It’s pretty much tradition now for me. When my family and I go to other family members’ homes for the holidays, I get sucked into cleaning-up and tuning their computers of various varieties. Desktops are definitely the most vulnerable because they’re wide open for everyone in the house to use and most times it’s kids that get their greasy paws all over the machines, downloading and installing whatever pops up on the monitor. At the other end of the spectrum, frankly, the elder and you would think wiser members of the family also have the most issues because they’re much less computer-savvy and easily duped into malware infestations. However, this year, there was a turn of events I didn’t expect. I was surprised to discover that a couple of the machines I safe-guarded last year, were rife with malware, viruses and various levels of screwed-upness, despite my best attempts to keep them secure. You see, the AV software I had installed previously was so full of holes it was like Swiss cheese. Ouch.
Dennis Technology Labs recently released a report (PDF) on Home Anti-Virus Protection Software efficacy. It’s a detailed report that rates anti-malware and AV packages from many of the major solutions providers. As it turns out, the variation in quality of protection and security, between the top packages out there currently, is drastic and significant. My top security package of choice last year was dead last of course. Apparently, Microsoft Security Essentials, while free and light-weight on system resources, routinely gets ripped to shreds by the latest malware exploits. Uggh. So much for being the “expert” in the family. That will teach them to interrupt my holiday roast beef binging with “Uncle Dave, can you fix my PC?”
The above graphic is perhaps the most telling. DTL steps through some of the more popular antivirus/anti-malware products on the market currently, showing out of a total of 100 incidents, the number of times a product either successfully defended the host machine, neutralized the threat, or was compromised. Microsoft Security Essentials was compromised almost 40% of the time, which was by far the worst showing of the group. AVG and McAfee brought up the rear as well but with much less vulnerability at 12 and 9 percent respectively.
The Dennis report is comprehensive and detailed but you should know that this is just a snapshot in time, for Q4 2013. Things can and do change frequently. These reports are released throughout the year by various security research firms and sometimes the top performer lists vary. DTL lists Kaspersky, ESET and Norton as the top performers, with an honorable mention for Avast!, while AVG, BitDefender and Trend Micro make the cut with solid ratings as well. Security firm AV-Test, on the other hand, noted AVG and BitDefender as top performers earlier this year.
My personal favorite currently is Avast. It’s free, light-weight and if you put it in “silent game mode” it hardly makes a peep at you, unless you trip over some bad stuff. It also scored well with an “AA” rating in the DTL report. What’s your favorite AV product? Is it on the list short list?
And by the way, if you’re still running Windows XP, not only has Microsoft sounded the death knell multiple times in terms of support, it’s easily one of the most vulnerable operating systems in wide deployment right now. Get off Windows XP ASAP if you can. And while you’re at it, check that aging antivirus package you might still be using as well. If you haven’t updated you AV installation recently, chances are your PC is a playground for bad bugs.