Best Antivirus Programs for 2014
The uber-geeks at AV-Comparatives have once again settled the burning question, “What’s the best antivirus software?” Their year-end summary report, which runs over 40 pages, tells us which popular antivirus programs scored best on lab tests for detection, eradication, and blocking of malware. There are a few surprises in the results.
And The Winner Is...
The testing done by AV-Comparatives compared 22 Windows security products in their ability to detect both real-world malware threats (viruses and other cybernasties), as well as phishing, and previously unknown threats. The ability to remove malware infections and the extent to which each program impacted system performance were also taken into account.
The top honor, AV-Comparatives' Product of the Year, goes to Kaspersky Internet Security. It was the only product this year to score “Advanced+” on every single test. In the “real-world dynamic protection” test series, for instance, Kaspersky blocked over 99.9 per cent of attacks with very few false positives. That's impressive!
Products that scored very highly on the year’s series of tests are deemed “Top Rated.” The honorees for 2013 include Avast; AVIRA; Bitdefender; BullGuard; ESET; Fortinet; and F-Secure. In the critical “real-world dynamic protection” category the top performers were Emisoft (99.2 per cent); Avast; and ESET (both 98.9 per cent).
Detecting malware-infected files is a crucial function that AV-Comparatives tests thoroughly. A high rate of malware detection is not enough; a program’s “false positive” rate must also be low. Anti-malware programs have this task down pat; all of the Top Rated products scored over 99 per cent. The winners include F-Secure, Bitdefender, Bullguard, Kaspersky and Qihoo (Chinese version). The lowest rates of false positives were found in Fortinet, ESET, and Kaspersky.
Excellent protection from malware attacks is important, but nobody wants a computer that's constantly bogged down by the task of analyzing and blocking potential threats. Anti-virus software runs in the background, constantly scanning all files that are opened or downloaded, and monitoring other attack vectors such as suspicious program behavior, changes to system files and intrusion from the Internet.
The goal is to do all that without hogging your computer's memory, or using too much CPU power. Products with the lowest impact on computer system performance include Sophos, Avast, F-Secure, Kaspersky, and Bitdefender. AV-Comparatives mentions in the performance testing section of their report that running modern security software on an older, slower PC will not yield good results. They recommend that users move away from Windows XP or Vista, to a system with Windows 7 or 8, equipped with a minimum of 4GB or RAM memory.
“Proactive Heuristic/Behavioral Protection” means how well a program does at guessing whether another program that’s doing something unexpected is good or malicious. Bitdefender led this category, being correct in its guesses over 97 per cent of the time. Kaspersky (94 per cent) and Bullguard (89 per cent) also earned honorable mentions.
Malware removal is “a very useful” feature of an antimalware program, according to the AV-Comparatives experts. Seven programs out of 22 tested achieved the highest “Advanced+” rating in this category; the very best of them are Kaspersky, Bitdefender, and AVIRA.
Protection For Windows 8 Computers
Windows 8 is a whole new ball game for anti-malware software as well as end users. AV-TEST, another independent antivirus testing company, just released its test results on various protections for Windows 8.1 machines.
In the overall Protection category the top performers were the 2014 versions of Avira, BitDefender, F-Secure, G-Data, Kaspersky, Symantec Norton and Trend Micro. All of these products detected 100% of both prevalent and zero-day malware attacks.
In the Performance (minimal system impact) category, top marks went to Bitdefender and Kaspersky, both of which received a perfect score of 6. Just behind those two were Avast, AVG and Avira, with scores of 5.5
Finally, in the Usability (user-friendliness) category ESET, Kingsoft, Norton, and Trend Micro proved to be easiest to configure and least troublesome to use.
What About Microsoft's AntiVirus Offerings?
Interestingly, Microsoft Windows Defender, (the renamed version of Microsoft Security Essentials) which is included with Windows 8, received the absolute worst scores from AV-TEST. Defender scored a big fat ZERO in the Protection category. If it's any consolation, it got good marks for performance and usability. Likewise in the latest AV-TEST results for the Windows 7 version of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), the product scored a miserable 0.5 out of 6.
In the AV-Comparatives report, it says that "Microsoft asked to be included in the tests, but to be regarded as a baseline and not as competition to the other products." This tells me that Microsoft doesn't even intend for Defender or MSE to offer the best protection. I wrote at length about MSE in my article Microsoft Security Essentials: EPIC FAIL, but here's my bottom line: with so many other excellent free alternatives, my advice is to avoid it or replace it.
What Security Software Should I Use?
The testing done by AV-Comparatives is unclear in many cases as to whether the free or paid version of a product was used. The only one they mentioned as free was Avast Free Antivirus. AV-TEST mentions testing free versions of Avast and AVG. But I think it's fair to assume that most (if not all) of the freebies use the same anti-malware detection engines as their paid counterparts.
Use the information in this article as guidance, and see my related article Free Anti-Virus Programs to find one that best meets your needs. If you can't decide, it seems clear that Kaspersky, BitDefender and F-Secure are all superb paid products. Of the freebies, Avast and Avira scored the highest in this round of tests. I've used them both and found that they offer excellent protection.
Your thoughts on Internet security software, and specifically the results of these testing labs, are most welcome! Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 28 Jan 2014
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