Security Software for Windows: 18 Security Packages Put to the Test
Already in 2022, many APT groups were extremely active, funneling lots of dangerous malware into the Internet or sending it via e-mail. Since the Russia-Ukraine conflict, many people have gained an awareness for what cyberwarfare is and what collateral damage looks like: deployed malware, such as Trojans or wipers, does not stop at country borders, and ends up at many worldwide addresses for which it was not at all intended.
These days, a perfect defense against malware is more important than ever. AV-TEST evaluated 18 security packages for consumer users under Windows 10 in terms of their protection, performance and usability, the latter is mainly focused on checking for false alarms.
18 suites, packages, and solutions: a full range of protection
In the lab at AV-TEST, 18 of the latest security products tried to overcome the hurdles that the testers put in the way. The challenge was to fend off all kinds of viruses and Trojans over 12,000 times. During the test for false alarms, the packages even had to scan 1.5 million files. In the mix in the January-February 2023 test under Windows 10 were products from the following manufacturers: AhnLab, Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, ESET, F-Secure, G DATA, K7 Computing, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, McAfee, Microsoft, Microworld, Norton, PC Matic, Protected.net and Trend Micro.
In each test area, a product can garner up to 6 points. Afterwards, a sum total is made of all three test areas. Thus, the top score in the test is 18 points. If a security product achieves as many as 17.5 or 18 points, in addition to receiving a certificate for tested security, it also earns further recognition as a TOP PRODUCT.
A total of 14 out of the 18 security packages achieved this additional recognition in the latest test. The other 4 achieved the certificate for tested security.
Protection for consumer users under Windows 10
How well security packages identify attackers
More security: the test for protection
In this test section, in the run-up to the test, the lab collects the latest and more dangerous malware on the Internet and from e-mails. Using this brand-new collection and a second, somewhat older reference set – numbering more than 12,000 malware samples – the lab tests the products.
The best, error-free protection against zero-day malware attacks and against the attackers in the reference set was provided by the products from AhnLab, Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, G DATA, Kaspersky, McAfee, Microsoft, Norton, PC Matic and Trend Micro. Not one digital pest slipped by them. They all earned 6 points.
While F-Secure and Microworld incurred minor errors, they still achieved the full point score.
ESET and Malwarebytes grappled with various major problems in the latest zero-day malware, but it is worth noting that they handled the reference set error-free. K7 Computing and Protected.net also had a few problems in this area. These four products had a few minor deductions, but still achieved 5.5 out of 6 points.
More system capability: the test for performance
Actually, the security packages for Windows have long since stopped creating a system load. The lab nonetheless evaluates in each test how economically the security packages handle the system resources of Windows. That is also good to know, as there are always a few outliers in this test.
Among the products requiring hardly any system resources to operate are Avast, Avira, Bitdefender, G DATA, K7 Computing, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, PC Matic, Protected.net and Trend Micro. They all racked up 6 points.
A slight, yet measurable, system load was created in the test by the packages from AhnLab, AVG, ESET, F-Secure, McAfee, Microworld and Norton. They sustained a slight point deduction, ending up with what was still a good result of 5.5 out of 6 points.
The highest system load in the test was generated by Windows Defender Antivirus for consumers. As the system load is considerably higher than that of the other products, Defender lost an entire point, thus ending up at 5 out of 6 points.
Bitdefender Internet Security
G DATA Internet Security
Kaspersky Internet Security
Trend Micro Internet Security
Avast Free Antivirus
Avira Internet Security for Windows
Greater trust: the test for false alarms
Every user of a security package places lots of trust in the software. After all, it is intended to protect people's personal data and protect their system from attacks. A sentinel that is constantly sounding false alarms or reporting safe software as being dangerous quickly destroys trust. To test this scenario, the lab sends nearly 1.5 files to each test system. In a further step, the testers install popular software and launch it. As a final step, the lab also visits 500 benign websites. In these operations, all the files, applications and websites are harmless and should not trigger an alarm.
16 of the 18 products left the field with perfect performance in this test category and 6 points under their belts. Only Microworld committed errors in individual cases and sounded a false alarm: 5.5 points.
In terms of the package from PC Matic, it was no longer a question of individual cases: with well over two dozen false positives and blocked applications, the product only received 3 out of 6 possible points.
What is the best Windows security program?
Fortunately, the question is not which one is the best, but how MANY best security programs are there for Windows? At the end of the test, a total of 6 packages earned the maximum 18 points: Avast, Avira, Bitdefender, G DATA, Kaspersky and Trend Micro.
One group with an additional 8 packages followed with an excellent 17.5 points. They were from AhnLab, AVG, F-Secure, K7 Computing, Malwarebytes, McAfee, Norton and Protected.net.
All the packages with 17.5 and 18 points received additional recognition of TOP PRODUCT.
Among the three products with 17 points, we are naturally not talking about bad or unsecure products: While ESET, Microsoft and Microworld did commit minor errors, they also offer a very reliable level of security.
One more fact to note: In evaluating malware in this test, the lab also checks for ransomware. In some circumstances, however, not even a positive detection can prevent the attack from progressing. This scenario is examined in the special test series, the Advanced Threat Protection tests, always with very interesting results.