Posted at 11:45 AM ET, 12/21/2005
Ranking Response Times for Anti-Virus Programs

Anti-virus researcher Andreas Marx of has concluded an annual
round of testing to see how well the various anti-virus programs responded
to recent outbreaks of viruses and worms. The results appear to show that
while the major anti-virus products are still having trouble keeping up with
the massive glut of new malware, most are starting to do a better job.

Marx measured how quickly the anti-virus products responded with updates
enabling them to detect variants of the largest 16 Windows worm outbreaks of
2005, including "Bagle," "Bobax," "Bropia," "Fatso," "Kelvir," "Mydoom,"
"Mytob," "Sober" and "Wurmark."

Average Response Time    --   Product Name
Between 0 and 2 hours------>Kaspersky
Between 2 and 4 hours------>BitDefender, Dr. Web, F-Secure, Norman, Sophos
Between 4 and 6 hours------>AntiVir, Command, Ikarus, Trend Micro
Between 6 and 8 hours------>F-Prot, Panda
Between 8 and 10 hours----->AVG, Avast, eTrust-INO, McAfee, VirusBuster
Between 10 and 12 hours---->Symantec
Between 12 and 14 hours---->[none]
Between 14 and 16 hours---->[none]
Between 16 and 18 hours---->[none]
Between 18 and 20 hours---->eTrust-VET
More than 20 hours----------->[none]

For the record, here were the response times from similar tests Marx
conducted last year:

Average Response Time  --    Product Name
Between 0 and 2 hours------->[none]
Between 2 and 4 hours------->BitDefender, Kaspersky
Between 4 and 6 hours------->AntiVir, Dr. Web, F-Secure, Panda, RAV
Between 6 and 8 hours------->Quickheal, Sophos
Between 8 and 10 hours------>AVG, Command, F-Prot, Norman, Trend Micro,
Between 10 and 12 hours---->Avast, eTrust-CA
Between 12 and 14 hours---->Ikarus, McAfee
Between 14 and 16 hours---->eTrust-VET, Symantec

The research shows improvements by several anti-virus makers, including
Kaspersky, Dr. Web, F-Secure, Norman, Symantec, Sophos, F-Prot, Avast,
McAfee and VirusBuster. Anti-virus products that fared worse in this year's
test include Panda and eTrust-VET (the latter being the same virus engine
used by Zonelabs Antivirus).

It is also interesting to note that some of the free anti-virus software out
there (AntiVir, Avast, AVG, e.g.) actually fared better than some of the
more widely used products, like McAfee and Symantec. The notable exception
was the free anti-virus engine eTrust VET, which again ranked among the
slowest for the second year running.

Response times are, of course, just one measurement of the quality of an
anti-virus product. The amount of system resources consumed by each
anti-virus product, and the number of false positives (raising the alarm on
something that turns out to be innocuous) also are very important factors
for many companies and consumers in deciding which product to use.

Marx noted that corporations are extremely intolerant of false-positives, so
Symantec, McAfee and other vendors widely used in corporate environments
tend to have a more complex quality-assurance process to weed out false
positives; this often results in the companies taking longer to get virus
definitions in place. On the other hand, smaller anti-virus companies, he
said, tend to have more problems with false positives.

Regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of various anti-virus products,
it is important to note for Windows users that using any anti-virus product
is far safer than having no anti-virus software installed. 

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