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We conducted our annual survey to improve our service to the end-user community. Respondents were asked for their opinions on various topics related to anti-virus software testing and anti-virus software in general. The results were invaluable to us. We would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey.
Survey Period: 7th December 2015 – 21th December 2015 Valid responses of real users: 2,022
The survey contained some control questions and checks. This allowed us to filter out invalid responses and users who tried to distort the results by e.g. giving impossible/conflicting answers. We were primarily interested in the opinions of everyday users. The survey results in this public report do not take into account the responses of participants who are involved with anti-virus companies.
The survey results are invaluable to us. This report contains the results of the survey questions.
Use of the Internet by home and business users continues to grow in all parts of the world. How users access the Internet is changing, though. There has been increased usage of smartphones by users to access the Internet. The tablet market has taken off as well. This has resulted in a drop in desktop and laptop sales. With regard to attacks by cyber criminals, this means that their focus has evolved.
This is our fifth annual survey of computer users worldwide. Its focus is which security products (free and paid) are employed by users, OS usage, and browser usage. We also asked respondents to rank what they are looking for in their security solutions.
Report results are based on an Internet survey run by AV-Comparatives between 7th December 2015 and 21th December 2015. A total of 2,022 computer users from around the world anonymously answered the questions on the subject of computers and security.
Among respondents, the four most important aspects of a security protection product were:
Good detection rate of malicious files
Low impact on system performance
Good proactive protection without using the cloud
Good online protection rate while surfing the web
Kaspersky and ESET are the two most popular desktop security products worldwide, and feature in the top three products on every continent with significant results.
Avast is the most popular mobile security solution worldwide, while Kaspersky makes the top five in every continent.
The share of Android as the mobile OS has fallen slightly since last year, but is still used by over two thirds of respondents. Apple’s iOS is the only other mobile OS to reach double figures, at just over 18%.
A majority of users (over three quarters) were well protected in the last 6 months; only a minority reported that their security product had failed to protect them against malware infection in this period. Over a third (35%) stated that their security product had blocked malware within the last week, indicating how easy it is to encounter a threat.
The number of users who rely on free desktop security software has fallen again this year, but is still just over a third (34%). Around 4% do not use any security solution, meaning that over 60% of respondents pay for protection.
Getting on for half of respondents (46.9%) have moved to Windows 10 this year, leaving Windows 7 with just under a third of users (32.2%).
Google Chrome is still the most popular browser with 40%, but its lead over Mozilla Firefox has fallen slightly to only 1.3%. Despite being the recommended browser in the popular new OS Windows 10, Microsoft Edge is only used by 3.5% of users overall.
As regards trustworthiness of reviews, forum and YouTube reviews both scored low again, whilst all the computer magazines/websites/institutes achieved scores between 3 and 4 out of 5.
There is a wide range of views as to the fifteen test labs we asked users about. We are pleased (and humbled) by our top score of 4.7 out of 5.
We are grateful to everyone who completed the survey, and for respondents’ trust in AV-Comparatives. The feedback we have gained will be used to ensure that our tests continue to grow in effectiveness and relevance. This enables manufacturers to further improve their products, benefitting both themselves and their users. We are seeing our test results quoted by other publications in their review of AV and Internet Security products!
Age distribution by continent is shown below. Asia had the youngest respondents, with over 75% in the 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 brackets. North America had the oldest respondents, over 50% being in the 45 to 54 or 55 to 64 groups.
Worldwide, over 70% of users who took our survey described themselves as computer enthusiasts or professionals. The highest number of computer professionals was found in South America (45%), while the highest number of basic users was for Asia (10.6%).
Overall, just under 2/3 of users pay for a security solution, as was the case last year. 3.8% of the users answered to do not use any security solution.
In Asia, free Internet security suites are more common than in the rest of the world, with 15.1%; major Chinese companies (Baidu, Qihoo, Tencent, etc.) offer free IS solutions as part of their offerings / software packages. Free antivirus programs are more popular in North America (30.1%) than anywhere else.
