Picking the right anti-malware app can be onerous; there are dozens to choose from, and rapidly evolving exploits are constantly putting them to the test.
Fortunately, a few independent organizations such as AV-Comparatives are also testing leading security packages and posting the results.
Anti-malware testing is a snapshot in time
Currently, the not-for-profit organization AV-Comparatives (site) claims to run the most comprehensive suite of real-world malware tests, and it regularly reviews popular free and paid anti-malware packages.
AV-Comparative’s evaluations use nearly 600 malicious URLs found online — including currently active exploits, URLs pointing directly to malware servers, and emails containing malicious attachments. They’re the types of infections Windows users are exposed to whenever they browse the Internet.
The organization posts ongoing test results monthly, March through June and August through November, plus summary reports in July and December. (The organization’s site offers numerous other free reports, including tests of security products for Android phones.)
October’s chart is shown below (Figure 1). It reveals the results of tests of 22 products as well as the free Microsoft Security Essentials app — noted by the horizontal line across the middle.
Two interesting measurements in the chart are false positives and Windows’ “Out-of-box production,” which includes the built-in Defender for Windows 8 and the optional Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7. The false-positives number is an especially important stat; more on that below.