Defender is the default antivirus in Windows 8 – we look at how it compares to rival security products. Windows 8 Defender is basically the same as the current Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) product – it uses the same anti-malware engine and looks almost identical.
That is why MSE itself is not available for Windows 8 – the integral new Defender has replaced it.
How Does Windows 8 Defender Compare? As it is so similar to the current MSE, it’s reasonable to assume that Defender will perform about as well, or as badly, as its twin. Windows 8 buyers should therefore consider the performance of MSE before deciding to keep Defender or install a different security suite.
In our latest review of antivirus test results last month, MSE was the only one of 24 products tested not to achieve AV-Test certification – it was bottom of the pile for Protection with a score just half that of the next worst product (a quarter of the score of the top product) and it was also poor for Repair ability.
Protection is more important than Repair ability – viruses can do so much damage (e.g. hiding/encrypting your documents or disabling your antivirus) before you realize you are infected that it is obviously better not to get infected in the first place…
Despite these results, MSE is increasingly popular – a recent study suggested that MSE is the number one AV in North America, enjoying a huge 25% share of the market. Perhaps the simplicity of MSE (a ‘set and forget’ antivirus) has struck a chord – and many users trust Microsoft to produce good security software for Windows…
But what do those scores mean in practice? Digging deeper reveals the following details for the tests:
Widespread and prevalent malware – This category is for old and well known malware – bread and butter for antivirus products, as proved by the industry average of 100% detection.
- MSE, Avast and BIS all detected 100% of this malware in October.
Malware discovered in the last 3 months – A tougher test because the malware is more recent – industry average reduces to 97% detection.
- MSE detected 90% in October whilst Avast found 98% and BIS 99%.
0-Day malware, real world testing – The toughest test because the malware is new and may not be included in the security product’s malware definitions – industry average detection rates drop to 89%.
- MSE detected just 64% in October whilst Avast and BIS found 100%.
The results clearly show that MSE struggles to detect more recent malware and highlights the additional security that the best paid products provide – BitDefender detected a minimum of 99% of the 250,000+ malware samples tested across all three categories.
AV-Test is not alone in these findings – they are mirrored by another well known test lab, AV-Comparatives, which rated Avast and BitDefender as 3 stars (Advanced+) and MSE as 1 star (Standard) in their September file detection tests.
MSE, and therefore Windows 8 Defender, is easy to use and it slows down the computer less than its rivals – 5 seconds compared to 11 seconds (Avast) and 12 seconds (BIS) according to AV-Test.
However, there is an important trade off – protection against more recent malware, especially 0-day threats, is very poor. It is for Windows 8 buyers to decide if this trade off is worth the risk.