The most widely used operating system amongst respondents is Windows 10, accounting for almost half of the total OS usage. Windows 7 was the second most popular system, with almost a third of participants using it. Windows 8/8.1 took third place, with XP down to fifth place behind Apple’s Mac OS X. As in previous years, our survey respondents tend to use more recent versions of Windows than the general public (according to figures for all users provided by various metrics companies, such as NetMarketShare and Statista).
As shown in the diagram, Google Chrome is the most popular browser amongst survey participants worldwide, followed closely by Mozilla Firefox.
Firefox is more popular than Chrome in North America (41% vs. 35%) and Europe (39% vs. 38%). However, Chrome is the clear favourite in Asia (50% vs. 31%).
Internet Explorer comes in third place overall, a long way behind the other two browsers.
Despite the fact that nearly half of survey respondents use Windows 10, only 3.5% of all participants use the Edge browser (which is found only in Microsoft’s latest OS). This means that of Windows 10 users, only 7.7% use Microsoft Edge.
We do not have any information as to why nearly two thirds of respondents believe that an Internet security suite will provide more protection than a basic antivirus program. Many AV vendors like to give the impression that users can increase their protection by buying the more expensive suite, although this is not necessarily the case.
29.2% of respondents overall do not use any security solution on their mobile phones. In North America, the figure is higher, at over 36%, while in South America and the rest of the world it is lower, at 25%. Figures for Asia and Europe are very much in line with the average.
Worldwide, the ten most commonly used manufacturers of mobile security products are, in decreasing order, Avast, ESET, Kaspersky Lab, Bitdefender, Cheetah Mobile, AVIRA, AVG, Qihoo, Symantec Norton and McAfee (Intel Security).
The list below shows the 10 most popular mobile security manufacturers used by survey participants, according to continent. There were not enough responses from some regions to produce significant results. Therefore, Australia/Oceania and Africa are not shown.
Avast took either first or second place on all four continents with significant results. In Asia, Cheetah Mobile (aka CM Security / CleanMaster) and Qihoo took the first and third places respectively, and have now appeared in the top 10 products in Europe and South/Central America as well.
Major products for mobiles were reviewed by AV-Comparatives in a report in August 2015.
Survey respondents clearly value independent tests very highly when it comes to choosing security software, with approximately two thirds using these to select their security solution. Recommendations in online forums and from friends/family members then accounted for most of the remainder. We should point out that some of the forum members/family members/friends etc. may themselves consult independent test-lab results before recommending a product.
Worldwide, the twelve manufacturers of anti-malware products for Windows platforms most commonly used by survey participants are (in this order): Kaspersky Lab, ESET, Bitdefender, AVIRA, Avast, Panda, Microsoft, Symantec Norton, Emsisoft, F-Secure, Qihoo, AVG, McAfee, Trend Micro and MalwareBytes.
Comparison with 2015
The worldwide top 5 products last year were the same as this year, but in a slightly different order: Avira has leapfrogged Avast to take fourth place.
Differences between continents
The table below shows the twelve products most commonly used by survey participants, by continent:
Europe: European vendors feature in the top 5 here.
North America: MalwareBytes reaches 6th place on the continent. Microsoft and Symantec (both headquartered in the USA) make it into the top 5. Malwarebytes has been expanding and features in the top 12 in Europe, and top 6 in North America.
Asia: the Chinese-based Qihoo appears in the top 12 here, but not on any other continent.
South/Central America: The top five vendors here are the same as the top five globally, in Europe and in Asia, albeit in a different order.
There is a strong correlation between the most popular products amongst survey respondents and products that perform well in AV-Comparatives’ tests. On 3 out of 4 continents, the most popular product was Kaspersky, our Product of the Year 2015; everywhere except North America, the top 5 most popular products were all Top Rated by AV-Comparatives in 2015.
Below are the 15 most-requested products. Users had to choose at least 10 products. Note that a number of the vendors listed below offer both free and paid products.
In order to take part in our public main-test series, a vendor has to agree to our conditions of participation, which include the requirement to take all of the compulsory tests. Some of the vendors who are frequently requested by survey participants decline to participate in all of these, and so these vendors cannot be included in the main test series. Most of these vendors however usually participate in some of our other public tests and reviews, such as the Mobile Test/Review and the Business Review. Some big-name companies also commission and participate privately in certain tests.
