Some antivirus companies that are big in Europe don't get as much mindshare here in the US. G Data is one such security software maker. According to the G Data website, G Data developed the very first antivirus in 1985; while some dispute that claim, the company has clearly been around for a while. G Data Antivirus 2017 is the company's latest, and it does a good bit more than the basics of antivirus protection.
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At $39.95 per year for a single license, G Data is in good company price-wise. Bitdefender, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Norton, and Webroot are among the numerous products at that price point. For another $10, you can install G Data on up to three PCs. If you go for a multi-PC license, you create an account for the first installation, then log in to that account for the rest.
G Data's main window features a bold red banner across the top. Not red for danger, or for stop—it's just red. The rest of the main window displays the status of the product's numerous protection features, in several groups. A green checkmark icon indicates that the feature is fully active. For a partially disabled component, the icon changes to a yellow exclamation point; a fully disabled feature gets a grey dash icon. Naturally, you want to see green across the board.
G Data participates in testing with three of the five independent testing labs that I follow. In Virus Bulletin's RAP (Reactive And Proactive) test, it scored 85.19 percent. The average score for products I follow is 81.99 percent, so G Data comes in above average. PC Pitstop PC Matic scored highest in the latest test, with 94.75 percent, but failed overall due to many false positives.
Testers at AV-Test Institute look at antivirus products from three different perspectives, assigning up to six points for each of the criteria. G Data earned 6 points in the all-important protection category, and by avoiding false positives (detection of valid programs as malicious) it managed another six points for usability. A small impact on performance dragged its score in that category down to five points, however. The overall score of 17 points wasn't quite enough to earn it a Top Product rating, but it's good.
In that same test, Kaspersky scored a perfect 18 points. Bitdefender, Quick Heal, and Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security got 17.5 points. These four earned the designation Top Product.
Most of the lab tests I follow report a range of results. MRG-Effitas takes a different tack. To pass the banking Trojans test, a product must protect against every sample used; anything less is failure. Over 70 percent of tested products fail, G Data among them. Due to the binary pass/fail nature of this test, I give it less weight when calculating an aggregate lab score.
G Data's three lab results worked out to an aggregate score of 8.7 points, which better than most companies manage. However, based on tests from all five labs, Kaspersky took 9.8 of 10 available points, the best aggregates score. Avira Antivirus and Norton managed 9.7 points, each tested by three of the five labs.
Your antivirus utility has many opportunities to save your PC from malware attack. It can block access to the malware-hosting website, eliminate the threat on download, detect and delete known malware based on its signature, and even detect unknown malware based on behavior alone. G Data includes all of these layers of protection, and my hands-on testing showed them in action.
In addition to scanning files on access, G Data scans your computer any time it's idle. Between real-time protection and idle-time scanning, there isn't a screaming need for a full scan of your whole computer. If you want a full scan, you click the Idle Time Scan link on the main window and choose Check Computer. A full scan of my standard test system took an hour and 40 minutes, over twice the current average of about 45 minutes. But once again, unless you actively suspect an infestation you should be able to just rely on the idle-time scan.
When I opened the folder containing my current collection of malware samples, G Data started examining them. The process was slower than with many competing products, but clearly very thorough. In most cases, it offered to quarantine the item as its default action; for a few, it advised simply blocking the file from execution. By the time it finished, 97 percent of the samples were either quarantined or deactivated.
I keep a second set of samples on hand; these are modified versions of the originals. To create each modified sample, I change the filename, append nulls to change the file size, and overwrite some non-executable bytes. G Data detected all of the same samples, even in their tweaked form. In addition, it detected all the remaining samples after execution, for a 100 percent detection rate. Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, F-Secure, and Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2016 also detected 100 percent of the samples. PC Matic also blocked 100 percent of the samples, but then, it blocks any unknown program.
Webroot managed a perfect 10 points in this test. G Data, like F-Secure Anti-Virus, allowed a few executable traces to hit the test system, but the 9.8 points both of them earned is still very respectable.
For another view of each product's ability to protect against malware, I use a feed of current malware-hosting URLs supplied by MRG-Effitas. I launch each URL in turn, discarding any that are defective, and noting whether the antivirus blocks access to the URL, wipes out the malware download, or fails to respond at all. I keep at it until I've accumulated data for 100 malicious URLs.
G Data earned a 78 percent detection rate in this test, in most cases by blocking access to the malware-hosting URL. That's just a middling score. Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic and PC Pitstop managed 98 percent protection, with Avira close behind at 75 percent.
