Security Advisor

Microsoft Security Essentials Fails

When detecting new zero-day threats, the free Microsoft antivirus software was only able to catch 64 percent of attacks.

If unfamiliar with AV-Test, a German security firm that specializes in evaluating endpoint security software, I highly recommend giving the site a bookmark.

AV-Test is the first place to go when evaluating new electronic security safety nets for both your home and enterprise. And it's the first place to go to for information on why Microsoft's Security Essentials, the company's free antivirus program, doesn't hold up well against other free alternatives.

According to the testing firm, Security Essentials was only able to spot 64 percent of zero-day malware attacks during September and October. This is down from the previous testing period in which Microsoft's antivirus was able to spot 69 percent of zero-day threats. Still, this is well below the industry average detection  rate of 89 percent.

As for vulnerabilities that have been out in the open for a few months, Security Essentials did a bit better -- it was able to halt 90 percent of known attacks. Still, this is below the industry-average 97 percent.

In a response to the poor scores, Microsoft sent CNET the following generic statement you would expect: "Microsoft prioritizes protection based on impact and prevalence of malware affecting Microsoft customers from a global perspective. The Microsoft Malware Protection Center actively supports third-party testers to use similar methodology in their test results. We reaffirm that Microsoft is committed to providing a trustworthy computing experience and continues to invest heavily in continuously improving our security and protection technologies."

Based on the recent poor test results, AV-Test has pulled its seal of approval off of Security Essentials. A company can only receive the distinction if it is able to meet 11 of 18 specific criteria, which includes userability, repair effectiveness and detection.

The recent findings were also backed up by NSS Labs' recent findings, which found that Microsoft's free software was only able to block 52.6 percent of exploits the firm threw at it. In comparison, Kaspersky Internet Security 2012, which is not free, was able to block 92.2 percent of threats.

What's your choice for antivirus? Have you found any good, free software out there or is it worth it to spend some money for a more thorough product? Let me know at cpaoli@1105media.com.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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