Best AntiVirus Software for 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!
Virus Protection Testing

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.
    1. Avira Antivirus Pro 2015
    2. AhnLab V3 Internet Security 9.0
    3. Bitdefender Internet Security 2015
    4. ZoneAlarm Extreme Security 13.4
    5. F-Secure Internet Security 2015

Performance and Usability Factors

Performance (the top three had perfect scores):

    1. Bitdefender Internet Security 2015
    2. Kaspersky Internet Security 2015
    3. Norton Security 2015
    4. Bullguard Internet Security 15.0
    5. Avira Antivirus Pro 2015

Usability: (the top twelve had perfect scores):

    1. Bullguard Internet Security 15.0
    2. Avira Antivirus Pro 2015
    3. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2015
    4. Avast Free Anti-Virus 2015
    5. 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.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Best AntiVirus Software for 2015"

(See all 27 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

30 Jun 2015

I noticed that the anti-virus software was only ever tested for Vista in 2010. They tested as recently as 2014 for XP. They started testing for Windows 7 in 2010. Is the Windows 7 platform so similar to Vista that there was no need to test on Vista once 7 was out?

Posted by:

30 Jun 2015

I have disabled MSC since or longer than 2013 when your last expose confirmed my own research. I have used Bitdefender but have stuck with Malwarebytes Premium essentially for reasons it's simple to configure, does not hog resources, effective and relativity economical. Can't understand why Malwarebytes are not in any of the lists though I will try to find out if interest or time dictates.

And thanks again Bob, for a well constructed and informative article.

Posted by:

David McMahon
30 Jun 2015

On your recommendation I've used AVG Free for the past two years, along with MBAM and Zone Alarm Free and have had no problems. Thanks for your good work, keep it up.

Posted by:

Robert A
30 Jun 2015

Readers of Ask Bob Rankin who have Xfinity/Comcast internet service get free, excellent, Symantec Norton Security Suite software, as part of its service. I have been told by a Symantec service representative it is essentially Norton 360, available at retail for about $80.00 every year, under another name. In addition to daily anti-virus updates and scans, it also provides internet identity protection, hard drive back-up service, disk optimization and file cleanup. A nice benefit from Comcast.

Posted by:

01 Jul 2015

From the looks of things, most of us have a "winning" A/V program, on our computers! That's a very, good thing.

What is amazing to me, is that almost all of the top A/V software companies, are doing a great job, overall. I remember the days, when most of the A/V software companies, where "ifie", at best. Changing times and newer technology.

I am still very happy, with Avast! A/V program. It simply, works for me and does a bang up job, too. I do have the paid version, but, I used the FREE version, for almost a decade and highly recommended it. Bottom line, I am an Avast! fan.

Right now, Malwarebytes' program, is strictly, for malware, not Viruses or Trojan Horses or Worms. However, in reading their blog and just seeing the way the
"wind blows", I would not be a bit surprised, that Malwarebytes "jumps" into the A/V software business.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Two points: (1) Malware is a generic term that includes viruses, spyware, rootkits, trojans, worms, and any other type of "bad" software. (2) MBAM (paid edition with real-time scanning) already does a fine job of finding and removing most forms of malware, including viruses.

Posted by:

Rick Swindell
01 Jul 2015

Please publish a similar ranking of your opinion of the best free programs since you have in the past advised that several are on a par or better than paid versions
Cheers Rich

Posted by:

01 Jul 2015

Thanks for another informative article, Bob! Is Windows Defender in Windows 8 the same product as MSE in other versions of Windows, and just as bad at virus protection?

Posted by:

john james
01 Jul 2015

Firstly thank you for your columns, this is one of your best.

I've been using the free Bitdefender for a couple of years and no complaints. Very unobtrusive and automatically updates. The odd time it warns me of a bad site, I believe it and go somewhere else.

I'm a bit of nerd when it comes to safety though and also use the free versions of malwarebytes and Superantispyware.

Posted by:

01 Jul 2015

Your periodic AV solutions are welcomed for their conciseness and recommendations.

Since few of us will change suppliers frequently, it would prove helpful to include a brief history of the proffered solutions while pointing at those that have consistently remained outstanding throughout the last relevant time frame.
We consumers will be more willing to change to a new vendor if we were fairly confident that the move would not be a sporadic one.

Posted by:

01 Jul 2015

Been using Avira for a couple of years and never had any problems. Satisfied!

Posted by:

01 Jul 2015

As always great article Bob, thanks !

Posted by:

01 Jul 2015

Several years back I used BitDefender, but developed a problem with the updates. I had to go to the web site and manually download updates, then after a while that wouldn't work. I wasn't able to resolve the issue. An internet security package that can't be updated is useless!

As luck would have it, in 2012 you reviewed Webroot's package, and I was particularly intrigued by its small footprint and unintrusive presence, as well as its performance. I had a month to go on my BitDefender subscription, but took the leap early to Webroot. I have been using it ever since and am very happy with it.

It may not be in your top 5, but I'll stick with it for now.

Posted by:

01 Jul 2015

Why is PC Matic or any of it's components NOT listed above ????????????????

EDITOR'S NOTE: Because they choose not to participate in the testing done by AV-TEST.

Posted by:

02 Jul 2015

I use AVAST Free, and it seems to work ok.
But I don't see it in the top for Orotection & Performance. Was it not evaluated?

Posted by:

02 Jul 2015

Bob, thanks for correcting me and making me understand, what malware truly means and entails.

I had somehow, gotten the idea, that malware was an all inclusive term, for spyware and the like. It may have occurred, because, I always saw "spyware/malware" written in that manner, in earlier days.

Note: I also, have the paid version of Malwarebytes. Love the program, which was explained by you, in various articles. It is also, excellent at getting PUPs. :O)

Posted by:

03 Jul 2015

Why hasn't PC Matic been mentioned?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Because they choose not to participate in the testing done by AV-TEST.

Posted by:

04 Jul 2015

Do you know what the difference is between Bitdefender Internet Security, and Bitdefender Quickscan as an "Add-on" in Firefox (& maybe others)?
The add-on is certainly faster than any of the other free antivirus that I have tried. I am also using MBAM Premium, with Spybot S&D, and "Norton Security Scan" weekly.
Have used Avast, Avira and ZoneAlarm in the past, but found they choked my system while running. I have not (touch wood) been compromised since I started computing with a Commodore 64.
Thanks for the great review.

Posted by:

06 Jul 2015

did buy the software already for a week but still waiting for the license very very bad service you should not recommended at all they are useless

Posted by:

04 Aug 2015

Problem with Comcast/Norton freebie is that it is resource hog. Avast free is my current product.

Posted by:

Charlie from Aus
05 Aug 2015

I have used Trend Micro for many years, have not had a problem. The max premium edition covers my 6 machines and at $230 for 2 years is about $20 per machine pa, gives me 24/7 telephone help and a great password manager.
I seldom see Trend Micro in the reviews and am curious why.

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