Antivirus shootout: 7 old-school vendors show off new tricks

In an era when businesses are scrambling to defend against sophisticated advanced persistent threats (APTs), signature-based antivirus may seem like a relic.

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Signature-based AV a relic?

In an era when businesses are scrambling to defend against sophisticated advanced persistent threats (APT), signature-based antivirus may seem like a relic. But traditional antivirus companies are changing with the times, delivering defense-in-depth for a BYOD world. In this review, we looked at products from seven of the original antivirus vendors: AVG, ESET, Kaspersky, McAfee, Symantec, Panda Software and Trend Micro. We found that these companies have added a slew of new features, including privacy scanners, social media link monitoring, behavioral analysis, tune-up software and anti-phishing protection. (Read the full product review.)

TREND MICRO PREMIUM SECURITY
TREND MICRO PREMIUM SECURITY

The winner in our testing was Trend Micro Premium Security, which has one of the best overall packages for building a defense-in-depth across multiple devices. It was one of only two packages to catch 100% of exploits, with no false positives. And it has an easy to use interface, a quick install process, and a huge maintenance suite of helpful programs. In terms of scanning, the Trend Micro product is also one of the fastest that was tested. The Premium Security product contains several elements designed to keep users from falling victim to common scams.

KASPERSKY TOTAL SECURITY
KASPERSKY TOTAL SECURITY

Coming in a close second was Kaspersky Total Security, which also scored 100 in our exploit testing. Kaspersky also has excellent anti-phishing protection, an automatic exploit blocker, a firewall, and a feature that allows you to rollback a device to a pre-exploit state, should an attack get through. Total Security can be installed on any desktop, Android or iOS device. For mobile devices the core protections include anti-phishing and anti-malware protection, as well as a Safe Money browser mode that protects personal data from being stolen by malicious apps, and a password manager for easy and secure logins for multiple sites.

SYMANTEC NORTON SECURITY
SYMANTEC NORTON SECURITY

Symantec has wisely consolidated its numerous versions of Norton into one product: Norton Security. The Norton product worked well on the desktop, but was really the standout star for mobile devices. For example, Symantec protects not just against spam texts on phones, but also from unwanted calls. Features also include an identity safe and a password manager. Both use AES 256-bit encryption and the password manager is especially elegant. Norton Security catalogs and rates each app you download though it’s App Advisor. Based on each app’s performance, the Advisor will warn users if certain thresholds are too high. For example, an app might be a huge battery drain.

AVG ANTI-VIRUS 2015
AVG ANTI-VIRUS 2015

AVG Anti-Virus 2015 stands out for harnessing the power of the cloud. With AVG’s cloud-based management, protection can be extended to devices not on the network. And AVG takes advantage of cloud-based global threat intelligence to update its signatures. The look of AntiVirus 2015 has been updated from previous versions to feature larger buttons and an easy-to-use dashboard that gives a glance at the total security settings for a protected device. The antivirus scanning engine has also been improved. It’s still one of the slowest in this roundup, but very accurate against zero-day threats because of the inclusion of cloud-based outbreak protection.

eset
ESET SMART SECURITY

ESET Smart Security extends security features typically associated with BYOD devices, such as locking down data if a device is stolen, to enterprise laptops. ESET also continues to support devices running Windows XP. One of the newest features that is the exploit blocker. ESET has locked down programs potentially vulnerable programs like Adobe Reader and Internet Explorer to close the gaps that many advanced threats use. Compared to other programs that allowed the malware in and then detected it, ESET prevents the malware from even entering a protected client. Another high-level protection offered by Smart Security is traffic monitoring.

MCAFEE LIVESAFE
MCAFEE LIVESAFE

We found McAfee LiveSafe to be the easiest to use of the products in this review. LiveSafe also adds in some defenses in depth and extra features. These include things like a very good password manager that can keep those safe across multiple platforms, and a personal locker that encrypts and protects information from any external sources or unauthorized users. Mobile device features include the ability to wipe a lost or stolen phone or tablet with a simple click from the command console. Devices can also be managed through the LiveSafe console to do other things as well, like backing up important files. LiveSafe also includes an e-mail scanner and spam blocker.

PANDA GLOBAL PROTECTION
PANDA GLOBAL PROTECTION

Panda Global Protection is the most like traditional anti-virus in that there is not a lot of defense in depth. That said, it did pick up on almost every bit of malware we tossed at it, including stopping malware from a drive-by website attack. On the desktop, you get identity protection that keeps you from accidentally entering personal information, or having a program try and secretly do it behind your back. The biggest extra is the inclusion of a full PC Tuneup suite, which cleans your system of any unnecessary cookies and temporary files that may be slowing it down. The suite also includes a secure erase function for files that wipes them out so completely that they can never be recovered by any means.