The Bad Secret of Avast Free
Avast Free Antivirus is easy to install and will help you have a peace of mind, because it may be free, but it does encompass quite a lot of reliable antivirus, anti-malware, network security, password protection, and browser protection features. If you are not quite sure whether Avast is the best antivirus and internet safety software for you, read on to find out all you need about the program — the Free, Pro and Internet Security versions, its features, its pros and cons, and whether it complies with your expectations and requirements. It has scored very well in antivirus tests and is pretty good at recognizing and blocking malware and phishing attempts. The free antivirus engine is an excellent choice for gamers who want to stay protected and yet play seamlessly without the program using too much of the resources of the computer during gameplay.
Using Passive Mode in Avast Antivirus
Fans of both companies can rest easy; there’s no plan to merge them into a single product. Both have many thousands of users worldwide, but each is strong in geographical areas where the other isn’t. And the underlying antivirus engine is exactly the same in Avast and AVG AntiVirus Free , as demonstrated in my tests and independent lab tests. View All 12 Photos in Gallery This product is only free for personal use.
In the past, those wishing to use Avast in a business setting had to upgrade to Avast Pro Antivirus. Currently, Avast is de-emphasizing the Pro product; it didn’t get an upgrade with the rest of the product line. When you try to use a Pro-only feature in the free antivirus, the product advises that you upgrade to the Avast Internet Security suite. During installation, Avast offers to install Google Chrome and to install the Google Toolbar in your other browsers.
Unless you opt out, the toolbar makes Google your default search engine, but it doesn’t take over your home page. The installer also presents a full page devoted to explaining how Avast uses your nonpersonal data, and how you can opt out if you wish. The biggest part of Avast’s main window is a slate-gray rectangle with a bit of texture, decorated with a status icon and a big button titled Run Smart Scan.
A left-rail menu lets you switch from the main Status page to Protection, Privacy, or Performance. Across the bottom, you find a banner offering you a welcome gift. Unwrapping the virtual gift reveals a discounted upgrade to Avast Internet Security.
If you reject the upgrade, it offers a day trial. Avast really wants you to experience the suite! One of this product’s features needs special mention, because it’s virtually invisible.
If you install another antivirus with Avast already on the system, it automatically goes into Passive Mode. To avoid conflicts, it disables all real-time scanning and other active protection. You can still launch scans manually. There’s precedent for this behavior— Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center does something similar.
Lab Scores High and Plentiful It may seem counterintuitive, but antivirus makers typically pay for the privilege of having products included in testing by the independent labs. The companies do benefit from testing, in two ways. A high score gives the company bragging rights, while if the score is poor, the lab helps the company improve by reporting what went wrong. When the antivirus doesn’t bring in any income, a company might be tempted to skip the expense of testing.
Not Avast. I follow four independent testing labs that regularly release reports on their results; all four of them include both Avast and AVG. The analysts at AV-Comparatives perform a variety of security tests, of which I follow four.
With six points possible in each category, the maximum score is 18 points. Avast got all six points for usability, meaning it didn’t screw up by flagging valid programs or websites as malicious, and earned six more points for malware protection.
It came close in performance, with 5. AVG precisely matched that score. A total of Avira, Bitdefender, Kaspersky Free , and Vipre managed a perfect 18 points. Trying to emulate real-world conditions as closely as possible, the experts at SE Labs capture drive-by downloads and other web-based attacks, relying on a replay system to hit each tested product with the exact same attack.
MRG-Effitas reports test results a bit differently from the other labs. Products that don’t manage perfect or near-perfect protection simply fail. Avast passed the banking Trojans test, and achieved Level 2 certification in the all-types malware protection test, meaning that it let at least one attacker install, but remediated the problem within 24 hours.
Of the many antivirus products I track, 10 don’t appear in results from any of the labs. AVG and Avast are among the impressive 10 featured in all four lab reports. I use an algorithm that normalizes all the results to a point scale and produces an aggregate score from 0 to The aggregate score of 9.
Bitdefender is at the top, with 10 of 10 points, and Kaspersky runs close behind with 9. Avira Antivirus made a decent showing, with an aggregate score of 9. Very Good Malware Protection Malicious software from the Internet has to run the gauntlet of numerous defense layers before it can infect your PC.
Avast could block all access to the malware-hosting URL, for example, or wipe out the malware payload before the download finishes—I’ll discuss those malware protection layers shortly. If a file is already present on your computer, as my malware samples are, Avast assumes it must have gotten past the earlier protection layers. To test Avast’s malware-blocking chops, I opened a folder containing my current collection of malware samples and tried to launch each one. Avast blocked about three quarters of them immediately, wiping them out so fast it left Windows displaying an error message reporting that the file could not be found.
