Review: The Best Antivirus Money Can Buy You Today

2013.07.21

When I began my IT career in the far reaches of time and space, and in the back of a dilapidated closet for brooms under an ancient (and quite still) moving staircase, one of the things that struck me at The Company was the general lack of attention to detail on the antivirus front. For example, as this company grew, as new computers were purchased and put into production, and various software needed to be bought, installed and configured properly on each, the antivirus duty often seemed to be regarded as an undesirable one and got treated as more of an afterthought. More often than not the antivirus software in use would actually have come prepackaged along with the windows operating system, as a limited time free sample. Years would subsequently have passed without any changes or updates having been made to this situation. Of course no business owner longs to spend extra money without good measure, nor do they enjoy worrying about complex negative topics the like of worms or viruses, and so this task often gets pushed to the back of the queue.

To sort out the resultant mess abundant research was required with an eye to allowing the best software to bubble to the top of the tank. And that research of course invariably fell to me.

During the intervening years since, the antivirus landscape has changed greatly, and so has the competition intensified ferociously. Today one of the resources I like to utilize for the evaluation of antivirus software is the excellent and unbiased av-test GmbH. This not-for-profit antivirus testing outfit has been consistently able to produce top notch up-to-date and valuable insight into the best players of the industry and I use them whenever possible to form a major part of my antivirus decision making platform. Let’s take a look at their current perspective on the best of breed players in the industry. The newest antivirus report from av-test.org as of this writing can be reviewed here.

The top three players so far this year are, on an eighteen point scale

1. Bitdefender17.0
2. BullGuard16.5
3. Kaspersky Lab16.0

And following closely in fourth place is the free and very capable

4. AVG anti-virus15.5

Garnering 15.5 points is quite an accomplishment for the free AVG against these creme-of-the-crop competitors!

We might at this point be tempted to dismiss the remainder of our list and concentrate only on the top three (or even just the number one spot), but let us not be so hasty in our judgment. To properly utilize our results from av-test we must first be aware that they currently base their evaluations on three distinct areas:

  • Protection
  • System Load
  • Usability

Roughly, respectively these translate to

  • “how well the software protects against existing and new threats”
  • “how great a burden the running antivirus software places upon the host computer”
  • “how generally simple, friendly, and invisible the software makes itself to the end user”

While all three of these categories are undeniably important, some of them are very likely more important than some others. I believe that the first category, Protection, will likely top the lists of most users. With this in mind it should be noted that there are actually six vendors on the list that get a perfect 6/6 score in the Protection category. If you are already using one of these six (the winners, Bitdefender, BullGuard, and Kaspersky being three of them) and are generally happy enough with its performance and user friendliness then there may be little reason to migrate to one of the more highly placed winners. The balance of the vendors that currently receive perfect scores (6/6) in the Protection category are

4.* G Data15.5
4. Trend Micro15.5
6. F-Secure14.5

* note: the first column of numbers indicate the overall rank of the software in the av-test suite

In addition to the first, second, and third place winners, any one of these last mentioned three programs will also supply you with a very high degree of security while online. For the record, AVG in fourth spot received 5.5/6 in the Protection category – very good, but not quite perfect.

While few of us indeed really do enjoy working on these maintenance type tasks like antivirus research, updates or even the dreaded sticky moving staircase problem, doing so really does make our lives (and machines) the better for it in the long run, and are very much worth doing right. Now where is that staircase lubricant?