Is Malwarebytes Good and What’s Bad?

Are you concerned about the security of data on your system?

A virus is a malicious program that corrupts your data and makes it unusable. Further, it can transmit from one device to another without proper security measures. Therefore, cybersecurity experts suggest you use a robust antivirus program to protect your PC. An outstanding antivirus program should be able to detect and eliminate frequent viruses from your device.

On the other hand, malware is any program that wants to damage your data in any manner. A virus has some specific properties like it can not multiply itself without user intervention. However, malware is a general term used for all malicious applications. You can say that a virus is a malware, but malware is not necessarily a virus. Therefore, you should use a robust anti-malware program to protect your system from the latest malware. 

At the beginning of the computer era, viruses were created by some immoral developers to damage data on various devices. However, with time the programs kept evolving and gave rise to several notorious applications. Thus, the general term malware came into being. Malware hosts different types of programs like viruses, worms, ransomware, adware, and many more.

An antivirus app deals with the renowned viruses, whereas an anti-malware app detects and eliminates probable threats from your system.

One such anti-malware application is Malwarebytes. Let us dive deep into its functioning and decide whether it is good or bad.

Pros Cons
  • Good scores in our hands-on
    malware protection and malicious URL blocking tests.
  • Includes exploit protection,
    ransomware protection,
    behavior-based detection.
  • 60-day money-back guarantee.
  • Intuitive user interface.
  • Few and poor independent lab tests scores.
  • Phishing protection ineffective.
  • Ransomware detection shows mixed results.
  • Malwarebytes Free is pretty useless on its own.
  • Customer support needs improvement.

What is on the Welcome Screen of Malwarebytes.

Malwarebytes welcome screen

Malwarebytes has redesigned its main window. You can find a status panel above the quick access scan and setting options. Besides, the status panel has a blue theme and shows clouds, a city skyline, and mountains in the silhouette-style landscape. When everything is alright, the status panel shows the message, “Awesome! Your computer is protected.”

The bottom half of the main window comprises of three simple rectangular tiles. The leftmost panel shows the status of the recent scan. Though, you can click it to see full history. The rightmost panel enables you to switch on and off the four layers of protection with toggle buttons. Lastly, clicking on the central tile launches a quick scan. It is an attractive and clean layout.

When you choose to execute an on-demand scan, it provides a full threat scan by default. However, you can opt for a quick scan by clicking on the link of the advanced scan if you desire. As per reports, the full threat scans take less than 10 minutes, even on an infected PC. It is faster than most of the renowned anti-malware applications.

The scan scheduler enables you to choose between a full, quick, and custom scanning options regularly. Besides, you can schedule the scan on a monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly basis. However, the custom scan and scheduling options are only available in the premium version.

malwarebytes scan methods

Compatibility with Other Programs.

In previous years, Malwarebytes has continually emphasized the compatibility of this product with other security solutions. To clarify, it boasts about working well with other antivirus programs like Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and other similar antivirus programs. However, not many people prefer to pay for more than one security solution. Malwarebytes used to pull some clever tricks to the Security Centre in Windows. By doing so, it was able to run along with the Windows Defender.

However, this scenario changes with the latest update. Now the product registers itself as the default protection in Windows Security Centre. Therefore, Windows Defender goes into the sleep mode when Malwarebytes is functioning. If you still want to use it along with prominent antivirus programs like Bitdefender and Kaspersky, then you can change a setting that stops Malwarebytes from being in charge of the security system. 

Layers of Protection

Malwarebytes uses a signature-based approach to detect malware applications. That means, it matches the codes of malware programs from the list with the codes of apps on your system. However, the security updates regularly trim the signature to reduce scanning time. It includes removing old and abandoned signatures which no longer infects a system. 

Malwarebytes real-time protection

Moreover, if a particular threat has not affected your device in more than six months, then it removes the corresponding signature. Also, we came to know that signature-based detection only accounts for 5% of the infections. That means the remaining malware detections consist of unique source codes.

The web protection algorithm prevents your PC from accessing a known dangerous website. It works both for your browser and malicious applications. Besides, the ransomware protection looks for application behavior. A ransomware application uses a cryptographic algorithm to encrypt the files. Malwarebytes can counter such acts in real-time. Therefore, it is also capable of countering zero-day ransomware attacks.

