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AV-Comparatives: Malware Protection Test September 2020
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File Detection Test with Execution including false alarm test 


Introduction

In the Malware Protection Test, malicious files are executed on the system. While in the Real-World Protection Test the vector is the web, in the Malware Protection Test the vectors can be e.g. network drives, USB or cover scenarios where the malware is already on the disk.

Please note that we do not recommend purchasing a product purely on the basis of one individual test or even one type of test. Rather, we would suggest that readers consult also our other recent test reports, and consider factors such as price, ease of use, compatibility and support. Installing a free trial version allows a program to be tested in everyday use before purchase.

In principle, home-user Internet security suites are included in this test. However, some vendors asked us to include their (free) antivirus security product instead.

Test Procedure

The Malware Protection Test assesses a security program’s ability to protect a system against infection by malicious files before, during or after execution. The methodology used for each product tested is as follows. Prior to execution, all the test samples are subjected to on-access and on-demand scans by the security program, with each of these being done both offline and online. Any samples that have not been detected by any of these scans are then executed on the test system, with Internet/cloud access available, to allow e.g. behavioral detection features to come into play. If a product does not prevent or reverse all the changes made by a particular malware sample within a given time period, that test case is considered to be a miss. If the user is asked to decide whether a malware sample should be allowed to run, and in the case of the worst user decision system changes are observed, the test case is rated as “user-dependent”.

Detection vs. Protection

The File Detection Test we performed in previous years was a detection-only test. That is to say, it only tested the ability of security programs to detect a malicious program file before execution. This ability remains an important feature of an antivirus product, and is essential for anyone who e.g. wants to check that a file is harmless before forwarding it to friends, family or colleagues.

This Malware Protection Test checks not only the detection rates, but also the protection capabilities, i.e. the ability to prevent a malicious program from actually making any changes to the system. In some cases, an antivirus program may not recognise a malware sample when it is inactive, but will recognise it when it is running. Additionally, a number of AV products use behavioural detection to look for, and block, attempts by a program to carry out system changes typical of malware. Our Malware Protection Test measures the overall ability of security products to protect the system against malicious programs, whether before, during or after execution. It complements our Real-World Protection Test, which sources its malware samples from live URLs, allowing features such as URL blockers to come into play. Both tests include execution of any malware not detected by other features, thus allowing “last line of defence” features to come into play.

One of the significances of cloud detection mechanisms is this: Malware authors are constantly searching for new methods to bypass detection and security mechanisms. Using cloud detection enables vendors to detect and classify suspicious files in real-time to protect the user against currently unknown malware. Keeping some parts of the protection technology in the cloud prevents malware authors from adapting quickly to new detection rules.

Testcases

The test set used for this test consisted of 10,102 malware samples, assembled after consulting telemetry data with the aim of including recent, prevalent samples that are endangering users in the field. Malware variants were clustered, in order to build a more representative test-set (i.e. to avoid over-representation of the very same malware in the set). The sample collection process was stopped end of August 2020.

Ranking System

Hierarchical Cluster Analysis

This dendrogram shows the results of the cluster analysis over the online protection rates. It indicates at what level of similarity the clusters are joined. The red drafted line defines the level of similarity. Each intersection indicates a group.
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