Avira Antivirus Review
Everyone needs virus protection, even people on a tight budget. Founded in 1986, Avira protects hundreds of millions of users worldwide with its free Avira Antivirus. This product gets excellent scores from independent labs, and it also brings together a range of Avira related products. It succeeded in blocking access to malware-hosting URLs in our test, but failed our anti-phishing test.
The main window of the app has a white and gray background, with a black and white menu on the left and a status logo at the top. A large button to start a quick scan controls the center of the window. Four large buttons reflect the status of Real-time Protection, Ransomware Protection, Web Protection, and Mail Protection; All features except the first are Pro features only. If you decide to go Pro, the list price is $59.88, although it appears to be permanently reduced to $44.99.
Clicking on modules from the list reveals a list of the four components that contain the status buttons, plus Protection Cloud Plus (a feature that prioritizes analysis of unknown files for Pro users) and Firewall. In fact, Avira does not offer a personal firewall; It only includes settings to help manage Windows Firewall.
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Many security products cycle through a series of informational slides during installation, to glorify the advantages of the product itself or advertise companion products. Avira takes this concept a step further. Each of its informational pages describes a companion product and offers to install that product. Even if you do not currently install other products, Avira Connect Player allows you to install or play any of the companion products as you wish. I will report on the accompanying suite of products after covering essential antivirus features.
Clicking on a scan menu item gives you the expected options for full, fast, and custom scans. A full scan of my standard clean test system took 90 minutes, not twice the current rate of 49 minutes but much better than the last time I tested this product. Sophos Home Free ran a little faster than average, and Kaspersky Free completed its scan in 36 minutes. The wipe window retains the antique look and the whimsical “Luke Filewalker” window hanging makes it look seriously dated.
On most products, a custom scan simply scans the folders you specify. Avira offers an amazing set of options, among which are scanning active processes, removable drives, and the Documents folder. Of course, you can still choose to erase any folder you wish.
By default, Avira schedules a weekly quick scan. You can schedule other scans of different types on a daily or weekly basis.
Very good lab results
In most cases, antivirus companies have to pay for it to be included in tests conducted by independent labs. Some labs effectively help them get certified – if the product fails, the seller gets a big list of things that need to be fixed. ICSA Labs and West Coast Labs offer this type of certification, but Avira does not participate in either. What’s most interesting to me are the tests that put a bunch of products in the exact same rating and report how well they work. I follow four such labs, and Avira is involved with all of them.
When the experts at AV-Comparatives decide that a product does everything it should, they certify it to the standard. A product that exceeds the minimum can earn an advanced certification, or even an Advanced+. Avira participates in all four of the tests I take from this lab. It took Advanced + in two, Advanced in the other two.
Lab Test Results Chart
To cover all aspects of antivirus functionality, the AV-Test Institute rates products based on how well they are protected from malware, how little they interfere with performance, and how careful they are to avoid flagging valid software or websites as malware, with 6 possible points in every region. Avira scored a perfect 18 in this test, along with Kaspersky and McAfee.
Technologies at SE Labs search the web for malicious websites in the real world and use a capture and restart system to hit multiple antivirus tools with the exact same attack. Products can be certified at five levels: AAA, AA, A, B, or C. Along with Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Sophos, and many others, Avira has the highest score and AAA certification.
Registration for exams from MRG-Effitas is slightly different from the rest. If products do not achieve near-perfect protection, they simply fail. And the failure is what Avira did in this lab’s banking trojan test, along with more than half of the other products tested. This lab’s other major test evaluates protection against a range of malware types, offering Level 1 certification for products that completely block all attacks, and Level 2 certification for those that address the effects of the attack within 24 hours. Along with Bitdefender, F-Secure and Kaspersky Free, Avira manages the Level 1 certification.
I use an algorithm to assign all scores on a 10-point scale and come up with an aggregated result. Avira was tested by all four labs, and it scored 9.4 out of 10 possible points, which is pretty good. Avast Free Antivirus also managed 9.4 points. At the top, Bitdefender’s overall score was 9.9, and Kaspersky scored perfect in all recent tests, yielding a perfect 10.
Hands-on anti-malware testing
Impressive lab test results mean Avira can withstand malware attack. However, I’m still running my hands-on tests for malware protection, to get a feel for how the product does its job.
When I evaluated Avira last time, it caused quite a stir during my first test, which involves simply opening a folder containing malware samples that I analyzed manually. Warnings about detection of one, three or 15 samples appeared, cluttered the desktop with small floating windows called “Luke Filewalker” and “System is being scanned”. It even wanted to reboot, although all I saw were static samples, no malware execution.
