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  • What Those Antivirus Tests Really Mean (and How to Find a Good One)
Technology Articles > Software > Security & Privacy > What Those Antivirus Tests Really Mean (and How to Find a Good One)

You know that you need an antivirus program or suite, right? You also know that the back of all antivirus boxes contain testing information and other charts. These details look official enough and seem to contain all the justification in the world for a high-priced program, but what do those test numbers really mean? More importantly, can you actually trust that the tests performed were done so in good faith?

There are a few distinct antivirus testing companies that can be trusted to provide accurate results. Reading these results, however, is a different story altogether. Before you buy an antivirus program based on a lot of interesting numbers, take a look at the information listed below and become a savvy shopper.


Did you know that there’s an Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization (AMTSO)? This organization was founded in 2008 and its mandate is to provide clear and accurate anti-malware testing regulations to the public at large. The AMTSO tests most anti-malware programs and rates these programs according to a specific scale. The labs associated with the AMTSO have been certified and are trusted by this organization to provide accurate results. So, the first thing you’ll want to look for when buying an anti-virus program is whether or not tests have been conducted by a lab associated with the AMTSO (information about these labs is listed on the organization’s website).

Types of Certification

Anti-virus programs often contain two certification annotations. The first is the VB100 certification. The VB100 designation is granted by ICSA Labs and West Coast Labs (both AMTSO approved) alike. These labs test each program based on ten different criteria. Essentially, a program must detect and clean up all viruses and malware without harming any system programs that are important or necessary. In addition, all suites must also detect any new or recent viruses or malware. The second type of certification includes ADVANCED, ADVANCED+, and STANDARD.

AV-Comparatives (an Australian-based lab) performs the “advanced” tests. Again, this lab tests each portion of a program and designates each section with one of the aforementioned certifications (advanced, advanced+, or standard). This lab works to discover whether or not a virus program can detect new or newly formed viruses. Most programs obtain some type of certification from AV-Comparatives, though some programs fail completely and are not designated with even the lesser of the three (Standard). So, in short, look for a virus program that has any or all of the certifications listed in this section (the more the better).

After looking at the certifications on the back of a product package, make sure to also take a look at some security reviews. Each reviewer (myself included) has their own set of testing standards, though most reviewers do check with the major labs to see whether or not a product is even worth testing. Even if you see a cheap anti-malware suite that looks great, you’ll be wasting your money if you don’t first check for those all-important certifications, so keep this in mind while you shop!