ITProPortal visits AV-Comparatives labs after Bitdefender triumph

After Romanian security firm Bitdefender was awarded the 2013 Product of the Year award by independent antivirus testing group, AV-Comparatives, ITProPortal last week joined the company at the very labs which determined its victory over the course of the past year.

From March to December 2012, the AV-Comparatives researchers put the antivirus market’s leading products through their paces at the group’s testing centre in Innsbruck, Austria. Perhaps a little unrealistically, ITProPortal had been hoping to see long white coats bustling through corridors and strands of malware being extracted from computers and placed in test tubes, but the AV-Comparatives set up was a little more understated.

A small, tight-knit team sat behind workstations in a fairly typical office scene, but an insight into their test methodology revealed a process that was complex and meticulous; carried out to recreate the AV products’ real-life performance as closely as possible.

The judging system for the Product of the Year, just one element of the group's work, involves nine major tests to push security software to its limits. These include file detection tests to measure the product’s ability to detect malware, a proactive detection test to evaluate the blocking of zero-day threats, an evaluation of how well it cleans up an infection, performance tests that analysed the product’s overall impact on a system, an assessment of its ability to steer users away from fraudulent websites, and the continuous Whole Product Dynamic Test, which throws the very latest security threats at each product and releases reports on their responses each month.

This time around, two products gained the maximum three stars in every test scenario bar one, when two stars were earned, leaving the antivirus products of Bitdefender and Kaspersky Lab at the top of the pile. Due to AV-Comparatives’ policy of crowning a new champion in the case of a tie, Bitdefender was awarded the prize ahead of Kaspersky which triumphed the previous year.

Top Bitdefender officials including CEO Florin Talpes (right, top image) travelled to the Innsbruck labs to receive the award in person, adding it to the Best Repair title recently bestowed upon its antivirus solution by another leading analysis firm, AV-Test.

When ITProPortal sat down with Talpes and Bitdefender’s Head of Antimalware and Antispam Labs, Viorel Canja (left, top image), the duo discussed the importance of developing new methods to combat the rapidly increasing volume of threats across the security landscape. Canja also highlighted how a focus on innovation and creativity at Bitdefender has compensated for its relative lack of manpower compared to rival companies.

“Basically in this industry you have to automate a lot – it’s the key ingredient,” he said. “The flow of malware has become so huge that a lot of the older processes don’t work.

“A lot of companies didn’t realise this and it’s a historical point because at Trend Micro for instance, they had huge teams dealing with malware and they were able to keep up with the flow, but there is a cut-off point where you cannot do that any longer. We were a much smaller company in those days and did not have the option of just hiring more people to throw at a problem, so especially in the past few years we’ve managed to optimise what we do and to create innovative tools which help us a lot in dealing with malware automatically.”

Having acknowledging the strengths of the Kaspersky solution that could not be separated from Bitdefender's in AV-Comparatives’ tests, Canja admitted it will be harder for his firm to stay in the top echelons of the security ladder than it was getting there, but said the Product of the Year award represented a “validation” of the company’s progress. As if our own review of Bitdefender Total Security 2013 hadn't already provided enough validation, with a rare 10/10 score awarded to the product last year.

Addressing the wider impact of Bitdefender’s rise, CEO Talpes was keen to point out the significance of his company’s success to its native Romania, and said the firm's national identity will now come increasingly to the fore. “We are proud to be Romanian,” he said. “Romanians are very good in mathematics and IT, so we could be promoters of that… now is the time to be bold on this.”