Antimalware Application Reviews – Who Can You Trust?

imageA typical computer user, searching for an effective and reliable antimalware solution, more often than not, ends up in a “he says – she says” scenario. Friends, relatives, neighbors, tech journalists, bloggers ……., are all only too happy to climb on the “recommendation wagon”. Best of all, these “expert” referrers, can prove their choice is right by referencing published data that supports their contention.

All well and good it seems – provided the published data can be relied upon. The obvious question then is – can published data on the effectiveness of any antimalware solution be relied upon?

You be the judge:

Neil Rubenking, the author of seven books on computing, the lead security analyst at PC Magazine, and a highly respected member of the security community, in recent reviews of both Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware PRO 1.51, and SUPERAntiSpyware Professional 5, was less than impressed with the capabilities and the effectiveness of both these antimalware applications. (Neil’s summaries can be found later in this article).

Not a big deal you might think, except – Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware and SUPERAntiSpyware,  have long been the “go to” applications, in the geek community, for removing tough malware infections – malware infections that seemingly defeat removal attempts by better known removal tools – or so the conventional wisdom goes. And, it’s fair to say, that both companies trade on this reputation.

So, can the conventional wisdom be relied upon. If the following reviews/ratings (including users’ ratings) regarding SUPERAntiSpyware are taken at face value – then, it seems so.

From CNET:

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From SnapFiles:

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From Softpedia:

Will remove ALL the Spyware, NOT just the easy ones – SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition is a reliable software designed to detect and remove thousands of Spyware, Adware and Malware items, such as: Trojans, KeyLoggers, Dialers, Hi-Jackers, and Worms.

From Top Ten Reviews:

SUPERAntiSpyware is much improved over previous versions. In testing, the scan time was improved, and SUPERAntiSpyware was easy on system resources. Overall, it is an anti spyware software that excels at detection.

From How-to Geek:

If you’ve got a PC infected with malware, spyware, or rogue/fake antivirus applications, the best tool for removing them is the free SUPERAntiSpyware Portable edition. Here at How-To Geek HQ, this is the tool we use to clean nasty infections like Antivirus Live.

Now, contrast those reviews/ratings with what Neil Rubenking has to say:

SUPERAntiSpyware Professional 5

  • Pros – Installs and scans quickly. Can repair security setting changes made by malware. Includes scheduled scanning and automatic updates. Payment gets lifetime license.
  • Cons – Very low scores in malware removal tests. Across-the-board lowest scores in malware blocking tests. Left some threats running after alleged removal. Some supposedly blocked threats actually installed and launched.
  • Bottom Line – SUPERAntiSpyware Professional 5 has the same limited malware cleanup capability as the free edition. It adds automatic updates, scheduled scanning, and very poor malware blocking. There’s no reason to consider paying for this tool.

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware PRO 1.51

  • Pros – Very good malware cleanup. Fast install, fast scan. Designed to block malware attack at many levels.
  • Cons – Less effective at rootkit removal. Didn’t block all malware downloads. Poor malware blocking scores.
  • Bottom Line – The independent labs don’t test Malwarebytes, so I have to rely solely on my own hands-on tests. My results indicate that the product’s malware removal capabilities are vastly better than its malware blocking abilities. That makes the free edition a better deal.

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Even an uninterested observer would agree, that the computer security sector is prone to exaggeration, hyperbole, overstatement ….. and, in some cases, a certain sense of distortion. So, who can you turn to for an impartial and accurate breakdown on the efficacy of an antimalware solution.

Unfortunately, there is no one perfect solution but, the following sites should prove helpful. As well, if you are relying on a recommendation from a tech journalist, be sure the recommendation is based on an actually TEST of the product under review. I can assure you, most tech journalists do not test applications which they recommend. The reviews earlier in this article speak strongly to that issue.

Suggested sites:

AV-Comparatives.org – On this site you will find independent comparatives of Anti-Virus software.

Anti-malware Test lab – Independent testing of anti-malware solutions.

West Coast Labs – WCL specializes in functionality testing, performance validation and the Checkmark Certification of information security products and services.

NSS LabsConsumer Anti-Malware Products: Group Test Report Q3 2010

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16 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Freeware, Malware Protection, Opinion, Point of View, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

16 responses to “Antimalware Application Reviews – Who Can You Trust?

  1. Jack Ryan

    Interesting article and eager to know why the Virus Bulletin 100% award isn’t considered as one of the better data points?

  2. TRY

    Interesting article Sir! Hands down I would go with Malwarebytes Antimalware Pro since its detection has been getting better and better every day compared to AV’s, its true strength lies in catching zero day malwares before they can infect the system, which so many heavyweights of AV world seems to miss all time.
    SUPERAntiSpyware has nice improved GUI and fast scans and ease of use in their v.5 but unfortunately that’s all to it, its detection rate is anything but pathetic as many other independent tests has shown MBAM drubbing SAS by a long shot.I always advice people less versed in security to have MBAM Pro alongside with any decent AV but of course SAS can used as well for a second opinion.

