Love or hate its nagging prompts, Vista's Account Control feature (UAC) has a security feature that marks it out from any other type of Windows security programme -- it can spot rootkits before they install.
This is one finding buried in a report published in two German computer magazines some months ago after testing by the respected AV-Test.org, which set out to find out how well antivirus programs fared against known rootkits.
The answer was not particularly well at all, either for Windows XP, or Vista-oriented products. Of 30 rootkits thrown at XP anti-malware scanners, none of the seven AV suites found all 30, a similar story to the six web-based scanners assessed. Only four of the 14 specialized anti-rootkit tools managed a perfect score.
The best of the all-purpose suites was Avira AntiVir Premium Security Suite, which found 29 active rootkits, with Norton finding as few as 18. The anti-rootkit tools fared better, with AVG Anti-Rootkit Free, GMER, Rootkit Unhooker LE, and Trend Micro Rootkit Buster achieving perfect scores. The scores for removal were patchy, however, with all failing to remove any of the rootkits they had found.
The results for Vista products were harder to assess because only six rootkits could run on the OS, but the testers had to turn off UAC to get even this far. Vista's UAC itself spotted everything thrown in front of it.
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