Mac Antivirus Solutions Compared

Mac Antivirus Solutions Compared

Summary: AV-Comparatives, an independent antivirus test lab, has released a test of 8 antivirus products for the Mac. Unfortunately, antivirus isn't the most interesting part of these products.

TOPICS: Security, Apple

Antivirus lab AV-Comparatives has released a comparison of 8 antivirus products for the Mac.

The products tested were:

  • AVIRA Free Mac Security
  • ESET Cyber Security Pro 5.0.110
  • F-Secure Anti-Virus for Mac B12533.C740
  • Intego Mac Premium Bundle 10.7.5
  • Kaspersky Security for Mac
  • Quick Heal Total Security for Mac 1.0
  • Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition 8.0.15c
  • ZeoBit MacKeeper 2.5.1

The tests were performed on OS X Mountain Lion.

One of AV-Comparatives' strengths is that they define their test procedure and follow it for all products. The downside to this approach is that you have to define which features you are going to test and ignore all the others. 

The AV-Comparatives reviews in this report note briefly that a product contains features out of the report's scope, such as a firewall or backup, but they only test a defined set of antivirus-related features. This seriously limits the usefulness of the report, as those other features are likely to be more useful to Mac users than the antivirus.

There is one exception to this rule: the report describes Kaspersky Security for Mac's Virtual Keyboard, a software keyboard meant to bypass keyloggers in password fields. Kaspersky for Windows products have it as well. Why this feature was given attention is not clear.

I don't mean to belittle the value of antivirus software on the Mac, at least not completely. Clearly Mac malware constitutes only a tiny fraction of the population, nearly all of which is specific to Windows, but there's enough that it would be a mistake to ignore the potential. Most Mac users to ignore it and run without antivirus. The only things which could change that would be severe outbreaks of malware — and if this hasn't happened yet, it's not going to — or compelling separate features to draw the consumer in.

The tests don't reveal a lot of difference in malware detection between the products, but AV-Comparatives used only 20 samples. They say "In our opinion, these 20 malicious Mac apps represent a substantial part of all recent Mac malware from the first half of 2013." If so, it underscores just how little attention is being paid to Macs by the malware authoring community.

With only 20 samples, it's not surprising that all products but one — Quick Heal Total Security for Mac — detected all of the Mac malware samples. Quick Heal actually detected only half of the samples. Not a good sign.

Because a Mac could be a conduit for delivery of malware to a Windows system, AV-Comparatives also tested detection of Windows malware using a set of "around 500 very prevalent malware samples". AVIRA, ESET, Kaspersky, Quick Heal, Sophos and ZeoBit detected all the Windows samples. F-Secure and Intego detected only some of the samples and F-Secure claims only limited Windows anti-malware capabilities in their Mac product.

In their summary at the conclusion, AV-Comparatives lists the strong points for all products, and the non-antivirus features figure strongly. No surprise, since there's not a whole lot of difference otherwise.

Topics: Security, Apple

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  • Let's use apple fanboy logic here

    Because paid for AV products exist for osx, we are now fully justified in saying that every osx user must pay for an AV subscription.

    That's the cost of running osx.
    • That's the cost of running osx....

      This is a bit rich. Windows being THE most insecure platform. You can run OS X quite safely without AV software. Try doing the same with Windows and your computer will be riddled with Spyware within hours and Viruses and Trojans within a week.
      • Run osx without AV software?

        How do you disable the AV software that apple has embedded within the OS?
        • That was his point, Toddy

          You don't HAVE to buy an AV package for Mac; but if you do, there are a number of good paid and FREE choices available.
        • toddbottom3

          You post like you are a know-it-all. Surely you already know how to do it.
      • Not exactly

        Must by why at Black Hat Macs are always the first to fall.
        • Ignorance

          You clearly know next to nothing about security cons, or even security at all.
          First, Macs are most certainly NOT the always first to fall.
          Second, it matters little who is, because the exploits are not written on the spot, but rather after months of research, followed by lots of coding and trials. The exploits displayed at cons only work after lords of pre-exhibit testing. As such, the order that a platform falls has NO bearing on its security, just the luck of the draw.
          Third, Macs are often targeted by security researchers because 1) they find them interesting, and 2) they are very often the platform of choice for security researchers.
      • Mac Antivirus Solutions Compared

        am still dumbfounded by the assertion that only windows can harbour viruses and trojans. get a grip mac people...
        • Still no viruses

          on the Mac. Dumbfound away!
          Tony Burzio
    • You know you may not want to jump on EVERY article, Todd

      Given this arena isn't exactly the platform you are partisan too's strongest hand.

      Apple isn't great at security on the Mac, exactly, that's not news. But OS X doesn't have anywhere near the vulnerabilities that most versions of Windows do (this is, ironically enough, Windows RT's one great advantage. It is one of the most secure mainstream platforms on Earth, as nobody has yet targeted it.)
      • Yes, osx is very safe

        So safe that even apple can't secure it.

        Oh wait, that isn't safe at all.

        osx has more vulnerabilities than Windows. Don't confuse vulnerabilities with malware. Nearly all modern malware does not make use of OS vulnerabilities. Except when attacking apple in which case using remote code execution vulnerabilities is far easier than using social engineering.
        • Re: So safe that even apple can't secure it....

          You pluck out one link regarding a security issue with OS X when at the same time you could have picked out one hundred related articles involving Windows.
        • As I remember, that wasn't even OS X.

          But then, you really wouldn't care about that as long as it's Apple, right?

          Why fro you keep insisting on commenting on matters you KNOW NOTHING about?
          OSX has NOTHING to do with the issue you cited, as the dev center runs on IBM, Sun, and HP hardware running a combination of IBM/AIX, Sun/Solaris, and Linux systems (Red Hat Linux and Oracle Enterprise Linux). So ANY breach in the dev center has NOTHING to do AT ALL with OSX security.
          Now seriously, STFU and go away.
    • Todd at the bottom

      Let's use hater boy logic here: Because antivirus products exist for the Mac, that proves that there is a virus problem on Macs and therefore all Mac users are liars.
    • Yawn

      Your tedious predictability is exceeded only by your perspicuity.
    • And… as predicted you are first to post

      You do NOT get to use any logical rebuttal in comments, as you have made perfectly clear that you have a fundamental inability to employ logical reasoning.
  • Mac Antivirus Solutions

    I am not sure how you missed comparing Trend Micro's product for the Mac in your lineup. I've been using it on a MacBook Air since purchasing it last year for my wife's business. With the active realtime threat analysis, the screening of website links and clearly marking the 'good' links, it has kept our system safe and sound. I highly recommend it if you are serious about the value of your time and your investments.
    • Because it wasn't in the report

      I didn't mention it because it wasn't in the AV-Comparatives report. Nor was Symantec.
      Larry Seltzer
    • MAC Anti-virus solutions

      Don't take this the wrong way, but Trend Micro Worry Free Business Security is as effective at stopping malware on a windows machine as tits on a bull are at attracting bulls. Not saying that the others are much better, but it by far and away is the least effective at stopping malware in my experiences. It may be effective at screening websites, but malware not so much. Bit Defender, Kaspersky and Symantec are better options in the Enterprise. ESET or Kaspersky for MAC's. I cannot count the number of times I have dealt with a computer that was not right with Trend, and when you scan with "input product" it catches what Trend has missed. We have moved or are in the process of moving all customers from Trend.