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With all the NSA, Edward Snowden, and Heartbleed stories in the news, security is arguably the tech story of the year. But while these big glitzy stories are grabbing most of the attention, the most important thing you, the consumer, can do, is to perform the decidedly unglamorous but vital task of securing your own machines. And that means antivirus. All the big players have got 2014 edition products out, and some are even starting to ship 2015 editions! Many of the latest versions have morphed their appearance to match the Windows 8 style, tile-based and touch-friendly. Others remain unchanged, perhaps hoping to attract users by keeping the same familiar face.

Whether they look the same or not, most of the same products retain their positions at the top of the heap. Here are the best from the current crop of antivirus products.

 

Independent Lab Tests

We spend hours or days with every product performing hands-on testing, but the independent antivirus labs have whole squads of researchers for even more in-depth testing.We follow a half-dozen labs that perform ongoing tests and that make their results public: AV-Test, AV-Comparatives, Dennis Technology Labs, ICSA Labs, Virus Bulletin, and West Coast Labs.

 

We take independent testing quite seriously, and we recently worked up a new system to evaluate each product in light of its lab results. We've identified five important categories: detection, cleaning, protection, false positives, and performance. When there's enough data from the labs, we use it to calculate a star rating in each category, and an overall rating.