  3. John

    Hi Bill,
    Very interesting article indeed. Considering I have the payed version of SUPERAntiSpyware and had always believed that with the combo of that and the free version of Malwarebytes that I was fairly well covered, maybe I will have to invest in Malwarebytes instead. 🙂

    I have just gone through yet another reformat in the hope of trying to keep this old girl going for a while longer. In doing so I have come to the realization that because my PC is just too old to cope with the amount of security layering that I like to use all at once I have had to thin the herd so to speak.

    Currently I’m giving both the Kaspersky Internet Security 2012 and the Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2012 a spin as they are both to be had at the moment with 90 day trials. I have never used Kaspersky before and so far I’m pretty impressed with what they have to offer.

    Cheers,
    John

    • Hey John,

      How goes the search for mineral wealth?

      The proof of the pudding is…., and all that. If you feel comfortable with SuperAntiSpyware and it’s been doing the job for you – consider carefully before you replace it.

      I’ve written on this here more than a few times – the fact is, AV ratings go up and down like the proverbial toilet seat. For example – I’ve stayed with Microsoft Security Essentials since its release, and watched as it has advanced and retreated in the ratings any number of time times.

      In all that time (up or down in the ratings), it has never let me down.

      Good to hear from you, and I hope all is well in the great Down Under.

      Best,

      Bill

  4. You’re right, there are a lot of crazy ‘reviews’, but very few based on real scientific testing. The ‘independent’ labs you cite are paid by the AV companies. For gloves-off, truly independent and unsponsored testing, see the work of NSS Labs https://www.nsslabs.com/research/endpoint-security/anti-malware/

  5. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    I guess everyone has their opinion on what works. As you say, real testing of the product is what counts.
    The first time I came across your site, was researching Malwarebytes, due to infection of a number of nasties. Your review was spot on, it found and removed the said nasties.
    I also ran Superantispyware, which found more nasties missed by MWB. Which shows what the layered security strategy is about. Just because a product might miss an infection, doesn’t mean it’s crap.
    Having been a regular visitor to your blog for a few years now, I trust your opinion on products and if I want to get an opinion on a anti-malware program, I check here first to see if it’s been reviewed. Which, usually, it has lol. You’re a busy man.
    Cheers
    Mal

    • Hey Mal,

      As it has often been said – “you can make up your own mind but, you cannot make up your own facts”. Unfortunately, more often than not, AV reviewers push out “facts” which are not personally known to the reviewer. In other words, these facts, haven’t been tested. Instead, these “facts” are gathered from the reviewer package supplied by the developer. I’m sure you know what my opinion is on this sort of thing.

      Thanks for weighing in.

      Best,

      Bill

  6. hipockets

    Hi, Bill —

    It feels like a newer version of some anti-malware product or another, along with gee-whiz-it-does-almost-everything reviews, is released every other week. The reviews often read so well that I’m frequently tempted to try one.

    But, then, I think: “What would Mr. Bill do?” :>)

    I’ve noticed that, when reviewing an anti-malware product, you rarely state that you are actually using using it. So I stick with Microsoft Security Essentials, Immunet, ZoneAlarm, Zemana AntiLogger, Digital Patrol, WOT, and occasional scans with Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware and SpyBotSearchAndDestroy.

    Incidentally, I recently had a problem deleting files. Scanning with MBAM did not help, but SBSAD found and solved the problem. Microsoft Security Essentials reports and cleans an infection named something like “AdRotator” about twice per week. Googling it makes it sound rather benign, but Security Essentials makes it sound anything but.

    It’s a scary world out there . . . .

    • Hey Hipockets,

      Yes, you’re right – new AVs seem to appear like magic. Even so, there is little, if any, competitive advantage that one holds over another – they’re all basically all the same. And so, we have these artificial contests which spotlight detection and removal rates which, over time, move like a ping-pong ball.

      When I review an AV I generally get a free license, but even so, I won’t change from what I know works for me. You and I run essentially the same security applications incidentally.

      As for the AdRotator issue, you might want to checkout this MS page.

      Best,

      Bill

  7. Good article and comments. I have always had an issue with Niel Rubenking;s ratings. He always preferred commercial products including such dogs as, Norton 360 even before they improved them considerably in 2009. No it always seemed to me that advertisers of PC mag got favorable reviews, although his “how to” articles were always outstanding.
    Mark

  8. I don’t rely on any single solution, for myself or for others whose cybermesses I clean up. Whatever works earns points from me. I keep MBAM and SAS on a stick for emergencies, along with a collection of specialized tools, all free.

    On my own computer, not much is proactive besides the firewall. My scans, with MBAM, Clam, and whatever else, are usually boring.