Security tools missing up to 100% of malware, eThreatz testing shows

Malware authors continued to outpace security vendors in the second half of 2014, releasing so many and so varied malware strains that in some months security tools from major vendors did not detect any of the malware they were presented with, according to the results of eThreatz automated malware testing.

Conducted regularly by testing specialists Enex TestLab, the eThreatz automated malware testing program regularly evaluates security packages from vendors including ESET, Kaspersky, McAfee, Microsoft, Panda, Sophos, Symantec, and Trend Micro.

Each month, those packages are tested against a random sample of 33 different malware threats. A carefully architected and controlled eThreatz test environment simulates real-world conditions and monitors each package's detection performance.

Whereas the lowest eThreatz detection score recorded in the first half of 2014 was 17 percent, during the second half of the year that dropped to 0 percent: in July testing, Microsoft's security platform missed every one of the malware samples thrown at it.

That rivals Trend Micro (8 percent), Sophos (12 percent), Symantec (32 percent) and Kaspersky (42 percent) also showed relatively low success suggests that it was a particularly potent time for malware – although not all tools had issues, with ESET still able to detect 96 percent of the malware with which it was presented.

July was a fevered month for malware, with the finals of the soccer World Cup presenting a significant opportunity for phishing and other types of attacks – although statistics confirmed that even the malware distributors took some time off to watch the final. July also saw the emergence of Kronos banking malware, which was advertised widely on online forums and reflected the growing profile of new malware strains; others were found to be building encryption into their designs, which could be correlated with their increased difficulty of detection.

Rankings remained basically the same in August, although McAfee fell from its 74 percent July detection rate to just 26 percent in August. Microsoft still missed 99 percent of malware in August, while Trend Micro slid to 8 percent detection and even ESET declined to 87 percent detection, putting it neck and neck with second-place Panda.

It was only in the September testing that most packages had begun to recover, with Microsoft pushing past the 50 percent mark and all other packages detecting at least two out of three malware samples with which they were presented.

Yet by October, the software was tripping up again – with Microsoft back into single digits and five of the eight tools dropping below 50 percent detection rate.

November's results saw another recovery – although Trend Micro (58 percent), McAfee (30 percent) and Microsoft (7 percent) represented a big spread in the lower ranks. That month signalled a jump in overall security tools effectiveness, from October's 52 percent detection rate to 68 percent in November.

Yet even this surge was short-lived: by the last month of the year, the malware writers were back on top, finishing the year with fully half of the tested security platforms unable to detect even half the malware they were presented with. That reflects a significant ongoing exposure to malware and significant room for improvement for the lower-scoring vendors in these rounds of eThreatz testing.

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February.2014 March.2014 April.2014 May.2014 June.2014 Average ESET 90% 95% 90% 89% 92% 94% 92% Symantec 81% 34% 81% 79% 74% 37% 64% Trend Micro 75% 39% 75% 61% 59% 46% 59% Kapersky 74% 36% 74% 89% 75% 58% 68% McAfee 68% 54% 68% 88% 92% 87% 76% Sophos 66% 40% 66% 73% 69% 39% 59% Microsoft 55% 17% 55% 38% 36% 62% 44% Panda 55% 77% 55% 80% 68% 62% 66% AVG 71% 49% 71% 75% 71% 61%  




August.2014 September.2014 October.2014 November.2014 December.2014 Average
ESET 96% 87% 90% 93% 81% 69% 86%
Symantec 32% 79% 81% 91% 95% 88% 78%


Trend Micro

8% 8% 75% 35% 59% 39% 37%
Kapersky 42% 66% 74% 49% 88% 55% 63%
McAfee 74% 26% 68% 37% 30% 22% 43%
Sophos 12% 19% 66% 17% 95% 25% 39%
Microsoft 0% 1% 55% 6% 7% 4% 12%
Panda 80% 85% 55% 85% 89% 83% 80%
AVG 44% 47% 71% 52% 68% 48%  


This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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