SE Labs

Special Edition
Computer security testing comment and analysis from SE Labs

Which anti-virus?

Everyone tells you that you need it, but which one?

Classic cybersecurity advice always includes a plea to, “install anti-virus” or “use endpoint protection software”. Journalists, bloggers and even governments hand this information out, as if it helps. Most platforms, including Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS, include anti-virus so the question then becomes, “which anti-virus?”

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Sensible advice but lacks detail

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) provides some mature and detailed advice but stops short of helping readers work out which products might be most suitable. The only time it tries to help in this respect ends in a bizarre suggestion that you might prefer a product that implements the Anti-Malware Scan Interface (AMSI). This feature is only relevant if you are developing security software yourself.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in the US gives advice on stopping ransomware. At the bottom of the list, including useful items such as, “update and patch” and “keep your personal information safe” is the instruction to, “install antivirus software, firewalls and email filters.” Nowhere does any such organisation help you choose which is the best or most appropriate for your organisation.

Which anti-virus review?

When you search for, “best business anti-virus” or, worse, “best home anti-virus” you’ll see millions of links to better or lesser-known magazine websites and slightly shady reseller’s blogs. Some of the most respectable technical websites run sensible and unbiased reviews and there’s where you start to get somewhere: opinions on interfaces and prices. But how effective are these products?

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The best reviewers delegate the really technical business of testing endpoint security to the professional testers. If you read their reviews you’ll see our name in there somewhere.

This is because organisations such as SE Labs spend all of their time testing security products – it’s what we specialise in. In our case we learn how the criminals behave and then copy them closely. This produces the most realistic results you can hope to see in a public security test. We also ensure that our reports are reviewed by the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization (AMTSO) to validate that we’ve tested fairly.

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