Free Download of AVG AntiVirus 2019 (Based on Avast Engine)
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Specs Pros Very good scores from many independent testing labs. Very good malware-blocking score. Decent malicious URL blocking score. Web security plug-in includes website rating and active Do Not Track. Cons Poor score in antiphishing test.
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Specs Pros Very good scores from many independent testing labs. Very good malware-blocking score. Decent malicious URL blocking score. Web security plug-in includes website rating and active Do Not Track. Cons Poor score in antiphishing test. Initial scan slower than average. Bottom Line AVG AntiVirus Free has a new look, and some new technology, but our hands-on tests and independent lab tests show that it’s just as reliable as ever.
And I don’t mean the antivirus built into Windows—it just doesn’t measure up. Fortunately, you can get that protection without spending a penny. AVG AntiVirus Free looks a bit different from its previous edition, and it includes some new technologies. In our own tests and tests by the independent labs, it earned very good scores. Last year, Avast acquired AVG, but fans of either company needn’t worry, as both product lines continue their separate existence. Why would a company want to acquire such a similar competitor?
Both AVG and Avast have huge followings, but globally each is strong in different areas. The combined company has a worldwide reach. There’s a certain amount of upsell when you go to install the free antivirus, but it’s much more laid back than, for example, Comodo. You can choose the free antivirus or start a day free trial of the suite. You don’t have to enter a credit card, and if you do nothing, at the end of the trial it reverts to the free antivirus.
It does offer to install a plug-in for all of your browsers, and replace your home page, new tab page, and default search. However, as I’ll explain below, installing AVG in the browser gets you a ton of useful security features. Each panel contains a circle that can be fully or partially colored, depending on whether or not you’ve installed all possible protection in that area. If all is well, the circle glows green; if your attention is needed, it changes color.
When you install the free antivirus, you see a three-quarter circle in the antivirus panel. That becomes a full circle only if you upgrade to the paid edition. If you followed the installer’s instructions regarding Web Tuneup, that panel displays a full circle. You do get a one-day trial of the tuneup product along with the free antivirus; I’ll discuss that below.
New User Interface Last year’s edition of the antivirus looked extremely similar to AVG Zen, with the same color scheme and the same circle-based status indicators. This year, the color scheme hasn’t changed, but almost everything else has. The main window has two main panes. The Basic protection pane includes icons for computer protection and for Web and email protection, both enabled. The Full protection panes icons represent protection for private data, protection during online payments, and protection against hack attacks, all three disabled.
To enable those, you must upgrade to AVG’s non-free security suite. In the middle, below the two panes, is a big button labeled Scan Computer. Clicking it launches a full scan, which does more than just scan for malware. It also scans for junk files, revealing browser traces, system logs, and Registry problems—but if you want to fix those you must start your short-time trial of AVG PC Tuneup. In testing, the full scan finished in just six minutes, which led me to peruse all the scan options.
I found another option called Deep Virus Scan. This scan took over an hour, quite a bit longer than last year’s edition of AVG. However, because the scan flags safe files that don’t need to be looked at again, a second scan goes much faster. I found that a repeat scan finished in just a few seconds. Lab Scores High and Plentiful It may seem counterintuitive, but in most cases antivirus makers pay for the privilege of having products included in testing by the independent labs, but they do benefit.
A high score gives the company bragging rights; if the score is poor, the lab lets it know what went wrong. When the antivirus doesn’t bring in any income, a company might be tempted to avoid the expense of testing.
Not AVG. I follow five independent testing labs that regularly release reports on their results; all five of them include AVG. Testers at AV-Comparatives run a wide variety of tests on antivirus and other security products; I follow five of those tests closely.
As long as a product meets the minimum for certification, it receives a standard rating. With six points possible in each category, the maximum score is 18 points. AVG took six points for usability, meaning it didn’t screw up by flagging valid programs or websites as malicious.
