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Microsoft Slams Failing Test Results for Security Essentials

Redmond claims AV-Test methodology is flawed.

It's deja vu, all over again. Or maybe Groundhog Day.

Last December, Redmond magazine reported that Microsft's free antivirus program, Microsoft Security Essentials, failed when AV-Test, a German security firm that specializes in evaluating antivirus software, put it through the wringer.

Apparently, Microsoft was not fazed by the report, and did little to help its score. Case in point: AV-Test is back again with another test and Microsoft's Security Essentials continues to come up short.

In the recent test, which was conducted over the month of December, Microsoft's antivirus was only able to protect 78 percent of zero-day malware attacks. While this is a slight improvement over the last test (in which Security Essentials only blocked 71 percent), it falls well short of the industry average of 92 percent.

While Microsoft was quiet when I wrote about November's test in December, it's been very vocal this time around, claiming that AV-Test's methodology is flawed. And its main argument was that the average Security Essentials user does not encounter the same type of malware that AV-Test used during its evaluation.

"Our review showed that 0.0033 percent of our Microsoft Security Essentials and Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection customers were impacted by malware samples not detected during the test," wrote Joe Blackbird, program manager for Microsoft Malware Protection Center, in a blog post. "In addition, 94 percent of the malware samples not detected during the test didn't impact our customers."

According to Microsoft's own testing, Security Essentials blocked a near-perfect 99.997 percent of zero-day attacks. While there could be questions concerning the validity of testing your own products, Microsoft's data is based off of real-world results.

Honestly, I'm a bit puzzled why Microsoft even responded to the AV-Test analysis in the first place. Its Security Essentials is the king of the mountain when it comes to market share (26.7 percent of North America, according to OPSWAT, so it obviously has the support of its customers.

And readers of this blog shared that same sentiment with me. When it comes to Microsoft, Redmond magazine readers have no objection to being overly critical of the company. However, you guys really like Security Essentials.

Dan from Iowa also provided some great insight on why that is, and why an antivirus shouldn't be measured based solely on its ability to block zero-day attacks:

"What's missing from the antivirus testing mentioned above is a measurement on stability. AV needs to work well as a background process. The reason MSE does so well is not because some testing firm found it detected this vulnerability that something else did not detect. The reason is because it is far more stable than most other anti-virus systems out there. Not surprisingly, if your testing doesn't involve actually having to support production services, things like Avast and Symantec can score well. However, in the real world, it has to run for weeks at a time without crashing your systems, and that is where MSE seems to shine over many of the other options."

 

About the Author

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

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 Jim IL

I've been using Avast for years. I've had a few problems with it on Windows 8, but overall it's very stable. The best part is that it doesn't seem to hog a lot of resources. My workplace uses McAfee, and every Friday I see a scanning process in the task manager that takes 60% of the CPU. Is Microsoft sure that only .0033 percent of their security essentials users were impacted by the undetected malware, or is it that they didn't detect any more than that? If they were able to show that any of their customers had those malwares, why can't they add the signatures to their virus detection software? Thanks, Jim

Tue, Feb 26, 2013

Agree with Dan from Iowa, system stability is much more important for me than the ability to detect some arcane malware that poses a threat only when browsing irresponsibly or opening a suspicious email attachment. MSE is a great product with very little perceived impact on system performance, unlike McAfee or Symantec. Perhaps if you have a propensity for visiting porn sites you should stick with one of the other products.

Tue, Feb 26, 2013

avg & symantec both suck

Fri, Jan 25, 2013

free avg finds and sorts more problems micro softs version sucks

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