Which AntiVirus Software is Best?

Category: Anti-Virus

When it comes to antivirus protection, you want the best. But how do you get objective reviews and test results for internet security software? AV-TEST, an independent IT security institute, has tested and certified anti-malware software for over fifteen years. Now, for the first time, AV-TEST has announced awards for the best anti-malware solutions of the year. Read on to get the scoop on which internet security tools are tops...

The AV-TEST Awards Report for 2011

Dozens of products are tested every two months at the AV-TEST labs. To compete for the annual awards, a product must have participated in all of the tests conducted during year. The tests measure a product's ability to protect a system; how well the product repairs infections; and the overall usability of the software. Awards were given in the categories of "home user" and "corporate" security solutions.

BitDefender Internet Security won the Best Protection award in the home user category, while F-Secure Client Security took that honor among corporate products. Kaspersky Internet Security won the Best Repair award for home use, and Kaspersky Endpoint Security was tops among corporate products. The Best Usability award for home users went to ESET SMART Security, and the corresponding corporate award went to Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection.

I should mention that the usability measurement is a bit confusing, as it doesn't refer only to the user interface of the antivirus products being tested. Instead, it measures the number of false positives generated, and the impact of the software on system performance.
Best Antivirus Software 2011

It's apparent that you can't get the best of everything in one product. However, BitDefender is in the top two in all three categories (protection, repair, and usability) while Kaspersky is in the top two for all but usability. Personally, I'll take an anti-malware solution that gets the job done over one that has a pretty face, or uses less system resources.

Read the complete 2011 AV-TEST Awards Report for all the nitty gritty. And see my related article Is BitDefender the Best Antivirus? for more details on that product.

What About Android Malware?

The surging popularity of Android smartphones and tablets has made these devices a new target for the bad guys, and there has been a huge increase in Android malware since Fall 2011. Google's Android Market (recently rebranded as Google Play) is the official source for downloading Android apps, and for the most part, these apps are safe. Amazon app store is another source I consider trustworthy.

Both Google and Amazon make an effort to remove bad actors from their marketplace, but you shouldn't blindly trust any app. If you stick with apps that have lots of downloads and good reviews, you should be fine. Android malware is a much bigger problem in third-party app-stores, such as GetJar, Handmark and Handango. My advice is to steer clear of those alternative Android app markets.

For the first time, AV-TEST tested malware solutions for the Android operating system. That proved a little embarrassing for the institute. Of 41 Android malware solutions, AV-TEST found six that did not detect any of the test malware samples. That finding surprised and drew protests from one of the developers. Upon closer inspection, AV-TEST discovered a bug in its testing software. That was fixed, and the tests were run again. You can read all about the test methodology and detailed results if you're curious.

In summary, ten Android malware solutions were found to detect 90 per cent or more of the test malware samples. They include Avast, Dr. Web, F-Secure, Ikarus, Kaspersky, Lookout, McAfee, MYAndroid Protection/MYMobile Security, NQ Mobile/NetQin and Zoner.

Another 13 products were deemed "very good" for detection rates between 65 and 90 per cent. They are AegisLab, AVG Mobilation, Bitdefender, BullGuard, Comodo, ESET, Norton/Symantec, QuickHeal, Super Security, Total Defense, Trend Micro, Vipre/GFI and Webroot. Some of these products - Bitdefender, ESET, Trend Micro and Vipre- detected more than 88 per cent of malware samples. BluePoint, G Data and Kinetoo detected between 40 and 65 per cent of malware samples.

Yikes. I certainly wouldn't buy a security product that only works 40 to 65 percent of the time. I'm not even keen on a 65 to 90 percent solution. If you're looking for anti-malware protection for your Android smartphone or tablet, I'd strongly advise you to pick one in the 90+ category listed above. Do you have an iPhone or iPad? See my article Mobile Malware: Are You Exposed? to find out if you need malware protection.

AV Comparatives, the other well-known antivirus solution tester, has not released any new reports in 2012 as of this writing. Its product of the year 2011 was Kaspersky, with honorable mentions going to Avira, Bitdefender, ESET, and F-Secure. You can read the 2011 AV Comparatives Summary Report for details.

