Choose Your Defender! 10 Anti-Virus Programs Reviewed and Compared

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Choose Your Defender! 10 Anti-Virus Programs Reviewed and Compared

Kaspersky Internet Security 2012

Good for touch-screens and keyboard/mouse users alike

For its 2012 product, Kaspersky put a great deal of effort into making security management less intimidating. This is evident from the moment Kaspersky loads for the first time. It starts with the redesigned Windows widget (provided you’re running Windows 7 or Vista), which lets you know the status of your security software at a glance. You know the drill—green means all systems are go, yellow indicates a problem with security, and red means it’s time to panic (or press the button to fix whatever’s freaking Kaspersky out). You can customize each of the four quick launch buttons, and if you drag a file or folder on top of the widget, Kaspersky will scan the contents. It’s all very slick.


Rocking an all-in-one PC with a touch screen? You'll love Kaspersky's oversize tiles, which are easy to manipulate with a good old rodent, as well.

Kaspersky’s updated dashboard is equally user friendly and looks as though it was designed with touch screens in mind. Stifle the groans, because it’s a cinch to navigate with a mouse. The top portion is dominated by a status window that lets you know if there are any pressing matters that require your attention, and below that sits a scrollable row of oversize icons. Kaspersky displays four at a time, or you can press the up arrow to stretch the section up over the status window. Kaspersky didn’t forget about power users, and if you want to get your hands dirty, you can dig several layers deep by clicking Settings.

The changes in KIS go beyond the cosmetic. Kaspersky injected the scan engine with a much‑needed dose of nitrous oxide, but it might be a little too fast. Several dirty files went undetected as we downloaded them to the desktop, though Kaspersky sprang into action when we tried to execute them. Combined with high scores from independent testing labs, we remain fairly confident in Kaspersky’s ability to keep malware at bay.

score:8
Kaspersky Internet Security 2012
$80 (1 year, 3 PCs)

www.kaspersky.com

Bitdefender Internet Security 2012

Silent as a ninja and almost as lethal

It’s easy to forget you have Bitdefender installed on your system—that is, if you want to. One of the big new features in this year’s build is an Autopilot mode. When engaged, Bitdefender plops itself into the driver’s seat and navigates through potentially sticky security-related situations without any supervision. The idea is to provide protection in absolute silence, and this stealth approach works so well that we initially thought Bitdefender had fallen asleep at the wheel. Turns out Bitdefender had its eye on the road the entire time, though it was sometimes slow to react. What we mean is that Bitdefender didn’t always stop dirty downloads from reaching the desktop, nor did it block us from pulling foul files off our USB flash drive. Pretty soon our once‑clean desktop had turned into a virtual minefield of malware.


Bitdefender's awesome Autopilot will make you forget you're even running security software.

After a while, most of these files began to disappear one by one. It started with the ones we clicked and then spread to others we hadn’t. Bitdefender disarmed almost every threat and proved particularly adept at weeding out rootkits, though it did let a trojan add an entry to the registry. As far as we can tell the actual virus had been neutralized, and even though all the independent labs laud Bitdefender’s detection rates, its seemingly slow reaction time leaves us feeling a little uneasy.

Bitdefender is overflowing with features. All the essentials are there—antivirus, antispyware, antispam, firewall—and so are loads of extras like identity‑theft protection, parental controls, a rescue mode that reboots your PC in a trusted environment, social network scanning, a virtualized browser, and the list goes on. To top it off, the new menu layout is both easy to navigate and customizable. Bitdefender clearly understands what we want from a security suite.

score:9
Bitdefender Internet Security 2012
$50 (1 year, 3 PCs)

www.Bitdefender.com

Norton Internet Security 2012

An era of excellence continues

It’s been three years since Symantec overhauled its Norton security line, yet we still feel compelled to mention it. Why? For the simple reason that it’s not easy reinventing yourself, and there are still those who view Norton as a bloated, flat-footed application built on shoddy code. The truth is Symantec turned its Norton product around in 2009 with a code base it rewrote from the ground up, and Norton’s been earning high marks ever since.

Symantec took it a step further last year by giving the UI a face‑lift. What emerged was sleek and sexy, and at the same time overwhelming for less experienced users or anyone uninterested in such fine-grain control. NIS 2012 solves this problem by removing most of the clutter from the main screen and sweeping it beneath the rug where power users can still get to it. The result is a user-friendly UI dominated by three main controls: Scan Now, LiveUpdate, and Advanced. If you happen to miss the way things used to look, Norton lets you pin the Advanced menu to the main window, which has the added bonus of covering up the goofy world map that shows cybercrime activity hotspots. Seriously, does anyone use this?


If Symantec ever removes Norton's real-time (and real hokey) Threat Map from the UI, we won't have anything left to piss and moan about.

