Performance issues, privacy concerns and other problems make it harder than ever to recommend third-party antivirus solutions on Windows. Now it's about to become even more difficult: TechSpot reported that AV-Test, an independent organization that evaluates security products, gave Windows Defender perfect scores across its three evaluation categories after testing 20 antivirus products made for Windows 10 throughout May and June.
AV-Test rated each security offering based on its protection, performance and usability. The highest possible score in each category was six (the organization's use of half-point values results in a 12-point scale). Windows Defender 4.18, F-Secure SAFE 17, Kaspersky Internet Security 19 and Norton Security 22.17 were the only services to receive perfect scores in all three categories. Many others stumbled in several important areas.
This doesn't mean systems running these solutions are impervious to attack. That level of perfection--despite what some may claim--isn't feasible. Instead, these perfect scores means the offerings defended against known threats with a minimal impact on performance and without undue frustration. (More information about how AV-Test evaluates protection, performance and usability is on its website.) Nothing's truly perfect.
These findings show that Windows Defender is just as good as leading third-party antivirus solutions. It's almost enough to make us feel bad for these other companies; it's hard to compete with a well-performing solution that comes bundled with Windows 10 and is made by Microsoft. Just ask Netscape. The main difference is that people can actually benefit from Microsoft's efforts rather than suffering because of its monopolistic impulses.
Antivirus solutions can sometimes create more problems than they solve. Installing them gives another company nearly complete access to a system, and that access can be abused, as "cleaner" utilities have demonstrated. Antivirus solutions can also have their own vulnerabilities for attackers to exploit. Many also prey on non-savvy users to push other services, too, or constantly attempt to get the user's attention for practically no reason.
Windows Defender is supposed to--and according to AV-Test's findings actually does--offer many of the benefits of third-party antivirus solutions without as many of the drawbacks. Microsoft went a bit too far to push Windows Defender a few years ago, which is why it ultimately capitulated to Kaspersky's complaints about anti-competitive practices, but it's hard to argue against good cyber security
Like we said: Windows Defender isn't perfect. It has its own vulnerabilities, and we're sure that some Windows 10 users have been annoyed by the utility, too. But at least people who don't want or can't afford other antivirus solutions have a built-in utility that bests other free options.