Often, exploit attacks take benefit of loopholes in an application to take control of the program. Even if you keep your operating system and programs updated, there is still a window of having a breach. It can happen so if the blackhat developers know about the loophole, which is yet to be patched. Therefore, Malwarebytes protect numerous popular applications from such an attack. It is worth mentioning that this is a protection against exploit attacks in general. Consequently, it does not mean that Malwarebytes protect specific programs. On the contrary, it judges the suspicious behavior of an exploit attack and stops it.

Protected applications

If you are curious about exploits attacks, then you can check the settings tab of Malwarebytes for more information. First, click on the settings icon in the main window. Then, click on the security link, scroll to the bottom, and select the Advanced settings. It should open the exploit window. You should also see a warning here that suggest user not to tweak these settings unless directed by a tech support expert. But there is no harm in having a look unless you are not modifying any settings.

Here, you can find that Malwarebytes enforce DEP (Data Execution Prevention) and ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization). Besides, it blocks attacks that use ROP (Return-Oriented Programming) and prevents damage to system memory. 

Malwarebytes advanced memory protection

The latest version of Malwarebytes offers the Browser Guard security plug-in for Firefox and Chrome. This extension restricts your browser from accessing malicious sites that might execute a phishing attack. The browser extension works great with the premium version of Malwarebytes. However, when it comes to the free version, Browser Guard does not show an appealing performance. However, it does prompts the user to buy the premium version on notorious web pages. Therefore, if you are planning to install the premium version of Malwarebytes, then the Browser Guard is a must-have extension for Firefox and Chrome.

Performance On Lab Tests

One minor obstacle in testing these protection solutions is the limited real-life simulations. Exploit attacks can only work on the applications that contain the matching vulnerability. If an application does not have the loophole that malware is targeting, then it can be challenging to find the malware. Malwarebytes only work if such a match occurs since it is not possible to cause damage without a match. Superior features like ASLR and DEP only works when the malware bypasses the primary security layers.

The independent antivirus testing labs try to simulate real-life incidents. They use an emulator to create an attack on a system. However, most tests still use a simple file recognition system in their system. Therefore, it is hardly possible to develop an attack similar to the blackhat developers. Surprisingly, it is possible to maintain the security application to pass the antivirus test with flying colors. But that does not mean it can protect you from the real-world cyber-attacks.

Lab test result chart

AV-Test, SE Labs, AV-Comparatives, and MRG-Effitas are the most popular antivirus test labs. In previous years Malwarebytes did not use to participate in these tests. Recently, it has begun to take part in the analysis conducted by AV-Test Institute.

AV-Test asses products under three categories. Namely, protection against malware, performance impact, and usability.

Protection: This score suggests the ability of the software to protect your system from malware.

Performance: This score indicates the effect of the software on the performance of the computer system.

Usability: This score glances at the false alarms from a software.

A good security solution software can achieve a maximum of six marks per test and a total of 18. In the latest analysis, McAfee, Kaspersky, and Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic scored a perfect 18. Eight more products managed to score 17.5, sufficient to mark them as a top product.

Incidentally, Malwarebytes scored four points in protection, five in performance, and five in usability. Thus, making the total 14/18. Unfortunately, no other application managed to score below this bar. Consequently, making Malwarebytes the least appealing product among others. By the way, a score from a single test doesn’t provide much insight into the application. Also, as we mentioned before, Malwarebytes does not focus on passing the tests. Instead, it believes in protecting the users.

The tests do lack some real-world scenarios. Therefore, they can hardly check the full potential of the application. Besides, it is also possible for a low scoring security program to detect malware that is neglected by other superior protection programs.

Still, if you feel like the test result do have some significance, then you can compare the products in all the four tests. As we checked them, Kaspersky and Bitdefender managed to get top scores in all of the tests. However, it is hard to find the same programs in all the tests. Yet, the analysis provides a quick overview of the protection.

Protection from Malware Attacks

An anti-malware application can trigger a scan as soon as you open the folder containing the malware. As you open a folder, Windows Explorer read the filenames in that folder. Secondly, a scan can be triggered when you click on a file or copy it to a new location. Malwarebytes triggers when the malware tries to run itself and shows exploiting behavior. The delay helps the application to work smoothly with other security apps like Windows Defender. 

