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January 21, 2013

Microsoft Defends Antivirus Program after Test Failure

A small, but influential antivirus testing company in Germany, AV-Test, claims for a second time that Microsoft's (News - Alert) antivirus program, Microsoft Security Essentials, is not up to snuff. However, the Program Manager at the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, Joe Blackbird, defends the program saying that the test is not real world, and it does not indicate that users are unprotected.

Microsoft Security Essentials passed two of the three categories in AV-Test's battery, the protection and usability sections, but failed the repair test.

Blackbird argues that the types of threats that AV-Test is using includes zero-day malware threat testing that is unrealistic, stating that “99.997 percent of our customers hit with any zero-day did not encounter the malware samples tested in this test.”

AV-Test's selection of 100 zero-day threats were random, and for Microsoft to have missed 28 of those does not seem like a good sign. Microsoft also missed 9% of the 216,000 files from the recent malware list. Again, Blackbird contends that when Microsoft specifically looked for these files on customer's machines, they could find nothing.

According to Blackbird, in December 2012, the company “processed 20 million new potentially malicious files, and, using telemetry and customer impact to prioritize those files, added protection that blocked 4 million different malicious files on nearly 3 million computers. Those 4 million files could have been customer-impacting if we had not prioritized them appropriately.”

Basically, Microsoft is claiming it did poorly in this test because it has been concentrated on files it knows to be actively malicious towards its customers, rather than a random assortment of malware.

This defense sounds decent, yet other antivirus companies, such as Bitdefender, F-Secure (News - Alert), and Trend Micro, have all received the top score of 6 of 6 from AV-Test.

While AV-Test's test may not be entirely comprehensive, it does show that there are weak points in Microsoft's software and that it is not one of the best antivirust products.

Edited by Ashley Caputo

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