Microsoft Security Essentials has released another bad grade in a comparison test, but this time the results would be worth considering. The last failure was reported by AV-Test Labs – the team that has seen multiple bomb testing MSE since 2011. The results this time are from Dennis Technology Labs, a branch of the British magazine titan Dennis Publishing.
In 2009, the people behind Avast! did some digging of his own and found that DTL can not be the best source of reliable test data. At that time, the lab had just opened for business and published a comparative praised Symantec antivirus protection on everyone else and downplayed its flaws. The sponsor of the test? Symantec course. CEO Vince Steckler (a former Symantec man) told me that since I blogged about these concerns on the company website, Avast has been excluded from the evidence of DTL. It is a curious omission considering Avast! is in use in over 200 million computers worldwide.
This time the story is a little different. DTL documentation notes that this particular test was not sponsored, but the setup seems to have put at a disadvantage MSE. Security Essentials was designed to work with Windows’ own built-in safety measures. It works best in the latest versions, like Windows 7 and Windows 8, but the DTL used test systems running Windows XP Pro with Service Pack 3 and Internet Explorer 7. No further updates were pushed to the systems. Microsoft has, of course, pushed a bunch of updates since SP3 was released – in May 2008.
Windows XP is currently less than half of the market share of Windows 7. Are you using Windows XP in a clash of malware really the best way to get an accurate representation of real-world conditions at this time? To make matters worse, Internet Explorer 7 was in use somewhere between 1 and 3% of computers since last September. That does not seem a solid choice for the test, either.
Then there is this little gem in the back of the report: “Sales of partners contribute financially to the test, in exchange for a preview of the results, the opportunity to challenge the results before publication and the right to use the logos awards in marketing materials. ” It doesn ‘t count as outright sponsorship, but it certainly sounds like something that could bias the results.
While the report from Dennis Labs is certainly good to generate sensational headlines, is probably the best way to stay calm and see what people like AV-Test has to say in the coming months. And even if you are running MSE is probably no need to panic. It is very likely that you are at least Windows 7 and a much newer (and infinitely safer) version of Internet Explorer, and both do a much better job in keeping you out of trouble of patches tested DTL-bit