Cylance and Emsisoft are similar apps that wait until the malware shows suspicious behavior. This method also saves your system from slowing down because it does not use processing power all the time. However, if it can eliminate threats on sight, that would mean you are protected even if the application crashes.

real time protection

As per Malwarebytes, it took around 20 seconds to check if a new app is dangerous or not. Moreover, it prevents the program from launching unless it completes the scan. The good thing is it hardly took 5 seconds to launch a trustworthy application. That suggests the minimal impact t makes on the performance of your system. 

Malwarebytes successfully tackled 98% of our malware in the test. Similarly, Windows Defender and Sophos managed to get the top score in the same test. However, when it came to protecting from previously unknown threats, MalwareFox beats them all with a perfect score.

Malware Protection Results Chart

We tested Malwarebytes on several malicious URLs to check its online protection. Malwarebytes focuses on widespread malware; therefore, it should ve able to tackle online attacks. Ideally, Malwarebytes should be able to restrict your browser from opening notorious web pages.

In this test, we used some real-world malware-hosting URLs. Fortunately, MRG-Effitas provides such a list. We try to use the latest malware-hosting sites for this experiment since they are still active and most dangerous. We use a simple approach in this test. For instance, we launch each URL from the list after a specific time interval. Later, we check if the antivirus program can sense the malware. Moreover, we also track its action regarding the positive flag.

Malwarebytes was able to recognize 94% of the malicious URLs. Also, a pop-up notifying that the site contains some kind of malware appears in no time. Besides, it blocks access to the website to prevent any damage. In many cases, the Browser Guard extension provides detailed information about the malware after the temporary pop-up disappears. 

Malwarebytes website pop-up

Malwarebytes was 94% effective in this test. Although, it did not quarantine the downloads from the websites it missed. However, when we tried to run the malware by clicking on it, Malwarebytes was smart enough to stop the attack. Other antivirus programs that perform well in this test are Sophos, McAfee, and MalwareFox. Moreover, they were also able to quarantine the suspicious download in real-time.

Malwarebytes doesn’t eliminate malware if it is merely sitting in your download folder. However, it takes action when the program tries to run itself, or you click on the application. Therefore, it was able to prevent the damage even though the malware bypasses its online security.

How Effective is Malwarebyte’s Phishing Protection

Malwarebytes doesn’t guarantee full-scale protection. Also, it never mentions its phishing protection to be the best. However, all security solutions that provide online protection from malicious websites should be able to detect phishing attacks. Additionally, involving Browser Guard extension in the program has provided a boost to its phishing detection algorithm.

Blocked phishing attempt by Malwarebytes

To test Malwarebytes phishing protection, we collected some real-world phishing websites and emails. Our list has new URLs; therefore, they were not present in the blacklist of major security solution programs.

We launched the URLs in multiple browsers to check if anyone blocks them on their own. Later, we selected only those sites which were attempting to steal user’s information. Then we ran the same URLs in the browser protected by Malwarebytes and Browser Guard.

Phishing Protection Results

Malwarebytes was able to block many of the attacks and hinted about the phishing attack in the pop-up. Also, the Browser Guard extension was able to take care of these attacks on its own. Therefore, if you are using Chrome or Firefox, then the Browser Guard extension is a must.

In this test, Malwarebytes was able to detect 51% of the potential phishing attacks. However, this number was down to 29% in the previous experiments. In conclusion, Malwarebytes has done some work regarding its online protection. Still, 51% is not an impressive number when we look at it from a broader perspective.

Kaspersky is among those antivirus programs that detected 100% of online frauds. Similarly, Bitdefender, MalwareFox, and McAfee were able to identify 99% of the scams. Therefore, if you are looking for better online protection, then you should choose one of these products.

Ransomware Protection by Malwarebytes

No one wants to see a successful ransomware attack on their system. Fortunately, Malwarebytes was able to detect all the ransomware samples in real-time. However, a new kind of ransomware can bypass the real-time protection if it makes a zero-day attack. Therefore, we took down the real-time protection to simulate a zero-day attack.

Ransomware attack

Surprisingly, Malwarebytes was not able to detect any of the full disk encryption attacks or the screen locker attack. In both these cases, Malwarebytes was ineffective. However, it managed to stop some frequent file encryption programs. 

Malwarebytes provides mixed results when it comes to file-encrypting ransomware. It blocked some of the ransomware samples before they can begin to encrypt the data. In some cases, it stopped and eliminated the program after it started encryption. As a result, we had to compromise some of our files. Yet, one ransomware was able to bypass all the security and completely locked the data. Moreover, it was also able to show the ransom demanding message.

