On any given day, you'll find researchers at AV-Comparatives working hard, putting antivirus products through a wide variety of tests. Throughout the year, they summarise and report on the results of these tests. And as each year ends, they present an overall report on their findings. The latest such report names Kaspersky as product of the year for 2013.
While the researchers do measure detection rates and such with precision, for the sake of reporting they define three levels of success: STANDARD, ADVANCED, and ADVANCED+. A product that doesn't even reach the STANDARD level is merely TESTED. Each report warns that despite differences in scores, products with the same rating should be considered equally good. As the only product to reach ADVANCED+ in every single test, Kaspersky easily earned the designation product of the year.
Other Top Rated Products
The report also praised Bitdefender, ESET, F-Secure Anti-Virus 2014, Avast, BullGuard, Fortinet, and Avira, naming them "top rated products." The criterion for getting into this club is quite simple. A rating of TESTED is worth zero, STANDARD is worth five, ADVANCED is worth ten, and ADVANCED+ is worth 15. Any product whose scores totaled 105 or higher made the cut for top rated, as long as it didn't fail either real-world protection test.
Note that some of the tests are optional. Not all vendors approve of AV-Comparatives's "retrospective" test, which simulates zero-day threat detection by forcing products to use old definitions, so some of them opt out. However, opting out of a test naturally cuts a vendor's total score; Sophos would have joined the top rated crowd if it had entered and passed the antiphishing test.
Tonnes of Information
The full report is definitely worth reading if you're trying to decide which security product will work best for you. It breaks down test results into a variety of categories, among them file-based detection, real-world protection, and performance. For each category it assigns gold, silver, and bronze winner status to one or more participating vendors. You may want to check the gold winners in the categories that are most important to your particular needs.
There's also an extremely detailed review of each product's user interface, complete with screenshots. Researchers considered a variety of specific user interface features. Are malware alerts clear and appropriate?
Is there a cogent and useful help system? Are essential functions and status reports easy to find? A summary section reports on products that demonstrate good user interface design.
Malware in the modern world is complex and ever-changing. I'm immensely grateful for testing labs like AV-Comparatives, labs that work hard to keep their tests relevant and up to date. Without their input it would be really tough to determine which antivirus products do the best job.
For a more detailed breakdown and analysis of the AV-Comparatives 2013 summary report, check out our closer look.