Other changes in NIS 2012 are equally subtle and effective, like the small Windows gadget Norton installs. Also new is the ability to remotely manage multiple Norton subscriptions from the web (handy feature for updating mom’s machine), the ability to scan your Facebook wall for malicious links, and a Reputation scan for determining a file’s trustworthiness.

Norton added 16 seconds to our system’s startup time, tying for last place. If you want, you can disable or delay the start of programs through Norton’s new Startup Manager. It’s similar to the one built into Windows, but far more robust and easier to use, and it reports resource usage (displayed as Low, Medium, or High). As before, Norton skips scanning unaltered files after the first pass-through, so an initial eight-minute scan was reduced to a little more than two and a half minutes.

In terms of protection, Norton continues to impress, both during internal tests and also those conducted by independent testing labs. Symantec tells us it’s added 120 new rules to Norton’s Sonar module, which is now better at detecting not only non-process threats like those hiding in DLL files, but also fake AV programs. We tried our best to trip up Norton, but it stood tall throughout testing.

score:10
Norton Internet Security 2012
$70 (1 year, 3 PCs)

www.norton.com
77

Comments

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Paul_Lilly

AVG Free Anti-Virus 2012 is included, it's the second to last one (in order of appearance).

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routerconfigif

Thanks for the article. I was just wondering what the heck to recommend to people anymore. I also really like the table at the end, seeing what each A/V ranked on the table (like you did below each A/V review) with everything else would be really helpful though = )

 

 

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knowname

I hadn't used an antivirus program in like 8 years. Then again I don't do much on my computer but surf the internet (downloading avis and programs from reputable sites... mostly), play 1 player games and make videos in Adobe Premiere. I might even add dabbling in MMOs from time to time too.

Anyway my point is, if you consider yourself a savvy PERSONAL user (and you don't torrent... or have client-side email to worry about) than in my opinion you don't NEED an AV program at all! Don't get me wrong, I scan my computer from time to time. I never find anything though, but a good checkup is always good, it's simply paranoia. Now again I'm not a heavy gamer, I don't d/l expiramental s/w or even frequent flash heavy sites (do they even exist any more??) BUT I'm just saying if you don't think you need an antivirus... maybe you don't need an antivirus?

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B.A.Frayd

And in this day and age, with the excessive processing resources we have in our PCs, what, exactly, do you gain by not using, at least, one the the free antivirus products?

Perhaps you are one of the lucky people who have never been infected with a nasty bit of malware, but trust me, if you ever wonder down that sinkhole, your attitude will be very different.

It seems foolish not to take a simple precaution that could save you hours of wasted time, frustration and even loss of important data.

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CHR15x94

I know what you mean. I never get viruses.

That being said, there's been the odd time or two when I've connected to a website that would try to download a trojan or what not onto my computer. I've got WOT installed so I dodge the bullet most of the time, but there has been the odd website that wasn't rated correctly and tried to do crap. Luckily though my AV has stopped that.

But yeah, I rarely ever get any virus related problems. It usually only happens when I start crawling around the lesser known parts of the web. Always nice to know you have an AV just in case though.

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CHR15x94

ESET's really gotten that bad? That sucks, I remember trying out their software two or so years ago, and it was probably the best AV I'd ever used. It was fast, had great protection, and I loved the firewall and all the little settings and details that could be messed with in the AV. I only used the trial as I had (/have) no money for AV software.

Unfortunate that they aren't doing too great. Is it still written in assembly (it was written almost purely in assembly, right?), or have they switched over to C or something?

Currently use Avast!'s free software, works quite well. Nothing overly impressive, but it does what it's supposed to do and most importantly doesn't bug you all the time to buy the full version.

Also, great article, as always.

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MastaGuy

I've been using Mcafee for a while and I got a virus that made me wipe my hard drive. So about a year later, I switched over to Norton and I'm very happy with it. It's fast and keeps viruses away and notifies me if downloaded files are safe or clean. 

 

Great article btw. Very informative. I also liked the 101 about virus types. Fantastic article MPC. Keep it up!

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Ashton2091

great article. kinda miss avg. but now I use a combo of Microsoft Security Essentials and PC Tools Spyware Doctor. (also, malwarebytes, though not real-time)

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RaianTheFallen

Still using ESET Smart Security. I love it to pieces.

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negatus

I actually feel this was a pretty good article and it did include some free options.  I'm interested in an evaluation of Microsoft's free option.  They are in the process of updating it (currently in beta).

 

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glamdring

For the most part this has been a great article! I run Linux day to day, but when booting into my Windows partition I been using Norton for the past 6 months. I can remember how much I hated them, in fact first thing i did was remove Norton back in the day!

After the rewrite I can't seem to find another subscription AV that can beat it, great speed and detection. Watch for sales and pick up the complete 360 edition for $10-$20 on Newegg or Amazon.

 

I'm very disappointed that you did not review Comodo (ICS). (Not as in Icecream Sandwich, this has nothing to do with Android)

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szore

What about MS Security Essentials?????

