Antivirus – How Effective Against Zero-Day Threats

Antivirus solutions have always been quite effective at protecting against known threats but it can be quite a different story when zero-day (or unknown) malware variants are factored into the equation. According to the results of AV-Test’s most recent series of testing, there can be a fairly wide disparity between how well different antivirus products protect against zero-day threats.

To evaluate the effectiveness of each product’s zero-day malware protection, AV-Test’s researchers simultaneously exposed them to newly-discovered malware every day for two months (March and April). Surprisingly, ten of the 25 tested security products achieved 100% protection in both months of testing. Unfortunately, not all free antivirus providers submitted their products for testing, but let’s take a look at those that did.

  • Protection = Protection against malware infections (such as viruses, worms or Trojan horses)
  • Performance = Average influence of the product on computer speed in daily usage
  • Usability = Impact of the security software on the usability of the whole computer

As you can see from the above screenshot, Panda offers a greater level of protection but at the cost of a slight performance hit. Panda was the only free product tested which achieved a perfect 100% detection rate for zero-day threats. Here are those specific results in order:

Panda also scored a perfect 100% for detection of widespread and prevalent malware (industry average 98%), while Avast and AVG both scored 99%.

Of the commercial solutions, Kaspersky was top dog, achieving maximum rating in all categories and the only product to score a perfect 18 out of 18 . All major commercial players managed 100% in the zero-day test including Avira Internet Security, Bitdefender, F-Secure, McAfee, Norton, TrendMicro and, of course, Kaspersky. Interestingly, Comodo Internet Security Premium also detected 100% of the zero-day samples but fell down badly in the detection of wide spread samples, scoring a comparatively poor 91%.

I must say the results are overall quite pleasing, it’s nice to see confirmation that at least some antivirus developers/venders are managing to keep abreast with malware trends. For those users who are running modern machines with resources to spare and seeking a free solution, Panda Cloud Antivirus certainly appears to offer top notch protection.

I changed from Avast Free to Avira Free several months ago and have no regrets. Avira’s free edition was not included in the testing but, considering it utilizes the same antivirus engine as their premium products, the results for Avira Internet Security appear to reflect well for Avira Free users too.


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10 thoughts on “Antivirus – How Effective Against Zero-Day Threats”

  1. Robert Taylor


    Does this virus testing company charge vendors to test their products? If so that might be the reason not all anti-virus programs are listed.

    Enjoy reading your newsletter, Robert

    1. Hi Robert – I’m pretty sure there is a fee involved, so you are probably right.

      Thanks for your comment mate, appreciated.

      Cheers… Jim

  2. I convinced myself a long time ago – dont remember why – that Vipre was worth a lifetime sub rather then the free alternatives I had used for years. Any suggestion why I have yet to see a mention in items such as this extremely valuable review ?
    Enjoy your columns.

  3. Hi, the title of this article should have read:

    Free Antivirus – How Effective Against Zero-Day Threats

    Note the addition of ‘Free’ since these are the only antivirus types reviewed here.

    Regards Graham.

    P.S. personally I use and pay for BullGuard Internet Security for Windows and BullGuard Mobile Security for android. They’ve never let me down and have very good support services should you need them. Just a tip, if you do buy from them when your subscription comes around don’t just accept their emailed renewal offer search for other BullGuard offers on the internet including those useful of %off coupons.

    1. Firstly, this is not a review, it is merely a summing up of AV-Test’s latest results.

      Secondly, I suggest you read through the article properly and tot up the references again, I think you’ll find there are only 4 free antivirus products mentioned as opposed to 8 premium products.

  4. Peter Thompson

    Surprised Bitdefender is high but then its a while since I’ve used the program and after disastrous past experiences would probably never go back to it. I’ve been using eset for some time now and while it’s not the highest on the list often seems to do well and works for me

  5. Well I downloaded this one at the top of your list. :

    Quick Malware Removal in 2 minutes. Free Download (Highly Recommended) “Sparktrust”

    A couple of things quite worrying.
    1 It isn’t “free” or is it the “download” that is “free.”. that’s a good one.
    2. The scan showed “critical” for nearly everything including Malware…Other detector programs I have for Malware show my computer is clean..NOT stuffed to the top with Malware and viruses.
    So just how “valuable” are these “cleaners” or is it just us, the consumer who is being cleaned out?
    I’d really like to know cause I have my doubts about this one and other so-called “free” programs.

  6. There was an ad on the very page I looked at. It’s gone now but it was there right above your comments.
    I should have screenshot it.Do you have these things appear without your permission or are they called pop-ups?
    Very worrying as one doesn’t know which software is Ok and which is not.
    The one there now says” Perfect speed. Rev up your PC, FREE download.
    Can you see that one, Jim?
    Whats going on with these ads and which ones might be a bit suss?

    1. These are third party ads Colin and definitely not our recommendations – and, yes, the ads are random.

      Unfortunately, we need these ads to generate income to help keep the site alive, without the ads there would be no site at all. We also have very little control over what is being advertized.

      That said; I am certainly not happy that misleading ads of this type are being displayed. I’m not sure what we can do about it, if anything, but I’ll refer it to Dave and hopefully there may be something we can do to prevent this… although, I doubt it.

      Cheers… Jim

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