Recently Mac security researcher and analyst Thomas Reed put to the test a number of popular antivirus tools for OS X, to see which perform the best for detecting known malware threats for OS X. This effort follows similar assessments done by Reed in past years, but has been repeated to characterize the fluctuating nature of not only new malware threats, but also the effectiveness of scanning engines as they receive software updates and new malware definitions from their developers.
In his testing, Reed found that the top malware scanners for OS X include the following (in no particular order) which were able to detect over 95 percent of tested threats:
- avast! Free Antivirus 8.0
- F-Secure Anti-virus for Mac
- VirusBarrier 10.7.8
- Avira Mac Security 184.108.40.206
- ESET Cybersecurity 220.127.116.11
- Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac 9.0.6
- Kaspersky Security 18.104.22.168
- Dr. Web Light 6.0.6
Worthy of note here is that often acclaimed anti-malware tools such as the open source ClamXav, McAfee, and Symantec's iAntivirus, did not make it into this top tier set. Therefore, if you are looking for an anti-malware package to use, you might consider weighing those which perform well in tests like this, against the additional features they offer and recommendations by those who have used them.
Whether or not antivirus tools are recommended for OS X is a question that is still in a bit of flux. Hard-core Mac users often claim malware scanners offer more potential harm than good, especially given the relative lack of malware for OS X. However, this mentality butts heads with those who may not trust, or have, the abilities to avoid all potential avenues of attack on their systems.
In addition, often security tools will not only include anti-malware scanners, but also have firewalls, secure keyboard entry, and other routines that may sometimes be desired. In addition, some tools are relatively light-weight programs, while others use kernel extensions and background daemons, which may be more intrusive to the system and result in odd or unwanted behavior.
Regardless of what you choose, the most important aspect of a malware scanner is its ability to detect malware, and with results of testing such as that done by Reed, we can make better decisions by clearly distinguishing the top runners from the rest of the field.