Antivirus Software Review: Malwarebytes
"Cybersecurity that crushes what others can't" - Malwarebytes certainly won't be winning any awards for modesty. The American company promises to annihilate any virus that other antivirus programs can't, through its multiple security mechanisms and machine-learning technology. Our test will show if the program is really the 'Terminator' of viruses and malware that it markets itself to be.
What is Malwarebytes?
Malwarebytes is an antivirus program and developer based in Santa Clara, California. It comes in free and premium versions for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS, also offering specialized protection for Google Chrome devices. We tested "Premium version 4.0" for Windows and Android, but will reference all versions throughout the text.
Pros & Cons
Solid results from AV-Test
Clear subscription structure
Missing certain functions
Installation & Usage
Downloading and installing Malwarebytes takes a matter of minutes, if not seconds. There's no confusion about subscriptions, because the installation file is the same for each version, and only after the program is installed, are you asked if you have a license, plan to use the program's free version, or if you would like to start a 14-day free trial subscription. For the latter, you only need an email address, so you don't have to worry about falling into the dreaded "subscription trap" of using a credit card and then forgetting about cancelling before the deadline.
The user interface of Malwarebytes is organized into three zones: In the middle, you can view your current security status, which provides you with instant feedback about your computer's security. If action is needed, you'll be informed about it here first. On the menu bar above, you can view notifications, the support area, or modify settings.
The lower half of the screen consists of three modules: "Detection History", "Scanner", and "Real-Time Protection". Clicking on any of these will expand your options and enable you to view additional settings.
There's not really much else to say about the setup and user interface of Malwarebytes: The program is sleek, quickly-installed, immediately ready for use, and very easy to navigate.
Score: 5 / 5
In the free version of the program, only two of the three modules are activated: "Real-Time Protection" is reserved for premium subscribers. Scans can be performed without a license. In addition to the standard system scan, there's also a quick scan, which only checks your memory and startup objects, and a user-defined scan, that you can tailor to your needs and preferences. Using this last type of scan, you can select which folders and partitions should be analyzed for undesired programs and modifications, as well as what Malwarebytes should do in the event that they are found (ignore, warn, or automatically treat as malware).
With "Scan-Scheduler" you can set scans from any of the three categories to be run at specific times and how often. Scan reports are saved and archived allowing you to continually access and review them.
This is where the Malwarebytes experience ends for free users, since "Real-Time Protection" is limited to paying customers. This is divided into four categories:
"Web Protection" alerts you to dangerous websites, phishing attempts, and other online hustles. "Malware Protection" wards off programs that would harm your computer, such as viruses, adware, and other unwanted software. "Ransomware Protection" defends you against so-called extortion Trojans, which take your files or folders hostage (by encrypting them), and only free them after you pay a hefty ransom. "Exploit Protection" identifies malicious software that exploits weaknesses and errors in your system for its benefit.
Despite all of the above, the program lacks email protection: In other antivirus programs, you can set whether incoming and/or outgoing emails are scanned for threats or viruses. Webcam protection, which carefully monitors which programs have access to your webcam, is likewise absent.
Unlike ESET, Malwarebytes doesn't have any "hidden" features stashed away in its sub-menus. What you see in the main dashboard, is what you get, and in comparison to some other antivirus programs, this is unfortunately, not that much. In addition to the lack of certain real-time protection functions (email and webcam), the program also doesn't come with a data shredder or a firewall, both of which are fairly standard among antivirus programs.
More extravagant features (a password manager, parental controls, VPN, performance tuning, an adblocker, or remote (cloud) backup) are also nowhere to be found, however, this is more bearable than the absence of real-time email or webcam protection. In general, one often has the impression that antivirus software artificially inflates their features or extras, since in comparison to dedicated programs, these ad ons are almost always of inferior quality. Accordingly, we find the "minimalism" in Malwarebytes somewhat refreshing. Unfortunately, this attempt to get rid of bells and whistles seems to have claimed one too many victims in the form of features that we consider necessary.
Malwarebytes is also available for free for Android users, albeit, again without any real-time protection features. Even the mobile app's premium version is, relatively speaking, kept to the bare necessities: Alongside automatic real-time protection and scans (with a few configuration possibilities) there is also privacy protection, which checks what kind of privileges are granted to your installed apps, providing you with a convenient overview of them.
For iOS, there isn't the ability to perform scans, which, at least according to support, is owing to a restriction by Apple. As a result, for iOS users, Malwarebytes only offers real-time protection.
Anti-theft features, an app lock, or remote access are also missing, with all focus instead on antivirus functions.
This emphasis on antivirus protection for both mobile devices and computers might be refreshing for some, if Malwarebytes really only cut back on the bells and whistles that other providers offer, and not core competences. Since some of these are missing, Malwarebytes is often used in conjunction with other software; the Terminator didn't need a sidekick to protect John and Sarah Connor, so we don't really see why the supposedly 'all-powerful' Malwarebytes does; perhaps it just isn't as strong as it's made out to be.
Score: 3 / 5
Security & Performance
To assess antivirus programs, we typically consult AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, two of the leading online test labs, for their separate scores for performance and security. Unfortunately, Malwarebytes only appears regularly in AV-Test's evaluations, making our conclusions somewhat less representative.
The results from the most recent (as of the time of writing) evaluation conducted by AV-Test (October 2019) are fine: Security received 4 from 6 points and performance 4.5 from 6. We couldn't find more-detailed tests from other independent labs, however, for what it's worth, Malwarebytes can lay claim to OPSWAT's platinum certificate.
In light of the satisfactory performance with AV-Test, and the lack of other results from third-party auditors, we can only rate Malwarebytes "average" in terms of security and performance.
Score: 3 / 5
In contrast, Malwarebytes is fairly well positioned in terms of support. The program's help center provides a variety of articles and videos, organized by operating system. A search function allows you to quickly find what you need.
From Monday-Friday, it is possible to directly contact the support staff via live chat, while an active forum and ability to file support tickets allow users to keep in touch. Our support ticket was answered within 22 hours, while during a live chat query, we spoke with support staff within a matter of seconds.
Score: 4.3 / 5
Malwarebytes' pricing structure is refreshingly straight-forward: Private customers can use the program for free, in the "Premium" package (on one device) or the "Premium Home" package (on up to three devices). Next, you can select for how long you'd like to agree a subscription (one or two years).
The offers are more personalized for business customers, depending largely on the number of potential users.
|Price per year||$0.00||from $39.99|
|Max. Number of devices||unlimited||5|
|Special Protection Features|
Since Malwarebytes is one of the few antivirus providers which makes pricing so easy, comparing it to other services can be relatively complicated. Within the sample of programs which we evaluated, "Malwarebytes Premium" had an average price.
Some programs are available in different premium versions, each of which comes with various features. Since subscription packages and features for each program vary, the table below compares each provider's offering on the basis of a sample, with similar conditions:
Despite its rather pompous claims of being able to do everything that other antivirus programs can't, Malwarebytes still leaves a good impression. This can be traced to its ease of use, navigation, and provision of most sought-after features, with almost no proverbial "fat" or filler. Unfortunately, the program is missing a few necessary features, and its superiority over its competitors is not conclusively demonstrated in any of the test lab results we consulted, or indeed, anywhere outside of the company's marketing materials. As a result, we recommend Malwarebytes as a supplementary, albeit not stand-alone antivirus program, to be used in conjunction with other software.
Customers like Malwarebytes: The program's user-friendliness is evidenced in dozens or even hundreds of reviews, with almost everyone rating the program as effective.