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Security Essentials fails latest AV-Test

Microsoft’s free antivirus suite did not pass the most recent efficacy test by AV-Test.org — the only one out of 24 suites tested to not earn certification.

In a month of uneven Windows 8 news and reviews, Microsoft is taking another hit. This time, its freeware Security Essentials finds itself in the crosshairs.

Independent German security suite evaluators AV-Test.org publish bimonthly tests that rate the effectiveness of the biggest Windows security suites out there, and the recently-published results showed that MSE failed to earn certification on the most recent test. MSE was the only suite to fail out of 24 suites tested on Windows 7 during September and October.

Requests for comment sent to AV-Test.org and Microsoft were not immediately returned.

The news is potentially more damaging for consumers because Microsoft Security Essentials is, according to Opswat’s September 2012 market share report, used by almost 14 percent of the security market worldwide. In the U.S. alone, it commanded nearly 27 percent of the market as of September.

As PC Magazine noted, 16 out of the 23 vendors scored worse this time than during the previous Windows 7-based test in May and June. AVG has AV-Test benchmark its free and paid suites, which accounts for one more suite tested than there are vendors.

Following  report in September on security suite vendors’ struggles in AV-Test’s Windows XP-based test, there’s a clear downward trend in AV-Test’s results during 2012.

Microsoft Security Essentials has never been a particularly strong antivirus suite when it came to effectiveness, but it wasn’t terrible. Its marks on the previous Windows 7 tests this year in April and May and May and June were good enough to pass the 80 percent prevention mark of zero-day samples on three out of four tests, and reached 76 percent on the fourth test.

However, on the most recent test it couldn’t even crack the 70 percent barrier on zero-day prevention. That, plus a remarkably weak ability to remove infection components, kept MSE from being certified.

It’s rarely a good idea to trust one test results to base an entire judgment on, but there’s no doubt that these scores are a major cause for concern not only for people who use Microsoft Security Essentials, but also because a lot MSE has gone into Windows 8 security.

Nobody wants to deal with a computer virus or malware infection, though, so I’d recommend that people running MSE change to another, better regarded free security suite as soon as possible. Avast or AVG have solid security reputations. The current AV-Test top-rated suite for security efficacy is Bitdefender, but the cheapest version starts at $39.95.

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