|avast! Internet Security|
Security is a hot topic in the world of computing nowadays. New threats are discovered every day and people are at constant risk from infection which can then lead to the dreaded identity theft or financial theft. I advise anybody who uses the internet on their computer to ensure they have adequate protection, without it you are a sitting duck and open to just about every form of virus and malware infection there is.
There are several layers of protection when it comes to computer security; anti virus, anti malware, anti spyware and a firewall are the main features you should look for. Avast Internet Security is one of the few pieces of software that offers all of these in one package.
If you’re a security software provider, there’s something to be said for providing a free, basic anti-virus product for personal customers. It gets your name known, gets you impressive usage figures and can be the basis for more extensive, subscription products. Avast now claims 170+ million users, more than any other AV company and its Internet Security 2013 product has a good spec and a reasonable price.
Avast is based in Prague in the Czech Republic and produces three home products: Free AntiVirus, Pro AntiVirus and Internet Security, reviewed here. There is also a range of business products, designed for SOHO through to Enterprise companies. Versions of the software are available for PC, Mac and Android, so you can have mobile device protection, too.
The main control screens for the product are tidy and well laid out, with the conventional layout spiced up by attractively drawn icons. The main categories are found in tabs down the left-hand side of the screen and several of these open up into multiple subcategories when clicked on.
The key tabs are a summary of your security status, scan controls for quick, full and custom scans, details of the various real-time 'Shields', firewall controls, additional protection – such as anti-spam and the sandbox – and maintenance, which covers the program’s update tool.
Avast provides reputation services from the cloud to indicate the safety of websites and is full of useful graphs of scans and infections, so you can check how effective it's been. There are eight different real-time Shields, such as a file system shield, a web shield and a mail shield, and each maintains individual logs of its activity.
There are three firewall settings, for home, work and public use, and under Additional Protection you can set how sensitive the spam filter is and how the program applies its sandbox. The sandbox automatically engages when you run any suspicious program, so that anything the suspect application tries to do is captured – it's a bit like running a virtual machine. A variant of this is SafeZone, which is used when you're performing online transactions, such as shopping or banking, to prevent spyware monitoring or key logging.
Avast Internet Security takes the Avast Antivirus software foundations and builds on this by adding lots of security extras and enhancements to give you total protection on your computer. Let’s take a look at what’s on offer:
A large feature list is great, but only if they are effective. I ran several tests against Avast to see how effective it was against some common and some not so common threats. First I ran several malware ridden files to check if the real time protection engine discovered them. Before I was able to even execute the files Avast notified me and blocked access to them, so far so good. I tested three different types of the Virtumonde Trojan Horse virus, all were detected and treated.
The next test was against the firewall, I ran a full port scan and some common NetBIOS exploits within the local network. The port scan returned no results and all ports were in ‘stealth’ mode. As for the NetBIOS exploits; again, all were discovered and logged.
The effectiveness proved to be very good when compared to some other major vendors like Symantec and NOD32. Avast managed to detect some threats which these did not.
My pet hate with any application is sluggish and unresponsive user interfaces! A very nice feature with Avast is how easy and smooth their interface is. Everything is easy to find and there is a perfect balance of customization and ease of use. The GUI is responsive and system resources are not consumed in excess when Avast Internet Security is running.
Updates and Support
As with all security software, up to the minute updates are crucial to ensure protection against recently created malware. Avast update their definitions very frequently and the Community IQ feature means that the vast majority of recently discovered threats are known about very quickly.
Support comes in many different forms. There is a very useful community forum that answers most questions and allows you to ask less critical questions that don’t require an immediate reply. There is also a support system that allows you to submit a ticket to the tech team, and in case you want an immediate response, users can ring the tech support lines free of charge (USA and Canada only, other countries pay a small charge).
I was very impressed overall with Avast Internet Security, the big list of features meant that my whole computer was protected against every angle of attack! That means safety when browsing online, downloading files, and when on an unsecured network. In comparison to some other major vendors it was able to block various forms of malware that went undiscovered by the others.
Avast Internet Security covers all the core functions of Internet security (IS), with good antivirus and anti-spyware components and a system of shields and sandboxes, all of which will protect a PC from most threats. It’s easy to use and reporting and logging are thorough. However, more and more IS products also include some form of tune-up to get rid of file clutter and redundant web and registry links, but this, as well as elementary backup, are missing from the suite.
If you already rely on Avast’s free AV program, the move to Avast IS will be a very natural move and the extra features, particularly the system shields and the sandbox, will create a very secure system. If you haven’t already made an IS choice, though, there is better overall value to be had for similar outlay elsewhere.