In 2016, AV-Comparatives’ File Detection Test, Performance Test and Malware Removal Test will be run under Windows 10. All of these tests will be compulsory. The current English-language version of Baidu Antivirus is not compatible with Windows 10, and Baidu have stated that they do not intend to develop the English-language version any further. Consequently, as we test mainly on Windows 10, we will not include Baidu in our main test series this year.
One vendor had to be excluded from the tests of 2015 due to irregularities. We offered that vendor the opportunity to participate in the 2016 tests, on the strict understanding that they would have to play fair, but they have declined the offer.
2.7% of respondents stated that their security product failed to protect their system within the last week. Over 86% stated that the last time their security product had failed to protect their system was either over six months ago or not at all.
35% of the users stated that they encountered malware and that their security product successfully protected their system less than a week ago. 11% of the users said that the last time that their security product warned/protected them against malware was over six months ago. About 7% have never had any warnings from their security product.
The results of questions 14 and 15 together may provide some insight into the effectiveness of current security software.
Perhaps due to our continued emphasis on the importance of our Real-World Protection Test, this test tops the list in what our respondents are looking for.
Whilst we feel that the Real-World Protection Test is the most relevant single test that we carry out, we also provide users with an all-round view of a product’s capabilities. Thus, we also perform File Detection, False Alarm, Performance, and Malware Removal Tests for Windows products, in addition to the Real-World Protection Test. The first four tests will be compulsory tests in 2016. The behavioural test will be performed only if commissioned and not be part of the public main-tests.
Additionally, we publish combined reviews/test reports of Mac Security and Mobile Security products, as well as user-interface reviews of business security software, all the tested Windows products (Summary Report), and (on request) single products.
Our 2015 awards for Windows consumer products were based on the Real-World Protection Test, Overall Performance Test, File Detection Test, and False-Positive Test (all of which were compulsory), along with the optional Proactive Test and Malware Removal Test.
Users had to rate various security product testing labs and institutes by giving a score from 1 to 5, where 5 meant reliable/trustworthy and 1 unreliable/biased. Note that not all respondents were aware of all the labs, so each lab was only rated by those who were aware of it.
AV-Comparatives, AV-Test and Virus Bulletin reached a mean score of 4 or higher. These are also the three best-known AV testing labs in the world. We hope that our high rating is down to the carefully prepared methodology of our tests, meaningful number of samples, transparency, and freely available test reports, which describe the tests in detail. Our willingness to allow other publications to cite our results (subject to proper attribution) has also increased our visibility.
For products that are not tested by us, we recommend our readers to look at the tests done by other well-known testing labs or at least certification bodies. A list of some other testing labs, can be found here.
Users had to give a score from 1 to 5, where 5 meant reliable/trustworthy and 1 unreliable/biased.
Reviews on YouTube were regarded as the least reliable, probably because they are largely provided by users who are effectively anonymous. These reviews are typically focussed on user experience only. Often, the user may review/test only one product. Whilst some reviewers may write competent articles with integrity and give users a good overview of the user interface and certain aspects of the products, other writers may base their opinions on e.g. a one-off bad experience with a particular product, or deliberately deceive readers in order to promote a product they have a commercial interest in, or to malign competitors. The same applies to reviews and opinions expressed on forums. In fact, there are paid bloggers, forum/YouTube posters etc. who provide e.g. biased or fake Amazon reviews and feedback.
Strong default settings providing already maximum protection/detection
FDT / WPDT
Participation in various independent third-party tests
Low price (including free)
Low user interaction/pop-ups from the security product
Users were asked to select the charactersistics of an anti-virus product which they considered most important to them. It is interesting to note that the second most popular item this year, after “Good detection rate of malicious files”, was “Low impact on system performance”. This suggests that respondents are wary of security products that slow their systems down. Respondents also appear to recognise the limitations of file detection tests, as both proactive/heuristic and online protection were important to over two thirds of users. Malware removal/cleaning was similarly popular. This may be because many respondents have found that their security software finds malware but cannot remove it, or possibly that they provide technical support for family, friends or colleagues whose machines have already been infected.