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Anti-spam smackdown finds best junk filter

McAfee spanks all comers in early tests

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McAfee has claimed the crown in a run-off of anti-spam products organised by Virus Bulletin, the independent security certification body.

A total of 12 products took part in the anti-spam comparative review, which rated the effectiveness of the products against each other rather than against a fixed standard. The latest edition of the bi-monthly VBSpam tests compared the effective of each of the submitted products in filtering emails from Virus Bulletin's live email stream, combined with a flow of junk mails captured by Project Honey Pot.

The exercise measured both the false positive rate and the spam capture rate of each of the dozen products tested.

McAfee's Email & Web Security Appliance was alone in achieving the level needed for VBSpam Platinum certification, which means that its spam catch rate came out as twice as effective as the average in the test, and its false positive rate is twice as low as the average in the test.

Five products performed well enough to be awarded VBSpam Gold awards, by coming out above average in both spam detection and avoiding false positives. These products including offerings from Kaspersky, BitDefender, MessageStream and Messaging Architects as well as McAfee's Email Gateway (formerly IronMail) software.

Products from Fortinet, Microsoft and Webroot all attained the lesser silver level standard. VirComm modusGate did badly on avoiding false positives while Sanesecurity signatures (for ClamAV) failed to catch better than 86 per cent of junk mail, keeping each product off the winners' podium.

Virus Bulletin along with organisations such as AV-test.org run independent tests of the effectiveness of anti-malware products. ICSA Labs has run a programme accessing the effectiveness of personal firewalls for some years, and there's also (expensive) government accreditation schemes for enterprise-grade firewalls.

Comparison anti-spam tests, by comparison, are in their infancy; so even though Virus Bulletin's tests only cover a fraction of spam filtering products on the market, they are still worth noting.

Martijn Grooten, VB's anti-spam test director, said: "The benchmarks used for this test were stricter than previous tests, making the achievement of these products all the more impressive. The field of competitors increased for the third time running this month - and to date, there have been few other anti-spam tests with as many participating products.

"We hope that our tests will help the anti-spam community answer questions about which anti-spam methods work better than others, and help developers find ways to improve their products."

Results of Virus Bulletin's September 2009 anti-spam comparative review can be found here (free registration required). A chart summarising the test results is here. ®

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