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AVG Internet Security 9 Review and Free Download


18. February 2010

    Free AVG is probably the best-known free antivirus on the internet.  A simple Google search for “antivirus” will answer anyone’s question if they are unaware of this fact.  Girsoft offers many different versions of security software in addition to AVG antivirus.  The little known AVG Internet Security offers a lot of benefits over the free versions.  The addition of a firewall, Web shield, anti-rootkit protection, and helpful system tools are just some of the increased functionality available.  With the release of version 9, AVG Internet Security promises increased security comparable to Norton etc.  We will now see how AVG stacks up against the competition.

Installation:

    The installation of AVG Internet Security 9 was an average experience when compared to other antivirus installations.  As always, I chose the custom installation to see the guts of the program.  As with Avira, AVG Internet Security gives the user the option to selectively disable antivirus components.  This is helpful if a user already has desired protection (i.e. antispam).  The next step of the installation is the AVG link scanner toolbar.  Unfortunately, there is an option to make yahoo the homepage and default search engine etc.  While I can understand including the advertising in the free version, if they are going to provide it in the internet security product, I think they should also provide a free license.  The next option is to configure the definition update frequency.  I was kind of bummed that the most frequent update option was only every 4 hours especially because “increased update frequency” is an advertised function of the Internet Security version.  On the other hand, Norton Internet Security can update in as little as every 5 to 10 minutes because of the company’s extensive corporate network.  The final configuration option was to select the role of the computer.  There are two options and a user must select whether the computer is a laptop or a desktop.  However, AVG will not configure itself to save battery life (ala Bitdefender Internet Security) rather, it just simply configures the firewall for “extra” protection if a notebook connects to a hotspot.

Interface:

    The AVG Internet Security 9 interface is almost identical to the free antivirus version.  The main page simply has a few more widgets than the free version (i.e. system tools, firewall, web shield etc.)  I am personally not the biggest fan of the interface as it really lags behind Norton or Bitdefender’s multi interfaces.  For example, there is no easy way to deactivate the components rather, the main page simply states the antivirus components status as active or has a problem.  On the settings page there are few icons present making the huge list somewhat tedious to comprehend.  However, the sheer amount of configuration options is still appreciated.
    One thing that I liked about the interface was when I was prompted to configure the firewall for the wireless connection on the test computer.  The prompt instantly gives the user the ability to add or create a profile for the selected network adapter.  Some of the preconfigured profiles are for a computer in domain or a small home or office network.  These profiles only permit certain connections defined with the profile (file and print sharing etc.)
    I had an interface problem where the AVG taskbar icon disappears even when a virus scan is active.  I can also confirm that this happens on other Windows Vista machines and affects the free version.

Features:

    I will now review all of the configuration options that are unique to AVG Internet Security 9 and not included in the free edition.

    Web Shield.  The web shield appears to be integrated tightly with web browsers because it needs a complete browser restart to activate.  The web shield will monitor for viruses and spyware programs that are downloaded via a drive by download (automatic installation by viewing a webpage) etc.  One thing that makes the web shield better than its competitors is the option to define the scanned ports.  This is extremely useful in a corporate/business setting because often internet users connect through proxies, which may be configured over several non-standard ports.  I noticed that port 443 (https) was absent from the list to be scanned.  In retrospect, a user might want to add this port to the list.  AVG also provides an option to tweak the maximum part size of a file to be scanned.  This can be useful if a computer is often used to download large files.

    Identity Protection.  AVG’s identity protection is similar to Bitdefender’s application and process monitoring.  AVG leverages its experience and databases to classify processes as trusted or non trusted and categorizes the behavior of programs.  For example, AVG will classify a program as executing from a windows directory, ability to survive a reboot, ability to spawn other process, whether or not the program displays a visible window, and if the program includes a signed or trusted installer etc.  In fact, the test computer had over 421 different behaviors monitored and a user can monitor AVG’s decision for every active process/program.  These security checks are very detailed and ensure every new program gets heavily scrutinized for malicious activity.  The Identity protection/application protection is the most advanced that I have seen in an Internet Security software.

