Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's the best Anti-Virus?

Updated November 15, 2011

NOTE:  These recommendations are only for security applications that are installed on your PC, NOT for Cloud security applications.  Read the post "Cloud Security Applications: Warnings...!"
You'll get a LOT of advice and preferences from your friends and other "experts". Here are my current recommendations....

The top three companies that I recommend are (still) Avira, Eset, and Kaspersky.

AVG and McAfee are not great, but better than they were.  I don't see nearly as many problems with these now as I used to.  I really don't have any of the "heavy hitters" on my Avoid List at this time.  All are doing at least acceptably well.  

Avast, Microsoft Products -- along with all others not mentioned here -- are just "average". (...And "average" will serve you very well, if you keep your system well-maintained, and avoid sources of infections...)

I use Avira Premium Security Suite on my critical systems. It has a slightly higher rate of false positives, but I'd rather deal with a few false positives than get an infection.

Other important advice...

1.) Understand that no security application will block all viruses and malware, all the time.  All security applications will fail, sometimes.

2.) Understand that there is a difference between "Anti-Virus" and "Anti-Malware" programs. This would take a page of explanation by itself (which is why I made separate post on this topic.)

3.) Toss out all official "lab" evaluations and magazine reviews of security application performance. They are all conducted on identical systems under pristine conditions. This is useless for a "real-world" product that must perform consistently within a huge range of hardware and software configurations, and an equal range of (in)adequate maintenance.

4.) Toss out all all individuals reporting that their favorite security programs "have never failed them". ...Never failed them against what? If these people are smart, and stay away from potential infection sources, their security software will never be tested very well. So they really don't know how well it performs when things go wrong.   Also, these kind of people tend to be ones who keep their systems well maintained -- and that's half the battle against infections by itself.

5.) Toss out all reports recommending AV software on the basis of popularity or the number of viruses they detect. a:) Popularity is almost entirely based on a companies marketing effectiveness, and has little to do with it's performance. b:) Detection rate is NOT the most important characteristic of an AV. The most important characteristic is how well it can defend against a powerful attack, and how well it detects and blocks the really "nasty" viruses (as opposed to the insignificant annoyances.)

If you want to find the best AV, ask people who use their PC's the same way that you do, and for the same things. Make sure you're getting advice from people who *know* positively that their computer has survived a serious security attack because their AV functioned properly.

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