tool. I found it, downloaded it and ran it. The good news was that the program had accessible keyboard controls. The bad news was that the removal tool had a captcha, which it insisted that I solve before it allowed me to remove the software. There are several captcha solvers, such as Rumola, which I use and recommend. However, these decoders only work within Web browsers, not in other applications, making this a complete blocker for me. I sent a few tweets about this to Kaspersky Support and asked if one of their reps could do a remote session where they could access my computer and install the software. They sent me some direct messages, indicating that this could be done. However, when I called them they said that remote access was a premium support service and that I needed to pay for it. I told them that it was not right that I should have to pay for remote support, considering that I can’t even install their software independently and can’t even remove the current version due to a captcha. I finally got disgusted, disconnected the call and called the Microsoft disability answer desk. Within ten minutes the rep had entered the captcha solution, removed the old version and even guided me through installing the 2017 version with the inaccessible 2017 installer. Needless to say, while I eventually solved my problem I did so with absolutely no help from Kaspersky, who should have come through for me but failed miserably to do so.

If anyone who is visually impaired is considering installing this software, you might want to save time by just asking Microsoft for help. You might also want to tweet Kaspersky at @kl_support to express your opinions.

Here are some comments concerning the program itself. While there are some accessibility issues, I’m able to get around most of them and the majority of the settings provide accessible controls.

Parts of the application are quite accessible, and other aspects are not. If you open the Kaspersky 2017 icon from the desktop or from the start menu, you will be greeted, audibly at least, by several unlabeled buttons, with the exception of the Settings and Support buttons, which are labeled. I can’t speak for JAWS or Window-eyes but, with NVDA, you can discover the function of each button by using NVDA’s object navigation keys via the numeric keypad. Once you land on an unlabeled button, pressing insert-2 to drill down into that button’s “object” and then pressing insert-6 will clearly speak the button’s label. The buttons are actionable and so pressing the spacebar, at that point, activates the button as you would expect. These buttons perform functions such as update, scan, etc.

Once you activate the clearly-labeled Settings button, most of the dialogs are accessible. It presents you with a list of options such as settings for scanning, performance, protection, general, etc. Using up/down arrow keys moves through these different options. Once you find an option whose settings you wish to modify, pressing the tab key moves through various buttons and checkboxes for those options and is presented like a standard dialog. Most options are accessible and easy to use and understand, whereas a few are tricky and may require some experimentation and possibly sighted assistance to verify their settings, such as slider controls to increase and decrease security levels. The last option or category found in the Settings dialog is labeled “Additional” and its dialog, by contrast, contains nothing but unlabeled buttons. However, you can easily determine the function of each button by using NVDA’s object navigation commands as I described earlier.

For me, the easiest method for accessing Kaspersky’s functions is through the system tray icon. Right-clicking this icon (by using the Applications key” brings up an accessible menu, which includes items such as Run Update, Settings, and Task Manager. Task Manager is what I use most of the time to perform scans, although you can also use the context menu from within Windows Explorer to scan files, folders or entire drives.

The layout of the Task Manager is similar to Kaspersky’s Settings menu, with a list of categories which you access with up/down arrow keys, followed by repeated presses of the tab key to explore the options for each category. Task Manager allows you to perform quick scans, full scans, removable drive scans as well as a category for reviewing results of previous scans.

While performing a scan, the progress screen is accessible but it requires heavy use of NVDA’s object navigation keys to explore the information in detail. As an example, using object navigation commands allows you to see the percentage of the scan, which file is currently being scanned, etc.

One odd issue is that sometimes NVDA is able to read certain parts of the code which are not visible on the screen. As an example, there was one screen, I forget which, that indicated that the update was successful but also indicated that an update wasn’t installed and the program was rolling back to a previous update. These are messages which are obviously meant to be displayed at certain times but yet those messages are somehow being exposed to NVDA.

In spite of these oddities and varying degrees of accessibility, I continue to use Kaspersky Antivirus and do not regret my decision to do so. My reason is simple: I wanted a program which was highly rated when it comes to malware protection. For years, I used Microsoft Security Essentials because it was free, light on resources and completely accessible with screen readers. The problem was that it wasn’t necessarily very good at protecting my system against malware. When I had been hit by a crippling virus a year ago, I decided that I would no longer compromise my computer’s security for the sake of accessibility and convenience and chose to go with Kaspersky. I mean no disrespect to any of you who are using MSE or Windows Defender and who feel that the program provides good protection. Perhaps, if you’re one of those individuals, it will provide good protection and you may never become infected with malware. However, I simply no longer trust that program and feel unsafe using and depending on it. For those who are looking for a robust antimalware solution, Kaspersky Antivirus has performed well and I hope that my review will cause some of you to consider giving the program a try.

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