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Baer

They did not review it which gives the impression that it is not good. In fact it is great. I rate it right up there with Norton except it is faster on boot than Norton and in general it does not seem to slow anything down. I highly recommend it to all my clients and I use it myself. It is light, fast and seems to catch just about anything.

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Paul_Lilly

That question's going to come up a lot, and to answer it, we reviewed Microsoft Security Essentials 2.0 in last year's roundup. There hasn't been a major revision since then (the current build is version 2.1), and we didn't think it made sense to knock another AV program off the list in order to re-review MSE.

There is a rebuild in the works, though. It's currently available as a beta download and is supposed to go Gold by the end of the year. If there's enough interest, it might be something we evaluate as a standalone review in an upcoming issue (along with others we didn't have room for).

-Paul Lilly

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szore

Thanks Paul. Its what I use and I got a complex when I didn't see it on the list.

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Vano

Yeah, the new "beta" is a castrated version of current 2.1. MSE was already pretty much without any customization, and now there are no options at all. MSE seems to think that all users who uses MSE are mentally disabled or at least mentally challenged...Now it doesn't ask you ANYTHING, it just denies, removes, quaranties anything it thinks is a threat. For instance, a patch for Win XP that modifies TCPIP.SYS to allow more the 10 concurent half-opened connections (P2P users should know that), MSE identifies it as "VirTool:Win32/Evidpatch.A" and quaranties it without any questions when you highlight it (not even executing it!).

It reminds me of IQ test in movie "Idiocracy"

 

That said, I still prefer MSE over any other is because it's free, fast (excluding when you try allow a program, which sometimes takes a minute or two, during which time you can't cancel or minimize/close the window!), small foot print and doesn't slow down the system during normal use.

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Zoandar

But for many of us, doesn't it boil down to "should we change from what we're using now? " so in that regard, those of using MSSE because of your previous reviews would have liked a comparison, even if not a whole new review. The article seems to assume everyone will want to switch from whatever they are using for the latest new release.

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0ly1r3m@1ns

sorry mpc but this article must include free options too, also norton gets kick ass! sorry i had nortons 2012 hated it slow as fuck took forever to boot scan took forever too just total crap uninstalled it put mse never had any problems only got 1 viruse and that was cause i told mse to let me run it, lets also not mention that nortons wouldnt let me defrag my harddrive when it was 15% fragmented. point is norton is total crap the reworking made it better yes but still crap this article is total bullshit

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Supall

They have Avast! and AVG on there, 2 of the most popular free AVs out there.  Not to mention that they did an article earlier this year regarding free antiviruses.

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Paul_Lilly

You're absolutely right (about one thing), freebie options should be included, which is why they are. In addition to seven paid Internet security suites, we also reviewed three top free AV programs: Avira AntiVir Personal, AVG Anti-Virus 2012, and Avast Free Antivirus 6.

For anyone wondering why we didn't include Microsoft Security Essentials, it's because we reveiwed version 2.0 in last year's roundup and there hasn't been a major revision since then. The next big release is currently in beta form and expected to go Gold by the end of the year, well after we completed testing for our current roundup.

-Paul Lilly

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caseybiggsconnor

but why to compare a free version to paid version? it really doesnt make sense... it must be in the same category... right?

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alexw1234

The beta is out, but you have to download it using a hotmail account. To me it seems a little sluggish and had a bug were my gadgets wouldn't start, but it is beta after all. I would love to see some numbers so i can determine if it just my rig or not. I have 4 gb's of Corsair ram, a 1 terabyte  wd hd, and an athlon II x4, with  a evga gtx 506 ti. My scan time for a quick scan was 2 mins after the first few scans and the full scan still hasn't completed after 2 hours.

http://bit.ly/vr3tSo    That is the link.

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Neufeldt2002

I was able to download the beta just fine with a gmail account. Also, my quick scans are less than a minute running on a Phenom II 940 BE with 4GB Ram. Full scan takes less than an hour with 1.5TB HDD.

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alexw1234

Ok, thank, I guess my problem was that i was scanning by 3 terabyte as well, i guess when i updated my whitelist got changed.

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glamdring

Very nonconstructive comment just repeating your hatred towards Norton. If you read the whole article you would see that free AV are included...

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0ly1r3m@1ns

i have used nortons for a good many years they promised a new revamp and i stayed loyal but i found no fucking improvment and i got fed up when it wouldnt allow me to defrag my harddrive went to mse every thing worked like a charm plus considering on my old xp computer with nortons 2012 i still got viruses and they still where a pain to remove i just ditched it compelatly. now MSE should STILL be included even tho there hasnt been an update due to the fact

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glamdring

Why include something that has already been reviewed? It's just waisting space for other AV to be reviewed, I would rather know what is going on with the newer AVG than he about the same MSE that I already know about. Besides, if your set on using MSE, it is indeed a good free choice, than what dose it matter if it got reviewed in this article?

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