Avira is best known for their free antivirus, Avira AntiVir antivirus. The free software has won numerous accolades from hundreds of sites for its excellent protection. However, little know to most computer users, the company also offers excellent internet security software. In addition to antivirus and antispyware, the software includes an internet firewall, web guard, and a mail guard. We found that while Avira lacked an excellent interface, it made up with exceptional antivirus detection and fast scan speeds.
The installation of Avira Internet Security was very easy. The download file is only 33 megabytes in size, which is by far the smallest executable of any internet security software. The installation has two options, standard or custom. For the interest of this review, I chose the custom option. The first thing that I liked was the ability to omit the installation any of the antivirus/firewall/mail protection components. These options are really the most in-depth and welcomed if a user already has an exceptional antispam program etc. The next option is an area where a user can select additional protection provided by Avira (i.e. protection against phishing, adware etc.). I am personally confused why only select options were turned on. Avira Internet Security 9.0 will actually omit application, security privacy risk, and application protection in a default installation. It is beyond me why Avira would not activate the best possible protection by default. Therefore, it is imperative to “select all” during this process. If a user opts for the default installation, the protections can be reactivated in the Settings, “General”, and then Extended Threat Categories. Interestingly, functionality turned off that should be turned on is a common theme throughout Avira Internet Security 9.
One other option that I liked about the installation was the option to configure the firewall to allow default home network traffic (i.e. printer and file sharing) or opt for a more locked down private system. This will save the user the hassle of manually allowing individual ports required for basic file sharing.
The Avira Internet Security Interface is almost identical to the free antivirus albeit with a few additional buttons added. This is inherently a positive trait of the software because existing users won’t be confused. Unfortunately, the standard interface is starting to feel outdated when compared with the likes of Norton 360 and F-Secure 2010. This problem is compounded by the fact that there are no large icons indicating the status of the antivirus protection. The file menu also looks outdated and is way too spaced out. Another pet peeve is the difficulty to switch between basic and expert modes. Unlike bitdefender, the software will eventually prompt a user to switch to the expert mode and lacks an easy to find button.
On a positive note, Avira lays out the settings menu’s (once the expert mode is activated) in an easy to understand way. The software provides a medium amount of tweaking capability; it probably lies between ESET NOD 32 at the higher end and Comodo Internet Security on the lower end.
One problem that I had was every time I opened Firefox I received a block connection alert pop-up. I presume that an add-on is trying to contact a required website. Unfortunately, the pop-up only shows the blocked IP address rather than the reverse DNS result (most stand-alone firewalls display this information). Therefore, it is difficult to diagnose the suspected add-on problem.
Finally, Avira doesn’t provide an anti-phishing/link checking Firefox or IE protection toolbar. All other free internet security programs tested included this functionality. To Avira’s credit, it includes an excellent webguard that can protect against attacks if they are detected. However, Avira doesn’t have the preemptive ability that can prevent phishing/web attacks like Norton or AVG with their security toolbars.
Avira brings a lot innovate features to the antivirus and internet security market.
Anti-Bot System. This is a crucial protection that I have seen only available in Avira Internet Security. Bots are essentially viruses that are distributed to vast amounts of computers via bad p2p files etc. After the bot has infected the target computer, it sits idle waiting for instructions from the hacker via a chat IRC server. The bot can then be used to send out spam, send out more viruses, or start DoS attacks without the active computer user’s knowledge. Guess who is legally responsible for the spam, the unknowing computer user. Thankfully, Avira Internet Security provides dual protection against bot infections. The first of course is excellent virus protection. The second capability creates white lists and blacklists of permitted SMTP (outgoing mail servers). If a server has been labeled as non trusted server (often ones that bots use), the request will be blocked and logged.
Web Guard. As explained above, Avira lacks a link scanner toolbar so a user will probably want to download AVG’s or MacAfee’s site advisor. However, if a user visits a harmful site Avira will protect the user against drive by downloads (a virus installed just by visiting a webpage). Avira achieves this protection by monitoring I-Frame (loads a different page within a webpage) contents and blacklisted MIME (file extensions i.e. .exe .dll). I have been infected by a drive by download installed from a simple search result from Google and Yahoo. The infection literally took control of a previous computer in a matter of minutes. It installed about 8 viruses and 2 Trojans in total.
Firewall. The included firewall is one of the most advanced I have seen in a non-standalone product. I like how the firewall rules can be configured separately for each adapter. IPS (Intrusion Prevention System) can be configured in a way that a user can specify how many ports can be scanned before the port scan is logged and shutdown. In fact, the tweaking of rules can be so advanced that it literally takes up a paragraph in certain situations; it is almost like a mini ISA firewall.
The firewall also includes trusted application rules in which applications can be specified as filtered or privileged. Avira also contains an internal listed of trusted vendors that combined with the application protection will provide superior defense against malware or stealth processes.
Virus Scanning and Detection:
Avira Internet Security really excels in industry leading virus and malware detection. The software was awarded the 2008 product of the year and received the highest advanced+ certification in 2009 from AV-comparatives. Avira’s virus scanning more than exceeded our expectations on the test system. I say this because the test system has had over 30 different scans run from all different antivirus vendors. Avira detected two previously unknown Trojan horses/security programs, TR/Hijacker.Gen. I have had this software on the test computer for months without a positive detection. The online report on suspect virus is also very in-depth when compared to competitors. A user will be able to see what definitions detected the virus, what the virus is called by other antivirus vendors, and what the virus actually does and how it’s spread (surprisingly rare on competing virus descriptions).
The speed of the virus scan is also the fastest I have tested. A full system scan of 151 gigabytes of files completed in under an hour. This is truly amazing when compared with the likes of other free antivirus such as F-Secure averaging about 2 hours on the same hard drive. As stated previously, Avira Internet Security 9.0 includes a ton of functionality but often much of it is disabled by default. The virus scanning engine has two critical components disabled, the integrity check and the optimized scan. The integrity check will scrutinize system files (presumably modifications via hash identification) while the optimized scan utilizes more than one processor core for faster scanning (not enabled by default on the dual core test system). I encourage a user to enable these features under the “Scanner” option in the settings menu.
Finally, Avira doesn’t include a quick scan option like all of its free antivirus competitors. Avira has a Windows Folder scan but this scan doesn’t include an active process/registry/startup scan as does the competition. In addition, it is somewhat hard to actually start a scan, as Avira lacks large buttons.
Avira Premium Internet Security 9.0 uses about 31 to 42 megabytes during idle operation. When a virus scan is started, a new 54 megabyte process starts raising the total consumption to about 100 megabytes. CPU usage during a scan is very small never going above 30% and hovering around 15% CPU usage.
Avira is an excellent antivirus that has a highly optimized scanning engine and firewall. The program will definitely make a home computer let alone a server extremely secure. The only place that Avira lacks is in the interface department. The company really needs to make a concerted effort to increase usability. After this happens, Avira will be as close to perfection as possible.
- Free Antivirus Avira AntiVir Personal Download here
- Avira Internet Security Premium Suite 9 here