The reports of antivirus's death may have been greatly exaggerated. The right way to look at it is that antivirus is not, and may never have been, a sufficient means by which to protect the user against attack. But, for most users, it's still an important front-line defense.
The leading edge of the market for that defense is now on Windows 8.1, the operating system on which most new PCs, including ones that look like tablets, will run.
Independent test lab AV-TEST Institute's evaluation of these products, 25 of them for consumers and nine for business, show that most of them are very effective at blocking malware, known (20,646 samples) and unknown (138 samples). The number of products that detect 100% of such threats in their tests went up from March to April.
It's hard to know how much of a fuss to make over the business products, since businesses are still largely avoiding Windows 8.x, but it shouldn't be because of the quality of AV protection. Six of the nine products (Bitdefender Endpoint Security 5.3, G Data Security Client 13.0, Kaspersky Lab Endpoint Security 10.2, Symantec Endpoint Protection 12.1, McAfee VirusScan Enterprise with EPO 8.8 and F-Secure Client Security 11.50) blocked 100 percent of threats in both March and April. A seventh, Trend Micro Office Scan 10.6, found 99 percent of unknown malware in March, but 100 percent in April.
The clear majority of consumer anti-malware products detected 100 percent, or very close to it, of unknown malware. Only three of the 25 (Tencent PC Manager 8.5, Microsoft Windows Defender 4.3 & 4.4, and AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0) detected less than 94 percent of unknown malware. New to the consumer tests this month is Check Point ZoneAlarm Extreme Security version 13.0.
Detection rate (AV-TEST uses the term "Protection") isn't everything, especially when so many products detect so much, so AV-TEST also tests for the impact of the product on system performance (what they confusingly call "Performance") and false positives (what they confusingly call "Usability").
Of the nine business products, only Bitdefender Endpoint Security 5.3 got a top score on Performance. There were a smattering of false positive detections and warnings among the products, but so few that AV-TEST gave all nine top scores for Usability. The highest overall score, a perfect 18.0, went to the Bitdefender product.
Of the consumer products — Kaspersky Lab Internet Security 2014, Qihoo 360 Internet Security 4.2, Kingsoft Antivirus 2013, and Tencent PC Manager 8.5 — got perfect Performance scores. Some, especially Panda Security Cloud Antivirus FREE 2.3, ThreatTrack VIPRE Internet Security 2014, and PCKeeper Antivirus Pro 1.0, did quite poorly in this test. On usability the consumer products weren't quite as perfect as the business ones, but they were close. Top scores were given to 20 of the 25 products.
On the consumer tests, the top overall score was given to Kaspersky, followed closely by Qihoo, Avira, Bitdefender, and McAfee.