It killed off most of those that managed to launch before they could fully install. I tested AVG simultaneously, with precisely the same results. Both products detected 89 percent of the samples and scored 8. When tested with my previous malware collection, Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus earned a perfect 10 points.
Given that the samples were different, I can’t make a direct comparison with more recent tests, but a perfect score is impressive. On detecting a file that’s completely unfamiliar, Avast prevents that file from launching and sends it to Avast headquarters for analysis.
Avast quite reasonably found one of my hand-coded analysis tools suspicious, so it killed the process, triggering a Windows error message. To show it wasn’t really an error, Avast attached a CyberCapture tab to the error message. Unusual activity by few other files merited deeper examination. Avast displayed a message stating, “Hang on, this file may contain something bad,” and promising an evaluation within 15 seconds. All my hand-coded testing utilities triggered this warning; all three got a clean bill of health.
AVG offers precisely the same protection for unknown and suspicious files. Malware Protection Results Chart The samples I use for the malware blocking test stay the same for months. I try to launch each one in Internet Explorer, recording whether the antivirus blocked access to the URL, vaporized the malware download, or totally failed to notice anything wrong.
Avast blocked access to about 60 percent of the URLs and eliminated almost another 30 percent at the download stage, for a total of 91 percent protection; AVG turned in identical results. That’s pretty good, but quite a few products have done even better. Excellent Phishing Protection Phishing websites are significantly easier to create than websites that secretively launch malware attacks.
All they do is create a convincing replica of a sensitive site, perhaps a bank, or PayPal, and broadcast links to that fake site around the Web. Any user who logs in, not recognizing that the page is fake, has just given account access to the fraudsters.
If a thousand web surfers spot the fraud and just one falls for it, that’s a win for the bad guys. And when the authorities quash the fraudulent site, the fraudsters just pop up another one. I test antiphishing using the very newest phishing sites, preferably ones that haven’t yet been fully analyzed and blacklisted.
I launch each probable phishing URL in four browsers. The product under test protects one of the browsers, naturally. The other three rely on protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. Phishing Protection Results Chart Any schmoe can write a phishing protection module that blocks blacklisted sites. The best products use real-time analysis to identify frauds that are too new for the blacklists. Avast clearly has this capability; the company touts its enhanced real-time phishing detection technologies.
In testing, it proved quite effective. With an impressive 98 percent detection of phishing frauds, Avast joins an elite group with top scores in this test.
Bitdefender weighed in with 99 percent, while both Kaspersky and McAfee AntiVirus Plus managed a perfect percent detection. Its features overlap the Computer Scan in AVG, in that it checks browser add-ons, scans for active malware, and identifies performance issues. But Avast also checks for network security problems, flags software that lacks security patches, and warns about weak passwords. The scan finished in less than ten minutes on my test system. It found several vulnerable apps and, at my request, updated them.
It flagged a network problem; more about the network scan below. And, like AVG, it found performance problems but wouldn’t fix them unless I updated to the premium cleanup product. Clicking Scan on the Protection page gets you more choices. The Full Virus Scan took a bit over two hours on my standard clean test system. That’s about the same time as AVG’s Deep Scan took, and it’s well over twice the current average of 50 minutes.
I recommend running that full scan at least once soon after installation, to root out any existing malware. After that, the product’s real-time protection layers should fend off any further attacks. Like AVG, Avast offers a boot time scan, designed to eliminate pernicious and persistent malware that resists normal cleanup.
Because the scan runs before Windows boots up, the Windows-based malware doesn’t have any chance to defend itself. AVG’s boot scan requires installation on first use, while Avast’s is ready to go out of the box. With either product, you should set aside plenty of time for the scan. Note that Bitdefender’s Rescue Mode reboots in a non-Windows operating system for even more power against Windows-centered malware.
Wi-Fi Inspector Avast was one of the first security products to add a network security scanner to its product line. Despite “Wi-Fi” in its name, the Wi-Fi Inspector can report on all the devices connected to any network, wired or wireless, and flag devices with security problems.
On my test system, the scan ran quickly and displayed my devices in a series of concentric rings, with the router at the center and the devices that connected most recently in the inner circles.
Repair and update Avast Antivirus
It’s a complete tool that protects you against threats from the internet, email , your local files, P2P connections, your instant messages, and much more. In fact, the version outdoes its competitors to a pretty significant extent. But is Avast really free? What We Like On-access protection from viruses and other malware.
VIDEO: Avast email Signature Removal – All Possible Ways
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