    Firewall.  The AVG Internet Security 9 firewall is again highly advanced and almost functions as a standalone firewall.  I say this because the firewall settings are completely separate from the standard settings.  The first thing that I liked about the firewall was the Trusted Database.  The Trusted Database is maintained by AVG and will automatically create rules for safe programs.  If one has read previous reviews, I frequently try to test how the firewall auto configuration (Trusted Database) performs compared to competing antivirus programs.  The main test is to simply launch the latest safe version of Skype and see how the firewall reacts.  I can say that AVG internet security 9 not only passed this test with flying colors but also with even more obscure safe programs such as Pidgin (instant messaging) etc.  This indicates that AVG’s “trusted database” is extremely comprehensive and really covers a large range of different programs.  The question is how does this translate to usability.  Well, it means that users will be seeing significantly fewer pop-ups to allow program access.  It also means that when a user sees a pop-up it will most likely be a malicious virus rather than a legitimate program.  I also want to include that AVG firewall scans and displays all active adapters.  Rules can be configured separately for each adapter and what applications they are able to interact with.  The AVG firewall also found several network protocols that I did not even know where installed on the test computer.  The AVG firewall will for the most part be completely automated but also offers extremely effective logging and configuration.  The firewall really requires firsthand use to understand the firewalls functionality.

    Antispam. The antispam component is by far the most advanced of any internet security product.  I really like the RBL or (realtime blackhole lists).  This means that a user can utilize third party lists in addition to AVG’s default protection (which is by no means default).  I have not seen the RBL ability in any other internet security product tested on this website.  The AVG antispam functionality is almost as if a user has been given a personal spam appliance.  The filter can be trained via max word entries, auto training threshold, spam weight, country blocking, fingerprinting, and domain reputation etc.  The AVG antispam protection ensures that a user will see little to no spam.

Virus Scanning and Detection / Updates –

    Virus scanning with AVG internet Security 9 should be on par with AVG free antivirus.  The antivirus engine has been awarded the WestCoast Labs and VB100 certifications.  The only addition that AVG Internet Security 9 offers is advanced root kit detection.  Ironically, the advanced root kit detection isn’t even selected as a default option only the “quick” option is selected.  Therefore, few users will actually experience the “enhanced root kit protection”.  
    A full system virus scan took about 3 hours, which is definitely on the slower side.  The virus scan also didn’t detect any viruses or false positives on the test computer.  One complaint is that there is apparently an estimated time until completion for a virus scan.  Unfortunately, I only saw the page once and wasn’t able to recreate the page again through the options.  Surprisingly, AVG Internet Security 9 does not provide a quick scan option like most other antivirus programs.  This is definitely a functionality that AVG needs to include in future releases.  
    According to AV comparatives, AVG’s virus engine only provides standard to mildly advanced virus protection against the latest viruses.  AVG Internet Security didn’t win any accolades in virus detection capability.  Wary users may want to install Prevx to augment the virus detection capability.

Resource Usage –

    While AVG Internet Security 9 doesn’t have a large combined memory footprint, it clearly uses the most separate process.  The software uses a whopping 15 different process to achieve complete protection.  The total memory footprint is about 43 megabytes even during a scan, which is definitely on the lower side.  Unfortunately, CPU usage is too aggressive and I frequently saw 70 to 100% activity.  In addition, it does not seem that the AVG scanner is properly utilizing multithreading. 

Conclusion –

    AVG Internet Security 9 is an excellent all around security software.  The firewall and the antispam engines are good enough for one to definitely investigate.  Unfortunately, virus detection capabilities do not stack up to the burgeoning competition.  It might be best for AVG to combine their antivirus engine with another company’s antivirus engine (i.e. G-Data antivirus) for increased protection.