The Top-Rated Anti-Virus Software
This article was originally written for ArrowQuick Solutions, a technology consultancy for small businesses.
As IT experts, our customers frequently ask us which security software we recommend. ArrowQuick sells Kaspersky, which we feel offers the best all-around protection against viruses, trojans, worms, and other malicious software (malware). There can be differing opinions on aspects like support and ease of use, but detection and performance can be measured quantitatively.
AV-Comparatives is a company that tests the effectiveness of anti-virus software. They release regular reports comparing the software from major vendors. I’ll present their most recent data below — if you just want a summary, skip down to the last section.
In August, they released their report for “on-demand” detection — that is, when manually scanning a computer to search for malware. Here are the detection rates for a recent set of malware:
- G DATA Antivirus 220.127.116.11: 99.8 percent
- AVIRA AntiVir Premium 18.104.22.1686: 99.4 percent
- McAfee VirusScan Plus 13.11.102: 98.7 percent
- Symantec Norton Antivirus 22.214.171.124: 98.4 percent
- Avast Professional Edition 4.8.1348: 98.0 percent
- F-Secure Antivirus 10.00.246: 97.9 percent
- BitDefender Antivirus 126.96.36.199: 97.8 percent
- eScan AntiVirus 10.0.997.491: 97.7 percent
- Trustport Antivirus 188.8.131.5217: 97.6 percent
- ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.0.437.0: 97.2 percent
- Kaspersky AntiVirus 184.108.40.2063: 94.7 percent
- AVG Antivirus 8.5.406: 94.0 percent
- Sophos Antivirus 7.6.10: 91.3 percent
- Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.5.2900.28: 90.0 percent
- Kingsoft Antivirus 2009.08.05.16: 86.4 percent
- Norman Antivirus & AntiSpyware 7.10.02: 84.8 percent
Note that these are all the paid consumer versions of the software.
Microsoft Security Essentials had not been released yet, so it was not tested. The Windows Live OneCare software is no longer sold by Microsoft (though it will be supported until 2011).
As you can see, although all software performed pretty well — most found at least 90% of problems — some clearly did better than others, and sometimes finding that last intruder can make a big difference.
Two other data points were provided by AV-Comparatives: false positives and throughput. Too many false positives (detections that aren’t actually malware) causes confusion on what is actually unsafe. Throughput measures the speed of the scans; obviously software that performs quicker is more desirable.
AV-Comparatives also compares the software for proactive detection — the ability to find malware, without manual scanning, by using heuristics and other complex algorithms. This test simulates malware that is brand new and doesn’t have signatures yet, or when a machine hasn’t downloaded the latest signatures. This method is decidedly more difficult, but some software still performed quite well.
- AVIRA AntiVir Premium 220.127.116.116: 74 percent
- G DATA Antivirus 18.104.22.168: 66 percent
- Kaspersky AntiVirus 22.214.171.1243: 64 percent
- ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.0.437.0: 60 percent
- F-Secure Antivirus 10.00.246: 56 percent
- Microsoft Security Essentials 1.0 beta: 56 percent
- Avast Professional Edition 4.8.1348: 53 percent
- BitDefender Antivirus 126.96.36.199: 53 percent
- eScan AntiVirus 10.0.997.491: 53 percent
- AVG Antivirus 8.5.406: 49 percent
- Trustport Antivirus 188.8.131.5217: 49 percent
- McAfee VirusScan Plus 13.11.102: 47 percent
- Symantec Norton Antivirus 184.108.40.206: 36 percent
- Sophos Antivirus 7.6.10: 34 percent
- Norman Antivirus & AntiSpyware 7.10.02: 32 percent
- Kingsoft Antivirus 2009.08.05.16: 32 percent
The spread between software is much greater. Some software also had false positives, with six of them (AVIRA, Sophos, McAFee, TrustPort, Norman, and Kingsoft) having more than 15 false alarms.
This report was released in November, so it includes the beta version of Microsoft Security Essentials.
AV-Comparatives’ most recent report tested the software for detection of Potentially Unwanted Applications. PUAs are classified as adware, spyware, rogue, or fradulent software. They may not be as malicious as other programs, but can still slow down your computer or compromise your privacy.
Here are the results, with MS Security Essentials included:
- G DATA Antivirus 2010: 99.8 percent
- Trustport Antivirus 2010: 99.8 percent
- AVIRA AntiVir Premium 9.0: 98.9 percent
- McAfee VirusScan Plus 2010: 98.9 percent
- BitDefender Antivirus 2010: 98.6 percent
- eScan AntiVirus 10.0: 98.6 percent
- F-Secure Anti-Virus 2010: 98.6 percent
- Symantec Norton Antivirus 2010: 98.6 percent
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2010: 96.7 percent
- ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.0: 96.5 percent
- avast! Free 5.0: 96.3 percent
- Sophos Antivirus 9.0.1: 95.4 percent
- Microsoft Security Essentials 1.0: 94.6 percent
- AVG Anti-Virus 9.0: 93.9 percent
- Norman Antivirus & Anti-Spyware 7.30: 88.5 percent
- Kingsoft AntiVirus 9 Plus: 87.1 percent
Here’s how AV-Comparatives categorized the software, rated from best to worst.
For on-demand detection:
- Advanced+: G DATA, Symantec, Avast, F-Secure, BitDefender, eScan, ESET
- Advanced: AVIRA, McAfee, TrustPort, Kaspersky, AVG
- Tested: Sophos, Kingsoft, Norman
For proactive detection:
- Advanced+: G DATA, Kaspersky, ESET, F-Secure, Microsoft, Avast, BitDefender, eScan
- Advanced: AVIRA, AVG, Symantec
- Standard: McAfee, TrustPort, Sophos, Norman, Kingsoft
For potentially unwanted applications:
- Advanced+: TrustPort, G DATA, McAfee, AVIRA, Symantec, F-Secure, BitDefender, eScan
- Advanced: Kaspersky, ESET, Avast, Sophos, Microsoft, AVG
- Standard: Norman, Kingsoft
What do you think of the results? How does the software you use stack up?