This time the process was quieter. A pair of those little floating windows had appeared, but they quickly ended and vanished. Reboot is not requested. And he removed 83 percent of the samples at this point, just by looking at them.
As an additional test for this simple on-access check I am using a second set of samples, created by modifying each of the originals. Specifically, I’m changing the file name, appending zeros to change the file length, and modifying a few non-executable bytes. Avira detected all but one of the same samples from this manually modified set, indicating that signature-based malware detection isn’t very rigorous.
To complete the test, I fired every specimen that survived the first massacre. Avira has discovered some of those, but not all of them. The detected threats are still able to implant some executable files into the test system. Overall, it scored 89 percent of discovery and 8.6 out of 10 possible points. Tested using the same samples, Cylance and F-Secure Anti-Virus ($39.99 at F-Secure) delivered a 93 percent protection score and 9.3 points.
It’s worth noting that Norton and Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus had 100 percent detection and a perfect 10 score when tested against my previous set of malware samples. The results are not directly comparable, but the perfection is impressive.
As a validation against false positives, keep about 20 old PCMag utilities in the same folder as the malware samples. In almost every case, antivirus properly leaves these programs alone. However, Avira identified three of them as malware. This is a bit annoying.
Malware Protection Outcome Chart
I also test each app by sampling the latest malware. For this test, I am using a feed of the most recent malware hosting URLs provided by MRG-Effitas. The purpose-built software I’m using for this test usually runs URLs in Internet Explorer, but I had to modify them for Avira, because this software’s Browser Safety feature still only supports Chrome and Firefox. For each valid URL, I record whether the antivirus prevented the browser from connecting, killed the payload during or immediately after the download, or allowed the download to be unobstructed.
The exact URLs are different on each test, but they are always the most recent. Continue testing until you have collected at least 100 data points. Impressively, Avira has blocked access to 94 percent of malware hosting websites; Detection of malware payloads raised the total to 96 percent. That’s fine, but Bitdefender, Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic, and McAfee have done better recently, at 99, 98, and 97 percent, respectively.
Double Phishing Detection
The same browser security extension that blocks malicious URLs also prevents users from being fooled by phishing sites or scam sites that try to steal login credentials by pretending, for example, as PayPal or a banking website. These URLs don’t last long, because they quickly get blacklisted. Once the scammers cheat a few clicks, they close the store and reopen a different URL.
For testing purposes, I scrape phishing monitoring sites for the latest reported fraudulent URLs, especially those that haven’t been around long enough to be blacklisted. I run all of them simultaneously in four browsers, one of which is protected by the product under test, the other by the protection built into Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer.
Phishing Protection Outcome Chart
After Avira’s impressive defense against malware hosting URLs, I’m disappointed with the anti-phishing performance. It only discovered 66 percent of verified fraudulent pages. Chrome and Firefox alone performed significantly better, with 88 percent protection. Kaspersky and McAfee AntiVirus Plus ($39.99 in F-Secure) recently scored 100 percent on this test, and Bitdefender is right there with 99 percent.
Avira Free Antivirus for Mac does not include phishing protection, but Mac users are free to install the Browser Safety extension in Chrome or Firefox. I tested phishing protection on a Mac along with my Windows test; The results (not surprisingly) were completely identical.
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Program with Boss
As I mentioned, when you install Avira Antivirus, you can also choose to install a wide range of additional tools. You can also install all really free software. The Avira Connect app manages all other Avira products and serves as a launch pad to start any of them.
Avira Connect also allows you to review all the devices you’ve connected to your Avira account online. Clicking the device management button opens Avira’s online dashboard. Here you can see each device, with icons showing all installed Avira tools. You can also look in the system details view or the details of each installed product. You can also run an email with instructions on how to install the missing products.
At the top of the list of products is the antivirus itself, followed by Browser Safety and Identity Scanner. Identity Scanner is an online service, not a locally installed product. Enter your email, pass the image-based CAPTCHA, and click to see if your email appeared in a breach. At least, that’s what should happen. When I tried it, clicking for results sent me back to fill out my email again.
Avira Phantom VPN is a full-featured VPN with servers in 20 countries around the world. The list of countries is weighted towards North America and Europe, although it includes China and Singapore. Its use is a snap. Simply select the country you want and click on the big green button Secure Connection. This is a free install of Phantom VPN, which means that it lacks some advanced features, offers no tech support, and limits your bandwidth at 500MB per month.
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