It came close in the other two categories, with 5. Bitdefender, Quick Heal, and Trend Micro earned the necessary AVG scored SE Labs tests products using real-world drive-by downloads and other Web-based attacks, assigning certification at five levels: Half of the products tested failed at least one test; 30 percent, including AVG, failed both.
Since not-quite-perfect and epic failure get the same rating in this test, I give it less weight when coming up with an aggregate score. AVG’s aggregate score is 8. At the top is Kaspersky, with 9. AVG could block all access to the malware-hosting URL, or wipe out the malware payload before the download finishes—I’ll discuss those layers shortly. If a file is already present on your computer, AVG assumes it must have gotten past the earlier protection layers.
Even so, it checks one more time before allowing such a file to execute. To test AVG’s malware-blocking chops, I opened a folder containing my current collection of malware samples and tried to execute each one.
AVG blocked almost all of them immediately, wiping them out so fast it left Windows displaying an error message that the file could not be found. It wiped out most of those that managed to launch before they could fully install. Initially I determined that AVG detected 94 percent of the samples and scored 9. However, upon checking with my company contact, I learned that for full protection I should enable detection of potentially unwanted applications, sometimes called PUAs or PUPs.
With that setting enabled, AVG’s scores rose to 97 percent detection and 9. Webroot and Comodo Antivirus 10 scored a perfect 10 in this test. However, when I checked Comodo against hand-modified versions of my samples, it missed quite a few. When AVG detects a file that’s completely new to the system, never before seen, it prevents that file from launching and sends it to AVG headquarters for analysis.
I managed to invoke this feature using one of those hand-modified samples. AVG killed the process, triggering a Windows error message. A few other files merited special scrutiny.
AVG displayed a message stating, “Hang on, this file may contain something bad,” and promising an evaluation within 15 seconds. All of my hand-coded testing utilities triggered this warning; all three got a clean bill of health. Malware Blocking Results Chart Detecting my months-old samples is one thing; protecting against the very latest threats is quite another. An antivirus product gets equal credit if it prevents all access to the malware-hosting URL or if it eliminates the downloaded malware immediately.
AVG blocked access to more than half of the URLs and eliminated almost another quarter at the download stage, for a total of 73 percent protection. That’s quite a bit better than Comodo, which lacks URL-based blocking and scores just 37 percent.
However, others have done quite a bit better than AVG. Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic holds the lead, with 98 percent protection; Avira managed 95 percent. Antiphishing Disappointment Trojans and other malicious programs must successfully infiltrate your compute in order to steal data. Phishing websites, by contrast, only have to trick you, the user. If you log in to a fraudulent site that’s pretending to be your bank, or your email provider, you’ve handed over your account to a crook.
Such sites get discovered and blacklisted quickly, but the crooks simply set up new ones. The most dangerous phishing sites are those that haven’t been analyzed yet, so I scour the Web for sites that have been reported as fraudulent but not yet verified. I discard any that don’t pretend to be some other site, and any that don’t include fields for username and password.
I launch each URL in a browser protected by the program under test, and in another protected by long-time phish-killer Norton. If the URL returns an error message in any of the five browsers and they often do , I discard it. Antiphishing Results Chart Because the URLs themselves are different every time, I report each product’s results as the difference between its detection rate and that of the others.
In last year’s test, AVG lagged Norton’s detection rate by 28 percentage points, which is still actually better than the majority of competing products.
This time around, it lagged Norton by 70 percentage points, putting it near the bottom. My contact at the company checked with the developers and confirmed that they know about the problem and are working on speedier updates. Even though Norton is my touchstone for this test, it doesn’t beat every single competitor. Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Webroot actually beat Norton by a few points. First off, the Site Safety component warns when you visit a website that’s risky or actively dangerous.
You can click for more details, and click again for a full website report online. However, the full report isn’t as detailed as what you get from Norton and a few others.
And where Norton marks search results with red, yellow, and green icons, AVG only offers a rating once you try to visit a site. Advertisers love to track your Web surfing, so they can show you ads they think you’ll like, and avoid showing the same ad too often.
New User Interface
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