With so many commercial and free anti-virus software choices available, it can be difficult to sift through the specifications and the marketing hype to make the best selections. Aside from the claims by the companies producing the software, how well do their offerings actually perform head-to-head? Are they easy to set up? Do they cause a noticeable drain on system performance? Worst of all, are they scareware designed to scam users out of their hard-earned money?
Fortunately, there are some well-respected organizations who are researching the most common commercial and free security software available. These independent agencies test the products, measure performance, rate effectiveness, review the installation and ease of use, and generally find the pros and cons of a number of product offerings. Presented here are three resources which should help anyone choose the best anti-virus software for their situation.
AV-Comparatives: Based in Austria, AV-Comparatives is a non-profit organization dedicated to independent testing of Anti-Virus software and providing their findings to the public free of charge. Their reports cover performance – that is, how much or how little do various products affect a computer’s speed. They also perform removal tests, dynamic tests (designed to show how products perform in the real world), and corporate product reviews, plus a few other tips and insights into each reviewed product. The current list of products reviewed encompasses 20 of the most popular security suites, including avast, AVG, McAfee, Symantec, Microsoft, and TrustPort.
AV-Test: This company provides research and consultancy services related to computer and security software. They offer free reports on 19 security software offerings, based on an 18 point evaluation system designed to rate a product’s Detection, Repair, and Usability characteristics. If a product scores 12 points or higher, it earns a certification from AV-Test. In the last round of testing, 13 of the 19 products tested earned the AV-Test certification.
Virus Bulletin: The Virus Bulletin provides a plethora of news and information about new threats, testing procedures, malware prevalence, and of course, their own evaluations of Anti-Virus software. Unlike the other two organizations, VB wants users to sign up to use their site. Signing up is free, but only paid subscribers get to the nitty-gritty details of the evaluations. However, even the free information is useful. VB also has a certification program where they evaluate a large number of products (more than AV-Test or AV-Comparatives), mainly on detection rates, scanning speed, and false-positive ratings. Anyone signed on to their website can see which products passed and which failed, and the reasons for the failure. Findings can be searched by product or by platform.
Comparing the Testers
AV-Comparatives and AV-Test are easier services to use. That’s partly because they cover fewer products, and focus on detailed reviews of each product. The detailed reports are free to download. Virus Bulletin provides more news and analysis to those interested in security trends and threat analysis. They also cover considerably more products (69 in the last round of tests), and is the only one of the 3 to cover FortiClient from Fortinet. VB is also the only one of these to offer much information about products for Linux and other non-windows platforms. High-level information is free to registered users, but the details are reserved for paid subscribers.
Making the Choice in Anti-Virus Software
Any product rated highly or passing certification by these organizations is worthy of consideration, but that still leaves a lot of choices. In the end, the final decision will depend on the users needs. For some people, absolute protection might be essential but speed not as important. Others may want something that protects against the most prevalent and dangerous threats, but leaves their computers running relatively quickly. The free information provided by these unbiased agencies will allow most users to make informed decisions.