Posted by Bob Rankin on June 30, 2015 | Category: Anti-Virus The malware threat landscape changes constantly, and so does the effectiveness of the anti-malware programs designed to keep you safe. Also, the system resources impact and user-friendliness of anti-malware software are constantly refined, resulting in ever-changing rankings on those important criteria as well. So which is best? Let's look at the data, and see if it's time to switch... Time For a Security Software Checkup While it’s not cost- or time-effective to change your protection every three months, I think an annual review of how your current security suite ranks among competitors is wise. It’s kind of like car insurance: it doesn’t hurt to check, and it could save you hundreds (in lost data, stolen money, and credit repair costs). There are at least six independent labs that test anti-malware software all year long, publishing results regularly. West Coast Labs, Virus Bulletin, and ICSA Labs test only the threat-detection capabilities of anti-malware software. Dennis Technology Labs, AV-Test Institute, and AV-Comparatives attempt to simulate real-world malware attack scenarios. Generally, the reports these outfits generate are incredibly dry, detailed, and bewildering to all but the geekiest security pros. I’ve long wished that there was a simple tool that would tell me at a glance what I want to know. Finally, my wish has been granted! The good geeks at AV-TEST have created a page that links to infographic rankings for over two dozen security suites. Click on your flavor of Windows (8.1, 7, Vista, and even XP). Click on the up/down arrow of the column that interests you (Protection, Perfomance, Usability) to sort best-to-worst or vice versa. Presto: there’s what you want to know! The geeky details about any program’s test performance are displayed when you click on the arrow at the right end of the program’s row in the table. The last AV-TEST report was published in April, 2015. Here are the top 5 ranked programs in each test category for Windows 7: Protection (the top nine had perfect scores): Those who are still using Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) should note that this program came in dead last, with a score of 0.5 out of 6.0 for Protection. MSE detected only 87% of zero-day attacks and 93% of the widespread and prevalent malware samples. I've been recommending that users switch to ANYTHING else, since my October 2013 article Microsoft Security Essentials: EPIC FAIL. Avira Antivirus Pro 2015 AhnLab V3 Internet Security 9.0 Bitdefender Internet Security 2015 ZoneAlarm Extreme Security 13.4 F-Secure Internet Security 2015 Performance and Usability Factors Performance (the top three had perfect scores): Bitdefender Internet Security 2015 Kaspersky Internet Security 2015 Norton Security 2015 Bullguard Internet Security 15.0 Avira Antivirus Pro 2015 Usability: (the top twelve had perfect scores): Bullguard Internet Security 15.0 Avira Antivirus Pro 2015 AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2015 Avast Free Anti-Virus 2015 Bitdefender Internet Security 2015 As this short list shows, there’s a bit of a tradeoff between protection and performance. Another nice feature of AV-TEST’s summary page is that you can easily compare scores in all three test categories. I was able to see at a glance that only Bitdefender and Kaspersky had perfect scores in all three categories. Should You Switch Your Security Software? If your current security software isn’t among the top five (or the top ten), that doesn’t mean it’s no good. ALMOST all of the software tested performs very well, or the developers wouldn’t pay to have their wares tested. The differences between #1 and #10 are often insignificantly small. (Why almost? See the inset on this page.) For example, in the Protection category, there were actually 9 entries tied with perfect scores of 100% in both "Protection against 0-day malware attacks" and "Detection of widespread and prevalent malware." (AV-TEST scores that a 6.0 out of 6.0.) Several others had scores of 99% or 100% in those tests, and were scored as 5.5 or 5.0. And oddly, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2015 scored 100% on both, but was awarded a score of 4.5 on the Protection scale. The test labs help keep developers honest by scrutinizing exactly what the latter’s software is doing during tests. Earlier this year, Chinese developer Tencent was caught cheating on three labs’ tests to boost its performance rating. In a separate incident, Qihoo 360 software supplied for testing was different from the version that consumers can download; it omitted one of two scanning engines to improve performance.