Saturday, October 10, 2009

Round 5 - Free Anti-virus face-off. Free AVG vs Avast Free vs Microsoft Security Essentials.

Today is the final day of the Free Anti-virus face-off. The combatants, AVG, Avast and MSE have performed well, but some of the challengers performed well and managed to bypass their defences. We also saw CA (Computer Associates) and OzEfilter perform well.

Let's begin round 5.

A total of 17 emails containing malware were received with 7 being unique in terms of the email subject and the attached file. Two emails with different subjects had the same attached file. The files information_audictionary.zip and data_audictionary.zip shows the virus writers dynamically change the file names based on the email addresses they are sending to, and thus the actual number of unique malware files is less.

Subject / Attachment

Your friend invited you to twitter! / Invitation Card.zip
You have received A Hallmark E-Card! / Postcard.zip
Re: approved / information_audictionary.zip
Re: Re: my data / data_audictionary.zip
Jessica would like to be your friend on hi5! / Invitation Card.zip
excuse me / nomoney_swimmingpool.zip
Re: important website / website.zip

Outcome

CA missed 0

AVG missed 0

MSE missed 0

Avast missed 1

Postcard.zip

OzEfilter missed 0

At the end of round 5 as a result of the free anti-virus face-off the results for the free software are:

Ranking

1. MSE

2. AVG

3. Avast

Of the free software option the winner is Microsoft Security Essentials.

MSE being the winner is based on it being able to detect and clean all viruses it saw and that could have infected the computer. We think it could be better as it allows people to receive and forward malware without any warning, which would be better for the community. But for the user, what is important is they are protected from infecting their computer and MSE does that well.

CA (Computer Associates anti-virus/anti-spyware) performed very well. It did miss a couple of viruses at the start. We know that all virus manufacturers take up to 48 hours to release new signature files so this is expected behaviour, although not ideal. The ideal is there be no delay, but that is not possible. Once CA had released the new signature files it then had a perfect score, even finding a malware which whilst benign, was not found by others.

OzEfilter takes a different approach in it helps users delete emails at the mail server before the malware even reaches the computer. OzEfilter did let the benign email through, but that is because we want to receive emails from the mail server so we can receive emails which bounced because of email addresses which no longer exist. The mail server really shouldn't be passing the email on because it isn't an email it generated. OzEfilter also stops spam and other forms of malicious emails such as phishing attempts from reaching a computer. Using OzEfilter and MSE would be a very good option. Using OzEfilter with any of the anti-virus software package would reduce the chances of a malware infection to very low.

This face-off however was about the free anti-virus software packages. To the victor which in this case was Microsoft Security Essentials goes the trophy and our congratulations.

If should be noted that no one knows how any of the anti-virus packages will perform with new malware packages. All we can say is for the malware received over the past week, MSE performed best.

The free anti-virus face-off is now over. In the future if there is interest I would be happy to have a face-off with the leading commercial anti-virus packages. In this face-off we would see how CA (Computer Associates) matches up to Norton anti-virus 2010, Trend Micro 2009 and McAfee. Now that would be an interesting face-off.

I hope you've enjoyed the face-off and it helps you make better decisions as to which anti-virus program you use so your computer remains a joy to use.

- Kelvin Eldridge

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