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Which antivirus is best in 2021? AV-Comparatives report review

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Which antivirus is best in 2021? AV-Comparatives report review

2020 has shown that the personal anti-malware solutions are still in need, regardless of the total level of users’ knowledge about cybersecurity or the security level of operating systems. The malware activity levels in the past year have shown the highs that have not been seen yet. For the users who care about the security of their computers it is vital to find a perfect antivirus program. In this article, you will see the detailed comparison of antivirus tools, based on the AV Comparatives report review.

AV-Comparatives is a rating agency which tests the anti-malware tools and sets the rating for each tested candidate. The characteristics that are checked by this antimalware testing organization are similar to ones used by AV-TEST – another rating agency, whose reports were used in several articles on our website. This article is based on the 2020 annual report of AV-Comparatives.

Let’s start

As it was mentioned, the review vendor whose report I chose as a basis checks the 3 characteristics of anti-malware programs: Malware Protection, Performance and Real-World Protection. Also, there are two subcategories that are not used to determine the final rating, but may add some points to Malware protection and Real-World Protection. Those parameters are Advanced Threat Protection and False Positives – the very important features when we are talking about the day-to-day usage of antivirus tools.

List of the antiviruses tested by AV-Comparatives

List of the antiviruses tested by AV-Comparatives

Malware protection

The sense of this category, as well as the testing methods, is quite easy to understand. The more viruses the program can detect – the more efficient it will be for the end user. Of course, there are a lot of conventionalities that brokes the equation of malware protection = efficiency. But we will check it later. Now, let’s see the winners in this category.

Gold Award – GData

Through the whole year, german antivirus showed 3/3 rates of malware protection. Add this fact to the total malware activity rate, and the fact that this award is well-deserved will be clear.

Silver Award – BitDefender, ESET

Two vendors from Eastern Europe showed the same good results as GData, however, the underlying results are a little bit lower than the Gold Award winner shown.

Bronze Award – Kaspersky

A little bit lower test results pushed the brainchild of Eugene Kaspersky to the 3rd place. However, just like the Silver and Gold awardants, it has the nominally maximal result of malware protection.

Real-world protection

This test lasts for several days. During this term, analysts try to use the antimalware tool maximally close to the real conditions. Launching the programs from untrusted sources, attempting to use hack tools/keygens, browsing the dubious websites – whatever the average user usually does everyday. All these actions are needed to check if the protection rates the antivirus tool has shown can really be proven during the real usage.

Gold Award – Kaspersky

Another award goes to the Russian vendor. Perfect heuristic engine, together with low false detects makes this anti-malware program one of the best for everyday usage.

Silver Award – Avast and AVG

Brothers-in-law, which are always paired. AVG de-facto is a subsidiary of Avast[efn_note]Official post on Avast website, stating about merger process with AVG[/efn_note], using the same detection & heuristic engines, as well as offering their products for the same price. 3/3 points for real-world protection throughout the whole 2020 worth a lot, and this award is legit for both of them.

Bronze Award – Microsoft

The producer of the embedded anti-malware tool for Windows cannot show the perfect malware protection results. However, thanks to the well-working heuristic module and the efforts of the analyst team, Microsoft Defender is able to detect the suspicious activity of malicious items clear enough to obtain this award.

Overall performance rating

Anti-malware software has a lot of background functions, which can consume a huge amount of the CPU/RAM capacity. Sometimes, the old computers cannot even open the browser when the security tool runs. Hence, the optimization and performance quality of the antivirus software is one of the primary characteristics.

High CPU usage by Kaspersky

Kaspersky consumes about 1/4 of total CPU capacity

Gold Award – K7

Indian antivirus solution appeared to be not the best solution for the malware protection, but the performance influence is extremely low. While a lot of other anti-malware apps made the file copying and program launching process much longer, K7 showed no significant impact on the speed of these operations.

Silver Award – McAfee

McAfee was never the antivirus solution with high performance impact. Moreover, some of their products were distributed specially for weak systems that may suffer from lags with other anti-malware software.

Bronze Award – Kaspersky

Never seen it before… Despite the numerous compliances on Kaspersky antivirus, on the PCs which fit the requirements it runs perfectly, causing no significant slowdowns.

False Positives

Have you ever used the self-made programs? In the past, I used a bunch of Java-based utilities for remote desktop access, created by a friend of mine. And it was a real suffering to force Windows Defender to stop blocking it. This antivirus program has some sort of sclerosis, because I was forced to add these apps to whitelist every time after the detection database was updated. False positive detects sometimes may be even more annoying than adware. That’s why this category is one which is used for rating.

False positive detection

The example of false positive detection of anti-malware software

Gold Award – ESET

5 false detects throughout the whole year – this number is impressive. The nearest result is 3 times bigger, so the gold award for Slovak product is 100% deserved.

Silver Award – Kaspersky

One more medal to one of the oldest anti-malware solutions. Having 15 false detects, it shows that all other awards are not just a joke. But it’s developers shouldn’t relax, because the competitors are very close.

Bronze Award – Bitdefender

19 FPs, this result is also amazing. However, this antivirus has several other disadvantages, so its total rating is quite low.

Advanced Threat Protection

In 2020, targeted ransomware attacks became a curse for companies of any size. And to be sure that the corporate data is safe, you need to be sure that the anti-malware program you are going to use is capable of zero-day hazards or fileless attacks.

Gold Award – Kaspersky

Huh, I think we can name an obvious winner. Being awarded in the majority of categories, it can also secure your PC from the most unpredictable types of attack, that may use not only standard injection methods, but also exploits in the network.

Silver Award – ESET and Bitdefender

A new pair, together with the AVG/Avast? Both of these solutions have got several other awards, so the Kaspersky is not the single candidate for being chosen as the anti-malware solution.

Bronze Award – Avast and AVG

Pair is always a pair, wherever they are listed. I don’t want to repeat the words from the previous paragraph, so just keep them in mind.

Pricings

Your product will not be very popular, even if it is really effective, when its price is higher than the industry average. Users will just search for the same efficiency for the lower cost, regardless of other factors. However, there difference between the anti-malware solutions prices may reach 50%. Look at the table below:

Anti-malware software vendor Price (for standard pack)
Bitdefender 40$
Kaspersky 45$
ESET 40$
Avast/AVG 70$
McAfee 30$*
K7 42$

*The only option is to buy a 2-yr subscription for 60$

As you can see, the majority of anti-malware solutions have similar prices, but some of them have unavoidable options like McAfee offers, and others are just more expensive. All of these vendors also offer a lot of other services – keychains, VPN servers, advanced parental control, etc for the additional payment.

Which anti-malware software is best in 2021? Kaspersky looks like an obvious choice, but the bad reputation of the company that steals the user’s data[efn_note]Forbes article about Kaspersky and data stealing[/efn_note] and has close relationship with russian Federal Security Service (FSS)[efn_note]About Kaspersky relations with Federal Security Service on Wikipedia[/efn_note] may be a critical factor. There are several other antivirus programs that may offer the similar security level for the same price. Choose wisely.

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About The Author
Olexandr Shayan
Cybersecurity expert and tech journalist
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