I didn't see G Data's behavior monitoring kick in during these tests, because other protection layers beat it to the punch. In any case, behavior monitoring in some antivirus products bombards the user with dire warnings about good and bad programs alike. For a sanity check, I installed about 20 old PCMag utilities, programs that tie into the operating system in ways that malware might also do.
G Data didn't flag any of the PCMag utilities, but it did give the stink-eye to two of my hand-written test programs. It popped up a clear warning that the test program might be malicious, with a detailed list of its reasons, and its reasons made total sense. A program that launches Internet Explorer and manipulates it to download malware? That's suspicious! I'm pleased to see that behavior monitoring kicks in for a pattern of suspicious behavior, not for every little potential problem.
Writing a data-stealing Trojan and getting it somehow installed on victim PCs can be a tough job. Simply tricking users into giving away their passwords and other personal data can be quite a bit easier. Phishing websites masquerade as financial sites, Web-based email services, even online games. If you enter your username and password on the fraudulent site, you've given the fraudsters full access to your account.
If the website looks just like PayPal but the URL is something goofy like armor-recycling.ru, at least some users will detect the fraud. But sometimes the URL is so close to the real thing that only those with sharp eyes will spot it as a fake. Antivirus programs that have a Web protection component usually attempt to protect users against phishing as well, and G Data is no exception.
To test the efficacy of a product's antiphishing component, I first scour the Web for extremely new phishing URLs, preferably URLs that were reported as fraudulent but that haven't yet been analyzed and blacklisted. I launch each simultaneously in one browser protected by the product under test and another protected by long-time fraud fighter Norton. I also launch each URL in instances of Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, relying on the browser's built-in phishing detection. Because the collection of fraudulent sites differs every time, I report results in relative terms rather than absolute detection rate.
Very few products do better than Norton in this test, but many come closer than G Data did. G Data's detection rate came in 45 percentage points below Norton's, which a is poor result. Internet Explorer and Chrome both did a better job than G Data. Yes, G Data beat Firefox, but Firefox hasn't been doing very well lately. The lesson here? Don't turn off your browser's built-in phishing protection.
Along with the expected antivirus features, G Data gives you several features that you'd expect to see in a security suite. I tested its exploit protection by hitting the test system with about 30 exploits generated by the CORE Impact penetration tool. It identified 30 percent of the exploits by name and blocked another 20 percent using more generic detection. That 50 percent detection total is as good as what Kaspersky Internet Security managed in this test. Norton leads this test, with 63 percent protection.
Like Safepay in Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2017 and Kaspersky's Safe Money, G Data's BankGuard feature aims to protect your financial transactions. Bitdefender uses a whole separate desktop to run Safepay, and Kaspersky puts a glowing green border around the browser protected by Safe Money. By contrast, BankGuard works invisibly to protect all your browsers. The only way to see it in action is to encounter a Trojan that attempts a man-in-the-browser attack or other data-stealing technique.
The related keylogger protection feature was easier to test than BankGuard. I installed a popular free keylogger, typed some data into Notepad, typed into my browsers, and then typed in Notepad again. When I brought up the keylogger's keystroke capture report, it showed no keystrokes between the two uses of Notepad.
To test G Data's ransomware protection component, I first turned off every other feature related to real-time malware protection. When I launched a ransomware sample, it quickly popped up a warning about suspicious behavior that suggests encrypting ransomware, with the caveat that if you are actively running an encryption utility yourself, you can ignore the warning. My G Data contact noted that in most cases, some other layer of protection will block the ransomware before it gets to this point.
G Data has long featured the ability to manage the programs that launch automatically when your system boots. Its Autostart Manager can delay launch of any such program for from one to 10 minutes, or set it to never launch at startup. You can also configure it to launch the program when the system's startup activity has died down. This is a more fine-grained control than you get with the similar feature in Norton.
G Data has been around longer than almost any of its competitors, and G Data Antivirus 2017 is a mature product. Since my last review, it has added components specifically designed to protect against exploits, keyloggers, banking Trojans, and ransomware. It earned a great score in my hands-on malware-blocking test, and took decent scores from the independent testing labs. However, it proved less effective at blocking access to malicious and fraudulent URLs.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Kaspersky Anti-Virus earn top scores from the independent labs. Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic scored high in all of my hands-on tests, and includes an impressive set of bonus features. Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus goes even farther with behavior-based detection, making it the tiniest antivirus around. And a single license for McAfee AntiVirus Plus lets you install protection on every device in your household. Out of the huge range of antivirus products, these five have earned the title Editors' Choice.