What’s the best antivirus software? We at eSecurity Planet have our own views and methodology on this much-debated issue.
First, our views are influenced by our work in the endpoint detection and response (EDR) market. We looked at 6,000 data points to compare the best business-class endpoint protection products, so we can tell you what the best antivirus products are that have a stellar enterprise pedigree, and that’s an assurance you won’t get from your typical consumer-grade antivirus benchmark.
EDR products face the toughest testing in the security market, with NSS Labs and MITRE among the most rigorous evaluations a cybersecurity vendor can face. MITRE testing, for example, basically measures how well an endpoint security product can stop an attack by Russian state-sponsored hackers. You may never need that level of protection, but with all the insecure connections and applications just waiting to be hacked, you probably need greater security than you think.
Four of the highest-scoring vendors in those EDR tests also have well regarded consumer software. These consumer AV tools don’t have all the sophisticated security of high-end enterprise products, but you’re still benefiting from that high-end research and development. So here are the best antivirus products that meet our criteria:
Skip free AV products and pay for best protection
A caveat before we get into the details: Microsoft Defender is a very fine free security product that’s built into Windows 10, but for added protection features and operating system coverage, we urge you to pay for extra protection.
Vendors generally don’t give you much in their free tools and often use them as a teaser for their pay products. Given the devastating effects of a breach or ransomware attack (do you really want to get that notification that you’re locked out of your data?), the relatively small price these vendors charge for their consumer products are worth it. For $45 a year, you can buy great security that covers multiple devices and operating systems.
Best antivirus software
So with those caveats, here are our picks for the best antivirus products.
Bitdefender has been through two rounds of NSS Labs testing in the last two years, scoring an A in 2020 testing (no vendor got higher than AA). In MITRE testing this year, the vendor blocked 82% of the challenges by our calculation, a solid result in very difficult testing and well above some well-known names.
For $45 a year for five devices, you get advanced protection for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS devices. That includes protection against sophisticated malware and zero-day attacks, multi-layer ransomware protection, a network firewall, VPN and other privacy protections, parental controls, and anti-phishing, anti-fraud and anti-spam features, all with minimal performance impact. No security product is perfect, but for just under $4 a month, Bitdefender gives you broad, sophisticated defenses.
Sophos is only doing the MITRE testing now so we have nothing to report there, but it does have two years of stellar NSS Labs results, scoring 99.1% in 2019 and posting an A this year while topping Bitdefender in total points, 647 to 600. If Sophos can demonstrate effectiveness in MITRE too, Sophos Home Premium will be hard to beat.
For $45 a year for 10 Windows and macOS devices and unlimited Android and iOS devices, you get predictive artificial intelligence (AI) threat detection that can stop unknown threats and learns by experience (how cool is that?), plus a number of other advanced features:
- Real-time protection against viruses, malware, Trojans, worms, bots, potentially unwanted apps (PUAs), ransomware and more
- Parental controls
- Web protection
- And banking, privacy and identity protection
Yeah, Kaspersky gets dinged a lot for its Russian roots, but we have yet to see proof that there’s any compromise there, and the company has gone out of its way to be transparent, including allowing independent review of its source code and processes.
Kaspersky got a AA rating and 695 score from NSS Labs this year, putting it in the top tier of enterprise endpoint security products. The company stopped only 63% of threats in the most recent round of MITRE testing in our analysis, but with a strong R&D team, Kaspersky will use that knowledge to keep improving.
For $50 a year, Kaspersky Total Security gives you feature-packed, near-enterprise level security for 5 Windows, macOS, Android and iOS devices:
- AI- and behavioral-based threat detection
- Email phishing filter
- Ransomware protection
- Network monitoring and blocking
- Credit card protection
- Two-way firewall
- Privacy controls
- Password manager
- Webcam protection
- Parental controls
Microsoft’s enterprise-class Defender Advanced Threat Protection posted stellar results in the latest round of MITRE testing, blocking 86% of attacks in our analysis. Microsoft Defender doesn’t come with all the high-end enterprise features, but it’s free and comes bundled with Windows 10. It’s turned on by default and turns off if third-party AV protection is installed, but if you want to check, just type “security” into the Windows search bar and go to Windows Security Settings. Defender offers virus and threat protection, firewall and network protection, app and browser control, plus family controls too. Not bad for the incredibly low price of free. Microsoft has been taking security very seriously in recent years, but if you want more than Windows protection, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
If you insist on cheaping it out, maybe go with Kaspersky free for mobile devices, but you’ll do best if you take our advice and pay up. $45-$50 a year is cheaper and easier than getting your identity stolen or your computer locked by ransomware. Your internet service provider may also offer free security software that may be quite adequate, but if you want the best, you have our recommendations.
Other security steps
Security doesn’t begin and end with AV software. You need to do all the other things to keep your data safe, like complex passwords that aren’t reused (including on your home router), update your devices regularly, avoid insecure public networks, and for heaven’s sake, ignore suspicious emails, attachments, messages, texts and links. Do all that and your antivirus software may be nothing more than relatively inexpensive peace of mind.