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

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Most recent comments on "Which AntiVirus Software is Best?"

Posted by:

22 Mar 2012

More important than choosing the absolute best product if you're running a Windows machine is to get something, anything in place NOW. If you're not running any AV I'd strongly recommend immediately going out to Microsoft's site and downloading and installing Microsoft Security Essentials. It may not have the absolute top rating but it always garners respectable ratings, it's free, it has minimal impact on system resources, and it updates automatically. Once you have MSE active, you can go evaluate other options and replace MSE at your leisure if you decide there's a better solution for you.

Long-term, evaluate whether you're willing to put some time and effort into maintaining your AV. There are some great free products, but most require you to manually update virus definitions. If you're willing to do that, by all means go for one of the highly rated free products. If you don't know enough or are not willing to spend time updating your AV software, spend the money to get a commercial product that will automatically update.

Posted by:

22 Mar 2012

"F-Secure - Mobile Security" seems to have aced the test. It's not cheap at 40 bucks a year, but they do offer two years for 60 bucks. I wish that was for all your Android devices, but it's only for one.

Posted by:

Ken Heikkila
22 Mar 2012

Do I really need any other protection than Microsoft Security Essentials & the fact that I use Gmail? I also keep up to date with Secunia PSI & have Microsoft update enabled.

Posted by:

Ed Stewart
22 Mar 2012

Dumped M$ in 2002 for Linux, not a single computer problem of any kind since.

Posted by:

AG Wright
23 Mar 2012

My cell provider, Verizon, recommends against AV software for it's phones. I was running Lookout and had to reboot or as Verizon calls it soft reset, at least once every day and sometimes twice.
They said I had to uninstall the Lookout and hard reset the phone, which was a true hassle and it has done better. I have to soft reset about once a week now and run no AV at all.

Posted by:

salim serrano
23 Mar 2012

though I may be wrong, at least in the spyware protection category, How come Deep Freeze wasn't even mentioned?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Deep Freeze is good for a kiosk setup, but not a dynamic system where a user may be downloading new software. Everything gets wiped out upon reboot, and a "frozen" system image is used to boot up.

Posted by:

23 Mar 2012

Seems like every time I read a review of "Best AV Product" it changes from month to month and year to year. So I've concluded there is no such thing as a best product. If there was, we'd all be using it and everybody else would be out of business.

As ellett said above, use something ... because something is better than nothing. And take advantage of the many free on-demand scanners to supplement your primary AV program. Scanners like Malwarebytes, HitmanPro, HouseCall, Comodo Cleaning Essentials, etc.

And don't forget that the first line of defense is the user. Know what you're downloading, don't click on unexpected email attachments, don't fall for the Nigerian prince who wants to share his wealth with you in exchange for your bank or credit card info, etc.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2012

Dear Bob,
Recently,you posted an article on your website that said many good things about Webroot SecureAnywhere Anti-virus. Since this particular anti-virus program didn't score very high in the AV-Test score awards, do you still consider Webroot SecureAnywhere to be a good anti-virus product? I am currently using Webroot and have for several years without any problems. However, in light of these test results, should I consider switching to Bit Defender?
Thanks much,

Posted by:

28 Mar 2012

Regarding Elletts post, Microsoft Security Essentials is garbage. I have tried it on a pc and a laptop and found it highly ineffective. I ended up deleting it and I stick with AVG 2012. I tried to install bit defender but it would not load. It either doesn't like 64 bit or Windows 7. I still think AVG Free gives you great protection and costs you nothing. But as always, nothing will fully protect you, especially if you surf a lot of p**n or don't pay attention to what your downloading.

Posted by:

29 Mar 2012

Dear Bob,
I'm using both bit defender and Microsoft Security Essentials on a different P.C. Both of then are working properly on windows 7 64bit for more than 2 years now, bit defender is easy to install and to use the same with Microsoft Security Essential.

Posted by:

Old Codger_2
30 Jul 2012

For AV & malware, I use MSE but also use Advanced SystemCare v5 PRO. ASC now has added AV by BitDefender & the IObit anti-malware engine. Can I safely replace MSE with ASC with AV 2013?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sounds like it should work well. The BitDefender engine is one of the best, according to recent tests.

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