Anti-Virus Software - The Best Security Software To Protect Your PC (Part 2)

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Protection ratings

The chart on the right shows an amalgamation of the two previous results, giving an overall score for how well each product protected our PC from threats.

We awarded points by distinguishing between defense and neutralization, and penalizing any product that failed to stop a threat. A product was given three points for completely defending against a threat, and two points if the threat was neutralized and the PC was returned to the exact state it was in before the infection occurred. For stopping a threat from running, but not returning the

PC back to its previous state, a product received one point. We took five points away for each threat a product failed to detect. Overall, this meant that the maximum possible score for a product was 300 points, and the minimum was -500 points.

Kaspersky Internet Security 2013

Kaspersky Internet Security 2013

Norton Internet Security 2013 comes out top, with 291 points. It gets three points each for the 98 threats it defended against (3 x 98 = 294), another two points for neutralizing one of the remaining threats and returning the PC back to its original state (taking it to 296 points) but loses five points for letting one threat through.

Kaspersky is close behind, scoring 290 points, because although it neutralized one of the two threats it failed to defend against, it didn’t completely restore the PC back to its original state. Bitdefender also performed excellently, with a score of 288, but it lost points for neutralizing, rather than fully defending against, the malware we subjected it to.

AVG AntiVirus Free gets a much lower score in this chart, despite stopping 95 of 100 threats. This is because it often failed to get the PC back to its original state after stopping the threat from running. Of the 31 threats it neutralized, it only restored the PC to its original state six times.

False positives

A security product shouldn’t only be protecting you against malware, it should also be competent at letting through safe software. Most of us don’t know whether a particular file or program is safe to run, so simply blocking everything and asking the user to verify every change on a PC is not good enough. Instead, the security software should be equipped to judge what is dangerous and what is safe.

If security software categorizes a safe product as suspicious, it usually either warns the user or blocks the software completely. The latter course is more serious because you get no option to override the security software and the only way to install the program is by fiddling around with settings, which can be time-consuming and inconvenient.

When testing for false positives, we compiled a list of 100 downloadable programs in circulation at the time of testing. You can see the results of this in the chart on the right.

Microsoft Security Essentials performed the best of all the products, letting all 100 of the safe programs past its defences. Kaspersky, AVG and McAfee only blocked one program each, while Norton blocked two. The worst offenders were Trend Micro, which blocked 10 programs and warned against another two; and ESET Smart Security, which blocked 13 programs and also warned against two others.

McAfee Internet Security 2013

McAfee Internet Security 2013

False-positive accuracy

We weren’t deliberately trying to trick the security software with obscure downloads, so we took the popularity of each one into account. After all, something that stops you installing Google Chrome, for example, isn’t doing its job as well as one that lets you install Chrome but blocks a rare free tool that hardly anybody uses.

To reflect this, we checked how many times each safe product had been downloaded from Download .com in the week prior to testing. The downloads were classified in five categories, based on this information, which you can see in the table below. A security product was awarded one point for letting a safe program through, but lost points for obstructing software according to its classification.

This means the products that scored highest were the best at detecting and allowing safe software to run. The best score possible is 100, while the worst would be -232.9, if a security product blocked every single safe program and stopped it from running.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials

The results of this are shown in the chart on the right. Microsoft Security Essentials keeps its top score of 100 because, by letting everything through, it didn’t incur any penalties. McAfee gets the second-place slot, because the one product it blocked had been downloaded less than nine times in the previous week, making it a Very Low Impact product.

Despite blocking four products, Bitdefender ranked third, because the products it blocked and warned against were relatively rare. Kaspersky got pushed into fourth place, because although it only blocked one false positive, it was a High Impact program that had been downloaded between 1,000 and 20,000 times in the previous week.

The worst performer was ESET, which scored only 75 points because of the large number of products it blocked.

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