In some cases, a ransomware launch itself on the reboot. It is a weak spot for many security solutions. To check if Malwarebytes is competent, we programmed a previously caught ransomware to launch at the startup. Later, we rebooted the system to see the results.

In this test, Malwarebytes responded a little late to eliminate the program, and it was able to encrypt most of the documents. Malwarebytes took quite some time to launch itself. In the meantime, the ransomware was able to do significant damage.

Ransomware protection

Although, Malwarebytes has some loopholes in the ransomware protection. Still, it is better to have protection than leaving the system exposed. Also, it is worth mentioning that Malwarebytes was able to prevent all of the ransomware attacks when all of its functions were active. 

Malwarebytes on Other Platforms

Malwarebytes offers a security product for Android and iOS devices. You can quickly download the application from the Play Store or the Apple App Store. However, it provides different features on both platforms. 

The Android application scans your device for potentially unwanted applications like trojan and ransomware. If it finds any malware on your device, then it provides you three options. Namely, ignore, delete, and whitelist.

Also, the Android application is capable of doing a privacy audit. Thus, it can show you the list of apps that can read your info, cost you money, command your hardware. This feature is useful to check whether a particular app is potentially risky by having unrequired permissions.

Bith Android and iOS apps scan for phishing URLs when you browse the internet. Moreover, the iOS app can block advertisements and ad blockers. Therefore, Malwarebytes counts to be excellent spyware protection.

Besides, the iOS application has the call protection feature. It can restrict calls from known and unknown scammers. Additionally, the text message filtering function sends suspicious messages into the junk folder. 

However, we would have appreciated a proper theft control tool. Theft or lost device is a significant threat to a smartphone. Therefore, a robust security application should provide prominent theft control.

How Good is Malwarebytes Customer Support

The company provides live chat support. However, we found that many times the representative is not available on time. Also, you have to wait for a long time to resolve your query. However, the required time to solve your issue depends directly upon the skills of your representative.

Another option to contact the support is by using the email channel. Compared to chat support, email support is worse. We had to wait for a week to get a reply.

Besides that, Malwarebytes also has a community forum and a user’s guide page. You can post your query or look for it in the forum. Luckily, people have solved many issues on this forum to help other customers. Also, the user’s guide page is quite helpful with how-to articles and DIYs.

In conclusion, Malwarebytes can improve its customer support system with a high margin.

Is Malwarebytes Good Enough?

Pros Cons
  • Good scores in our hands-on
    malware protection and malicious URL blocking tests.
  • Includes exploit protection,
    ransomware protection,
    behavior-based detection.
  • 60-day money-back guarantee.
  • Intuitive user interface.
  • Few and poor independent lab tests scores.
  • Phishing protection ineffective.
  • Ransomware detection shows mixed results.
  • Malwarebytes Free is pretty useless on its own.
  • Customer support needs improvement.

On a broader view, Malewarebytes can still improve on many aspects of its working. Also, the choice to use Malwarebytes as your primary defense depends on your needs. For instance, it can provide better security if you actively use multiple features of your system. However, it fell short when it comes to blocking the copying of malware programs from a USB or the internet.

Overall, it does not affect system performance and can prevent malware attacks if all the functions are active. Still, there are better alternatives like Norton, Kaspersky, McAfee, and MalwareFox, which provide far better overall protection.

Will the free version of Malwarebytes protect my device?

No, the free version is good enough to do a light scan on your device. It can warn you about the widespread viruses. However, it does not eliminate the malware in real-time. Therefore, we would suggest you prefer the paid plan. Additionally, you can try the premium version of Malwarebytes for 14 days at no cost.

Will Malwarebytes scan my device automatically?

Yes, the premium version of Malwarebytes automatically scans for cybersecurity threats. Additionally, you can schedule an hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly scan as per your needs. 

Besides that, you can select the behavior of the software when it encounters a potential malware in your system. There are many good options to provide the necessary control of the application.

What are the system requirements for Malwarebytes

The system requirements for the latest version of Malwarebytes is as follows:

  • OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) or higher.
  • Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 or higher.
  • Chrome OS with Google Play access.

Mobile users will need:

  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) or higher.
  • iOS 11 or higher.

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