Reviews and Tests of Security Software
Since this is the General Help section, I hope it is o.k. to provide some general assistance for the verification of downloaded archives, given the fact that we are often in doubt about the legitimacy of a crack or key generator whose origins or inner workings are unclear. On the other hand, many anti-virus or firewall programs exaggerate their nervousness and some of them would even go so far as to intercept downloads and delete files without any respective notice at all. In order to be able to properly separate the wheat from the chaff, it is indispensable to use not just any, but a good and reliable combination of security tools. Selecting the best programs is what the following paragraphs are trying to assist you with.
Further below there is a bunch of links to security related review and test sites. Make sure you read the individual reviews and the explanation of the testing procedure used, not just the global ranking. Why is that important? Because some sites have weird criteria when rating hard- and software.
For instance, some magazines or web sites would give bad marks for «ease of use» when a firewall offers many configuration options because «this confuses the consumer and bears the risk of making bad choices». True, but it also means that if you can't configure anything, the software decides what you download and run, not you. This can become extremely annoying when a manufacturer issues a statement on their website «ABC-KillVir triggers a false positive, but there is definitely no spyware in our product» while ABC-KV simply won't give you any option to allow the software to run. Even «complicated» software comes with default settings for inexperienced users, so the criticism is somewhat pointless, but readers need to be aware of these irks when comparing test results.
Second, there are editors who downgrade a software because of its high price. In my humble opinion, the price should never, ever be calculated into any rating of any product category, because everybody can decide for themselves if the specifications and features are worth the money in their book. Moreover, who in their right mind would risk their system to be compromised just to save a couple bucks? As a member of this site, the price should not be your primary concern, so make sure not to miss out on a great software just because a certain magazine uses stupid formulae to calculate average ratings.
The same goes for the balance between features and criteria in general. For instance, if you don't have any little monsters in your house (or if you know how to educate them), Parental Controls are probably not of importance. Consequently, a firewall whose total score is lower because of shortcomings in that area might still be a more adequate choice for you if it did well in tests that are more relevant in your particular situation.
When it comes to firewalls, some manufactures and magazines optimize/test only the «way in», claiming that once the spyware is on your machine, the battle is already lost. This is simply wrong. As long as a spy cannot tell anybody what he saw in that secret underground laboratory, it doesn't really matter what he found out. By the same token, leak tests against crapware calling home on the «way out» are just as important as intrusion protection. If you acquire your software without an equivalent financial commitment, a good firewall that prevents programs from calling home is twice as important for members of this forum as it is for somebody who purchases software legally. Any test of security software worth that denomination should include leak tests as well, not only intrusion tests.
Finally, don't give two much on the last few percent or viruses detected, i.e. the first three to five products are often changing position between different testers on different dates. How come? Well, since security products are updated daily while computer magazine contributors have a deadline (or a new girlfriend) to meet, one product might have been updated before the editor left the office whereas its competitor might come in a few hours later and therefore runs the tests on an «outdated» engine or signature. Add to that the fact that different manufacturers/testers focus on different things and you might think that ABC is «better» than DEF because it caught 99.8% instead of only 99.5% of all pests thrown at it. Taking into account that the vast majority of machines gets infected by crap that has been around for ages, getting the latest variant on the day of the test is a rather theoretical exercise. As long as two products are within the same ballpark, other selection criteria, eg. configuration and fine-tuning options or resource hunger, are usually more relevant.
An example of how it's done right is MatouSec:
These guys explain their test setup, explain the reasons why they give importance to which features/results and do a thorough job. Not all of the following go to equally great lengths, but since we are talking about security, you will prefer to err on the side of caution and rather read too much than not enough.
Others do not compare as many products as they should or do not analyze them in depth -- the use of resources seems to be something that few editors consider, probably because they always have the latest hardware at their disposal. With the time, you will develop a sense for what is a good test site and who just tries to bring in advertising revenue. It's the old saying about giving a man a fish for a day or teaching him how to fish for a lifetime.
Finally, this sermon reflects a little bit of my personal preferences. Yours might be different, so I do not only include my favourites but a broader spectrum for you to choose from, in alphabetical order to avoid bias -- and because the most elaborate and sophisticated test results are often published in other languages than English, on paper instead of a website.
Anti-Virus Comparisons, Reviews & Tests
Suspected Malware Submission to Software Vendors
Anti-Virus and Firewall Support Fora
Online Virus Checks
Firewall Comparisons & Reviews
Anti-Trojans and Remover
When it comes to Security Suites, you want to revisit these sites periodically, because a software that was great in it's heyday may no longer be able to defend the title half a year later. By the same token, former resource hoggers that were improved over the years hardly get a fair chance because of their previous reputation. After a while you know who reflects your own experiences and preferences best and it won't take a lot of time to keep an overview of the market.
Now all that remains to do is congratulate you for your initiative and interest -- more people should worry about these topics before installing anything else -- thank you for your patience with the long sermon and wish you a great day.
Stay out of trouble,
... le Maitre du Désastre
... le Maitre du Désastre